Masters Research Project: Comparison of diet in two species of macropodiform marsupials in source and translocated populations on islands in Shark Bay, Western Australia.

Opportunity Type: 
Student Opportunity
Closing Date: 
Thursday, August 15, 2019

Rufous (Lagorchestes hirsutus) and banded hare-wallabies (Lagostrophus fasciatus) have been translocated to Dirk Hartog Island from nearby Bernier and Dorre Islands, as part of an ongoing ecological restoration project. Although both species are exclusively herbivorous, rufous hare-wallabies are thought to be grazers, while banded hare-wallabies are believed to be more generalist browsers. The diet of these species may reflect the impact that they have on the ecological restoration of Dirk Hartog Island.

Bernier and Dorre Islands have similar vegetation structure to Dirk Hartog Island, but the latter has a greater floristic diversity (including weedy species) than the two smaller islands. When presented with a more diverse array of potential food plants, translocated wallabies may alter their dietary preferences. Herbivory can be an important process for maintaining or restoring ecosystem function, but it is possible that herbivores can also play a role in seed dispersal, through accidental endozoochory. This assumes seeds are viable after passing through wallaby digestive tracts, which may not be the case. In addition, wallabies may interact with weed species, facilitating their spread or acting as biological control agents. In summary, the establishment of hare-wallabies on Dirk Hartog Island may contribute to the restoration of the island’s ecosystems, but to better understand this impact, we need to learn more about their diet.

A Masters by Research student is being sought to research dietary preferences of rufous and banded hare-wallabies, and the impact that this may have on the ecological restoration of Dirk Hartog Island. Suitable masters students will have:

a strong undergraduate degree in biological science
a driver’s license
an ability to undertake fieldwork in remote areas
experience or interest in molecular ecology

This project is a collaboration between Dr Anna Hopkins (Edith Cowan University, Perth) and Dr Saul Cowen (Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions, WA).

Contact Anna Hopkins for further information a.hopkins@ecu.edu.au