Otway Threatened Species Forum 2017 – Abstracts

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Otway Threatened Species Research Forum 2017 – Abstracts

The Otway Ark

Catherine Longmore, Parks Victoria

Cathy shared the first results from the Otway Ark monitoring program – where camera trapping has recorded five threatened species; the Southern Brown Bandicoot, Long-nosed Potoroo, Swamp Antechinus, White-footed Dunnart, and Rufous Bristlebird as well as 11 non-native species.


Foxy agents – a model of invasive predator control in forest ecosystems

Dr Bronwyn Hradsky, University of Melbourne

The invasive red fox Vulpes vulpes poses a major threat to Australia’s native fauna, harms livestock and is a key host of zoonotic diseases. Numerous models of red fox populations have been developed previously, but few are applicable to biodiversity conservation at a landscape scale.  The aim of my research is to develop a spatially-explicit, agent-based model of red fox populations, which can be readily customised to specific ecological and management scenarios. The model depicts a cell-based landscape which can be generated within the model or imported as a spatial raster layer (in the order of 100 – 15,000 km2, at 100m resolution), and updates at four-weekly intervals.  Individual foxes disperse across the landscape, establish and update territories, find mates, and reproduce, with the timing and likelihood of these behaviours specified through a user-friendly interface. Customised baiting strategies can be specified within the model or imported as shapefiles. The model effectively reproduces key ecological patterns from diverse field sites.  I am currently testing the model with Otway Ark baiting scenarios to explore the possible effects of the baiting program on fox populations in the Otways and identify key knowledge gaps. Ultimately, I aim to include threatened native mammals and feral cats in the model to better understand the broader ecological effects of the Ark program.


Baiting for bandicoots: quantifying critical-weight-range mammal responses to the Otway Ark

Zoi Banikos, University of Melbourne

Also from the University of Melbourne, will be studying the response of the bandicoot, and other critical weight-range mammals in the Otways to the program.


Does fox control lead to a mesopredator release of feral cats?

Matt Rees, University of Melbourne

PhD student Matt Rees will also use camera trapping to study what happens to the feral cat population when the foxes are controlled.


Whose scat is that? Evaluating the impact of baiting upon fox populations in the Otways using non-invasive genetic tagging

Mark le Pla, Conservation Ecology Centre

Estimating the abundance of a species that is wide ranging, difficult to trap and impossible to distinguish between individuals visually is highly problematic. Therefore, evaluating the success of control programs, such as broad scale fox baiting, continues to be difficult using conventional survey methods. Genetic analysis of non-invasively collected DNA, such as that found within scat, allows researchers and land managers to distinguish between individuals and provide detailed information on exotic pest populations subject to control programs. The Otway Ark offers an exciting opportunity to further investigate the benefits and limitations of this method at a large scale. The aim of this project is to generate abundance estimates of fox populations in several areas before and after 1080 baiting and compare these results to those generated from several other projects in the same area.


So now the Night Parrot has shown up, what about the Ground Parrot in the Otways?

Dr Grant Palmer, Federation University

The search for the Ground Parrot in the Otways. The last records were in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but the recent re-discovery of the Night Parrot in northern Australia has given Grant Palmer hope that we can find the night parrot in the Otways, and he’s listening out from them using sound recording equipment in the Carlisle Heath.


The mammals of Sheoak Creek Valley, Great Otway National Park – Surveillance

Peter Homan, Peter Homan Consultancy

A survey of terrestrial, nocturnal mammals in the Sheoak Creek valley of the Great Otway National Park commenced in December, 2014. Nine species of mammals were recorded between the commencement of the study and May 2017. These comprised one monotreme, five marsupials and three eutherians. Two threatened species, Long-nosed Potoroo Potorous tridactylus and Broad-toothed Rat Mastacomys fuscus were recorded at several sites within the study area. Long-nosed Potoroo was recorded in dense regrowth vegetation following a control burn in this valley in spring 2010. Breeding was confirmed for this species. Broad-toothed Rat was recorded in atypical habitat. These were the first available records of these threatened species in this section of the Great Otway National Park.


Can conservation detection dogs support the search for rare species?

Emma Bennet, Monash University

Detection dogs are an exciting new tool in conservation biology.  Dogs have proven their usefulness at finding things that we can’t.  The purpose of my research is to compare conservation detection dogs with current methods of detection.  With the Conservation Ecology Centre I will be evaluating the performance of volunteers from the tiger quoll detection dog program.  I will compare this to current methods such as motion cameras and live trapping and look at the costs and benefits of each method.  The key outcomes I hope to achieve from my study are:

  • An understanding of the costs and benefits of deploying dogs for conservation
  • A good idea of the pros and cons of different survey methods and how they relate to the objectives of the project
  • How dogs compare with the other tools we have on our belt
  • A nice glossy flow chart with key decision making steps to assist project managers with the decision to engage detection dogs for their rare species program.


How do environmental gradients influence the distribution and composition of ground-dwelling mammals in the Otways?

Louise Falls, La Trobe University

In order to conserve species, particularly critical weight range mammals still found in the Otways such as the Long-nosed Potoroo, an understanding of their habitat requirements is vital. This project set out to answer several key questions about the distribution of ground-dwelling mammals in the Otways, particularly the influence of elevation on native mammal communities and the relative importance of fine-scale and broad scale environmental factors in determining their distribution. 60 sites distributed across an elevational gradient and a range of vegetation classes were surveyed using remote sensing cameras and conventional vegetation structure survey techniques with statistical analysis being undertaken at both a broad and fine-scale. Key findings include the higher turn-over of mammal species at lower elevations and the relatively high influence of elevation in determining distribution at the species level. These findings have implications for the scale at which conservation of ground-dwelling mammals is undertaken in the Otways.


Modelling changes in abundance of threatened fauna

Mick Baker, Department of Environment Land, Water and Planning

  • DELWP has the challenging task of managing for two competing objectives: Biodiversity and Life and Property
  • In the Otways, we use a combination of Species’ Habitat Distribution Models, time since fire, and species’ response to fire, to predict changes in abundance of fauna across different fuel management strategies
  • The Swamp Antechinus in the Anglesea Heath  is one species that is impacted by our selected fuel management strategy
  • The species requires older heath (20+ years).  To avoid impacts on this species would mean to avoid burning in its habitat, which increases risk to life and property to an unacceptable level
  • To achieve a balanced outcome, we carried out a Strategic Bushfire Risk Assessment and Strategy Selection process  to evaluate trade-offs across values
  • We now use monitoring results and research to help validate our models and to inform decision-making


Where do they live? New models of ground-dwelling mammal distributions for conservation and research

Dr Matt Swann, University of Melbourne

Computer models are being developed by Matt Swan and colleagues at the University of Melbourne in collaboration with the conservation Ecology Centre to help us predict which areas of habitat will be suitable for the range of threatened species in the Otways – so we know where to look for them, and what habitat we need to protect.


Fire Response of Anglesea Grevillea

Rebecca Wray, Department of Environment Land, Water and Planning

The Anglesea grevillea fire response project aims to monitor the effect of fire on adult survival rate and sucker survival rate. We are curious about the percentage of adult mortality rate, fire intensity and time since fire. The Anglesea grevillea is a rare endemic species found only in the Anglesea Aireys Inlet area, and only reproduces vegetatively. . It has low genetic diversity and is subject to a modified more frequent fire regime. The long term study aims to monitor the effect of fire on this already threatened species in order to inform future fire management activities for the conservation of the species.


Genetic identification of Grevillea infecunda clones to assist in conservation management

Elizabeth James, Royal Botanical Gardens Victoria

The phenomenal Anglesea Grevillia is a species which is only found in the Otways. This beautiful plant is pretty special as it is, in fact, a collection of clones which have lost the ability to reproduce sexually. So the Botanic Gardens, DEWLP, and local volunteers are working together to increase our understanding of the species in the hope we can help it survive a little longer.


Otway Pterostylis cucullata genetic diversity and associated fungi

Katrina Marie Thomas, Victoria University
Katrina is investigating the Leafy Greenhood Orchid at Cape Otway. In order to conserve the species Katrina is using genetics to identify the number of individuals in a population, and how to isolate the fungi species the orchid requires to facilitate germination. This work could help us to transplant the species into other suitable habits.