Photo: Kristian Bell
Student

Honours: Modelling habitat use of a threatened carnivorous marsupial, the black-tailed Dusky Antechinus (Antechinus arktos), in Border Ranges National Park (UQ and QUT)

Commences February 2021

BACKGROUND 

Australia’s biodiversity is globally unique, with 87% of Australia’s mammals considered endemic. But Australia also has the highest mammal extinction rate in the world with 34 native mammals sent to extinction since European settlement. A staggering 1 out of 3 known global mammal extinctions in the last 400 years have taken place in Australia. Paradoxically, the last 100 years has also been heralded as an age of discovery; more than 300 new mammal species have been identified world-wide over the last century, the highest rate since the 1700s. 

Yet the Australian mammal fauna is amongst the least well-known, taxonomically. Over just the last six years, five new species of carnivorous marsupial antechinus have been discovered. Unfortunately, two of the five new antechinus are already listed federally as endangered – the Black-tailed Dusky Antechinus (Antechinus arktos) and Silver-headed Antechinus (A. argentus). Both species occur in high-altitude forest of south-east Qld / north-east NSW. However, they are elusive, and their distributional ranges and habitat preferences are poorly understood. 

In the last few years, our research team has been investigating the most effective means of detecting these endangered antechinuses, and comparative methods have included metal box (Elliott) traps, camera traps and detection dogs. Of these, detection dogs are proving the most reliable, especially given small mammal population reductions most likely associated with drought and bushfires in 2019/20. 

Antechinus arktos is currently only known from several high-altitude locations within protected areas of World Heritage Listed Gondwanan Rainforest straddling the border of NSW and Qld. In July of 2020, our detection dog team, Canines for Wildlife, intensively surveyed one known location of A. arktos – Border Ranges National Park. Sites were surveyed 1km apart across a linear distance of about 25km, encompassing historical records of the species and including a range of altitudes. Dog detections indicated only patchy occurrence of A. arktos. 

PROJECT 

The aim of this project is to identify and measure a range of floristic and environmental variables across the canine-surveyed sites in Border Ranges NP and correlate these to occurrence of A. arktos. Habitat preferences can then be modelled for A. arktos in Border Ranges NP. These data will be applied to help devise a management plan for this endangered mammal. There is scope to conduct further canine detection surveys in Border Ranges during July 2021 to augment the current detection data. This project fits more broadly under an existing PhD project that is assessing best detection techniques for small mammal conservation and modelling the distribution of A. arktos across the extent of its range. 

POSITION 

  • The successful applicant will have a strong interest or aptitude in plant-based and environmental habitat assessment, habitat / climate modelling, field work in remote areas and mammal conservation. 
  • The project is for a full-time QUT student, commencing February 2021. 
  • The project is based at QUT (Brisbane, Gardens Point Campus), with affiliation and external co-supervision provided by UQ and collaboration from Canines for Wildlife (detection dog team). 
  • The project is supported by a federal Wildlife and Habitat Bushfire Recovery Program Grant and a National Environmental Science Program Grant. 

Supervisors: Baker, A.M. (QUT), Firn, J. (QUT) and Fisher, D. (UQ)

If you are interested in applying for this Honours project, please send your abbreviated (2 page) CV and a short (250 word) application detailing: 1. why you are interested in the project; and 2. how your skills align with the aims and approaches described. 

Please send this information ASAP to Andrew Baker at: am.baker@qut.edu.au 

Information on existing (and related) mammal conservation projects run out of the Baker mammal lab can be found here: https://bakerecologylab.wordpress.com/ 

Downloadable flyer:

Honours – Modelling habitat use of black-tailed Dusky Antechinus

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