NEW Honours Projects in 2020

Hi everyone. The Arid Ecology Lab has two new honours projects in 2020, working on the impacts of kangaroos and Powerful Owls with great people. Do not hesitate to contact us if you are interested 🙂

Contact: Dr David Eldridge (d.eldridge@unsw.edu.au); Dr Samantha Travers (s.travers@unsw.edu.au)

Project title: Impact of kangaroos on temperate grasslands – a 10 year study.

Supervisors: Dr David Eldridge (Centre for Ecosystem Science), Dr Samantha Travers (Centre for Ecosystem Science)

Synopsis: Fenced and unfenced populations of kangaroos have been monitored for the last decade in grassy woodlands in Western Sydney. Regular monitoring has also been undertaken in a number of exclosures, and detailed assessments of plant community composition made. There are been few studies of kangaroo impacts on vegetation community composition in temperate grasslands and no effects of how kangaroo densities might impact soil function. This project will be based on field assessment of plants and soil function, laboratory assessment, and statistical analyses of plant community composition over the last decade. Data have been collected continuously since 2005.

Aims:
• to determine the impacts of kangaroo grazing on temperate grassland richness and composition
• to examine the effects of kangaroo activity on soil function.
• to link changes in kangaroo numbers with vegetation changes over the past decade.

Benefits to student: This is a multi-disciplinary project that will expose the student to a diverse range of skills. You will:
• work on a high priority conservation project
• experience the problems associated with managing native animals in a periurban environment
• have access to a large temporal database
• experience a mixture of field work and data analyses
• learn how to assess soil and vegetation health
• gain skills in laboratory techniques
• be exposed to the activities of the National Parks and Wildlife Service
• have fun and work with great people

 

Project title: Assessing prey items in the scats and pellets of Powerful Owls and their importance as a bioindicator of environmental lead (Pb) levels

Supervisors: Dr David Eldridge (Centre for Ecosystem Science), Dr Samantha Travers (Centre for Ecosystem Science), Chris Lloyd (Powerful Owl Group)

Synopsis: In the Sydney region, the Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) is a large predator of folivores such as ringtail and brushtail possums (Trichosurus spp.). Together possums and owls have increased markedly over the last 50 years, and now occupy rainforest gullies close to urban areas. Lead (Pb) is a major environmental pollutant and bioaccumulates in the food chain as it concentrates in animal bones, where it remains for extended periods. Analysing lead concentration in bones can give us an indication of past levels of lead exposure and potentially, environmental lead concentrations. Because lead concentrates in bones, it can be assessed in the scats and pellets of carnivores. The Georges River Group of the Powerful Owl Project has been analysing the composition of prey items collected in bolus from roosting sites on both sides of the Georges River between 2012 and 2017. The bones of more than 250 prey animals have been collected from ten separate owl territories. The Georges River provides a natural boundary between the earlier European settlement, and therefore motor vehicles use, on the northern side of the Georges River and the more recently settled southern side of the river. These two sites may differ in lead (Pb) levels as the more recently settled areas were mainly urbanised in an era of lead-free fuel after 1986.

 

Aims:
• examine differences in prey items in Powerful Owl scats and pellets from 10 sites in southern Sydney
• examine Pb levels in the bones and feathers of vertebrate prey
• explore potential differences in Pb levels that might account for differences in environmental Pb between areas with long and short histories of usage of fuel-based Pb.

Benefits to student:

This is a multi-disciplinary project that will expose the student to a range of disciplines. You will:
• work on a high priority conservation project
• gain skills in laboratory and data analytical techniques
• work with a community group (Powerful Owl Project)
• undertake a mixture of microscope, laboratory and community-based work
• get access to a large existing database

 

 

HONOURS PROJECTS OPPORTUNITIES 2020

We’re looking for enthusiastic students to work with our Arid Ecology Lab in 2020 for the following projects. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you are interested 🙂

 

Branching: can the addition of woody material help to revegetate degraded drylands?

Woody debris is recognised as an important structural element of the ground layer. The placing of logs or branches on the soil has been trialled as a method to stabilise degraded soil surfaces, by protecting plants from herbivory and allowing them to establish. A trial is being established in the Murray Mallee region of South Australia to examine the usefulness of ‘branching’ as a restoration tool.

This study will compare the effect of multiple branching treatments on soil accumulation and soil properties, herbivory of planted seedlings, and establishment of perennial vegetation within an existing experiment. An honours project would form part of a larger research project looking at the role of branching in restoring degraded landscapes. Students will be able to position their research within a broader context and work alongside collaborating scientists.

The work will be carried out near Renmark, South Australia and co-supervised by Dr Heather Neilly. For more information contact David Eldridge (d.eldridge@unsw.edu.au)

 

The effect of herbivory on the restoration of a semi-arid woodland

Vertebrate herbivores can threaten vegetation establishment and persistence in areas being managed for restoration. Various projects would investigate different aspects of how grazing by a range of herbivores (goats, rabbits and kangaroos) affect vegetation and soils in order to develop effective management of grazing. The work will be carried out near Renmark, South Australia and co-supervised by Dr Heather Neilly. For more information contact David Eldridge (d.eldridge@unsw.edu.au)

 

Long-term dynamics of vegetation cover under kangaroo grazing

Overgrazing by kangaroos has been identified as a major land degradation issue, particularly during droughts. This project will examine long-term data on the effects of kangaroos on vegetation species composition across a large number of sites, some of which are kangaroo free. The study will also incorporate measures of soil function at different parts of the landscape to determine the impacts of kangaroos on soil function. The work will be carried out at sites in eastern Australia in conjunction with the National Parks and Wildlife Service. For more information contact David Eldridge (d.eldridge@unsw.edu.au)

Congratulation Max on ESA student prize!

Max and Jingyi, (PhD students) presented meta-analyses on impact of digging mammals and woody plant removal at ESA 2018 (Annual Conference of Ecological Society of Australia). Max won the 2018 ESA Wiley Student Prize for the EMR spoken presentation on management or restoration. Congratulation Max!

 

sdr

CONGRATULATIONS DR. RADNAN

Congratulation to Gabby (Dr. Radnan now😊) for her PhD graduation ceremony today! Gabby has accomplished an excellent PhD on ants. Thanks for her great work in our lab. We will miss the joyful time spent with you 🙂 .

Congratulations Adriana and Naomi

Congratulations to Naomi and Adriana on their graduation ceremony today! Also special mention to Adriana who won the best honours award in geography and received the Jack Mabbutt Medal.

Thank you to both of you for the excellent work and joyful time in our lab as honours students, we will miss you guys!

Honours project opportunity: Soil health in River red gum forests

A chance for some field work in these beautiful inland riverine forests.

A chance for some field work in these beautiful inland riverine forests.

We’re looking for an enthusiastic student to be involved with a larger project set up by Office of Environment (NSW) and Heritage and Parks Victoria. The project will involve field work throughout the Lachlan Valley, Murrumbidgee Valley and Murray Valley. This project presents an opportunity to visit some unique parts of Australia and receive training in measures of soil health and soil surface condition. This is a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with government departments including National Parks and Wildlife Service (NSW), Parks Victoria (Vic.) and Scientific Services (NSW). Preferred candidates would have a strong background in ecology and/or soil science and hold a provisional or full drivers licence. For more details please contact Prof. David Eldridge (d.eldridge@unsw.edu.au).

Fun day for the ‘fun guys’

Sam_Max_FungiSamantha Travers and Max Mallen-Cooper looking for endangered fungi at Lane Cove. This research is part of a study to map the habitat for endangered Hydrocybe fungi. The work is supported by Lane Cove Council and the National Parks and Wildlife Service through the Saving our Species Program.