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Science Grant Recipients 2018

In 2018 FNPW awarded Science Grants to four PhD students as part of the Paddy Pallin Science Grants program. 


Understanding the relative role of urban wildlife in tick ecology

Casey Taylor, PhD candidate, University of Sydney

In Australia, the role of different wildlife in tick ecology is poorly understood which is driving unwarranted human-wildlife conflict. Host-targeted tick management strategies (e.g. population control) are increasingly desired in areas where tick encounter rates are high and individual level protection is not sufficient to minimise exposure. Even though a wide range of vertebrates can host ticks, native bandicoots are widely targeted as the key host needing control, yet this claim is not well supported by the scientific literature or host records to date. Further, it is likely that different species will play different functional roles as tick hosts and we must understand more about tick-host associations to develop the right ecological solutions to tick management.

My project will determine 1) the role of urban wildlife in the tick life cycle 2) how ticks are moved around the urban environment, particularly between bushland and backyards and 3) what landscape traits driver tick occurrence. This knowledge will help land managers make evidence informed decisions about how to manage ticks at the landscape scale and help inform the public about the true role of wildlife in tick encounters.

Saving the Endangered Northern Bettong with Fire

Christopher Pocknee, PhD Candidate, University of Queensland

The Endangered northern bettong, Bettongia tropica, occurs only in two populations in a tiny section of Queensland’s wet tropics. It has declined severely in the last decade. Inappropriate fire regime is likely to be a major cause. Mechanisms may include 1) hot fires reducing abundance of underground fungi, which form its specialist diet; 2) fire reducing grassy understorey for nesting and shelter, which exposes bettongs to predation by cats, especially in recently-burned vegetation. This project will use manipulative experiments to test effects of two fire regimes on persistence and distribution of the northern bettong, and assess interactions between fire, food, shelter and cats. Working with the recovery team and QPWS managers, I will track bettongs using GPS collars at sites subjected to low- and high-intensity fire and control sites in the Lamb Range of the Atherton Tablelands (the larger of two known populations) before, during and after burning. Camera trapping will be used to monitor distribution and habitat use of cats. I will determine best burn patchiness, scale, and fire intensity for bettongs in terms of food, shelter and exposure to predators. This work will lead to evidence-based management of fire, vegetation and cats to recover the northern bettong.

The impact of large invasive herbivores on alpine and subalpine ecosystems; a case study of an Endangered alpine skink.

Claire Hartley, PhD candidate, Australian National University

Natural ecosystems in the Australian alpine region are increasingly under threat. Invasive herbivores, such as horses and deer, are thought to be having severe and sustained impacts on native ecosystems and altering natural ecosystem function. However, these impacts are not well understood in Australia’s alpine region. This exciting new study will be one of the first scientific investigations to quantify the effects of large invasive herbivores on Australian alpine and subalpine fauna, including the alpine she-oak skink (Cyclodomorphus praealtus). The alpine she-oak skink is restricted to mainland Australia above 1400 metres elevation. The species is listed as Endangered under NSW, Victoria and National legislation and classified as “Data-Deficient” in NSW. Very little is known about its ecology, distribution and response to threats. New studies are urgently required to determine the species’ status.

Roosting ecology and requirements of flying-foxes: detailed insights using high resolution spatial mapping techniques

Tamika Lynn, PhD Candidate, Griffith University

The broad aim of this study is to characterise the fine-scale roosting ecology of three species of sympatric Australian flying-fox. Specifically, we ask: 1. How does roosting structure and animal density change through space and time in seasonally dynamic Pteropus bats? 2. Are there roosting preferences within species and demographic cohorts of flying-foxes, and what biotic and abiotic habitat factors drive this?



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