A Research Kaleidoscope from Our 2019 Honours Cohort!

Updated: Jul 24, 2019

From species translocation for conservation to restorative value of urban green spaces, our 2019 honours cohort illustrate the kaleidoscope of projects tackled by the DEEP group. Over a third the way through, they have recently submitted their literature reviews and are ready to get stuck into the bulk of their research. We love to share the diversity of DEEP work and our honours students provide a pertinent example. Two of the projects have a strong conservation focus for specific species or genera, another has a strong methodological basis, while the fourth is interested in human interactions with environment in an urban setting. All slot into the research aims of our group, considering ecological and evolutionary dynamics, global change and conservation biology. Let’s take a more detailed look at the range of projects from our honours students this year.

Gabriella Allegretto.

Gabby’s project is investigating the relationship between green space quality and socioeconomic status in Tasmania. The distribution of good quality green spaces is an environmental justice issue because green spaces are important for human health and wellbeing. Gabby is focusing on two types of urban green spaces in Tasmania: forests and parks. For each site she will be measuring green space quality using a natural environment scoring tool (NEST) and collecting survey data from green space visitors. The end goal of this research is to determine if there is an equal distribution of good quality green spaces between different socioeconomic groups in Tasmania.

Peter Vaughan.

Seabirds are the most threatened avian group globally, and the family Procellariiformes (albatrosses, petrels, and storm petrels) are the most threatened seabirds. Many processes threaten members of this family, but one that is particularly significant is anthropogenic climate change. However, direct investigations of how climate change impacts procellariiformes, especially when foraging at sea, are sparse. Peter’s project is addressing this knowledge deficit by investigating climate driven shifts in habitat suitability for procellariiformes at sea, using populations of Gadfly Petrels (Pterodroma sp.) off south-east Australia as an exemplar. To achieve this, Peter is analysing historical data from Tasmania and Victoria, generated from an ongoing citizen-science project spanning a 40-year period. Bathymetric, oceanographic, and weather conditions will be integrated with these animal observations to form a habitat suitability model for each species examined. The parameters and outputs of the resultant model will allow for fitting to climate change projections. Ergo, Peter will generate predictions of how Pterodroma spp., and therefore procellariiformes by proxy, are likely to respond to habitat modification resulting from climate change.

Molly Barlow.

Molly’s project involves identifying islands in the Bass Strait for potential translocation sites for Eastern (Dasyurus viverrinus) and Spotted-tail quolls (Dasyurus maculatus). The idea for her project was proposed by the organisation Rewilding Australia who identified a need for research into alternate management methods for quoll species, and who suggested island translocations as a potential conservation method. The aim of Molly’s project is to provide an analysis on the potential of using the Bass Strait islands as translocation sites. She is doing this by developing knowledge on the current, pre-European and fossil distributions of eastern and spotted-tail quolls, developing models of their current and previous distribution both on Tasmania and across the mainland and Bassian Plain. Molly will use this information alongside species distribution modelling to predict potential Bass Strait islands that may be suitable, based on what is known about their preferred vegetation, geographic and climatic conditions.

Alexandra Paton.

Effective wildlife management is dependent on accurate estimates of population parameters. Non-intrusive sampling techniques can allow us to obtain these while minimising disturbance to animals and are typically inexpensive compared to, for example, the trapping of live animals. When starting a conservation project, it can be difficult to determine which non-intrusive method is appropriate for the animal and environment of interest, given the trade-offs of cost, time, and accuracy requirements. In this context, the aim of Alex’s project is to identify causes and magnitude of differences in information gleaned from different survey methods.

The honours course is an intense 9 months of literature reviews, grant proposals, seminars and, for main course, the research thesis! It is gratifying to track project development and whiteness interesting research unfold in such a short period. We can’t wait to see what Alex, Gabby, Peter and Molly discover, check back later in the year to hear how their projects pan out!


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