Bilby Indigenous Knowledge Festival at Kiwirrkurra

By Stuart Dawson. Last week I attended the Bilby Indigenous Knowledge Festival in Kiwirrkurra to share expertise and findings with Indigenous rangers, landowners, scientists and land managers. These are my unique experiences at this celebration of this important vulnerable species. As we arrived in Kiwirrkurra, the most remote community in Australia, at 1am, three things…

A tiny strip of metal…

By Lauren Gilson & Nic Dunlop.  Who would have thought that one tiny strip of metal could convey so much information? It isn’t a microchip; in fact it is not electronic at all. It is a rather low-tech, simple instrument: the metal bird band.  On a fairy tern (Sternula nereis), this band is 5.5 mm…

Remote cameras in your closets?

By Peter Adams. Eventually it happens to all of us, the lab gets cluttered with equipment, space becomes a premium and inevitably you have no other option but to face facts, it’s time for the dreaded lab clean up.  I discovered boxes of old cameras that have sparked off a trip down memory lane.

With limited research funding, do we have to choose what we work on?

By Trish Fleming and Bill Bateman. In a recent paper published in Mammal Review, titled ‘The good, the bad, and the ugly: which Australian terrestrial mammal species attract most research?’, we reviewed over 14,000 studies on Australian terrestrial mammals and demonstrated significant gaps in our knowledge. There is taxonomic bias in this literature. Some of these…

Foxes in the city

By Bill Bateman & Trish Fleming. Of all the species described as ‘urban adapters’, it is perhaps the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) that is most well-known.  In Europe, foxes seem to have been hanging around towns and cities for centuries – certainly urban foxes were recorded around London in the 1800s [1].  Today, the red…

No water before white man – the story of a watering hole

By Tracey Moore. The definition of rangelands is ‘open country used for grazing and hunting animals’ and/or ‘woodlands, shrublands and grasslands for animals to graze or wander upon’. A total of eighty one percent of Western Australia is rangelands. Some of the rangelands resembles a desert and to run stock on it seems like a…

Are urban ravens really ‘thugs’ and ‘murderers’?

By Bill Bateman.  There has been a series of letters in West Australian newspapers recently that have prompted me to write this piece: the letters complain about an apparent rise in the number of ravens (Corvus coronoides) in suburbs and a concomitant decline in other bird species. The ravens are accused of nest robbing: “there…

Shelter me, feed me! Quokkas select plants for shelter and food

By Holly Poole.  Quokkas have been isolated on Rottnest Island over the last 7,000 years, since sea levels rose and cut off connectivity with the mainland. The island has a high density of animals. In autumn, after a hot and dry summer, if animals do not have sufficient body reserves, they can be particularly challenged…

High density housing: Termite mounds are more than just lumps of dirt

By Trish Fleming. Termites are amazing ecosystem engineers – they create massive changes in ecosystems that are far out of proportion to their size. A recent paper by Thompson and Thompson (2015; Pacific Conservation Biology) has captured how important termite mounds are for the Australian landscape. At their study site in the Pilbara region of Western…

It’s getting hot in here: Reptile assemblages in drought-affected forest

By Shannon Dundas. In the past 50 years, the climate in southwest WA has become hotter and drier [1, 2]. Annual rainfall in the northern jarrah forest has decreased by 17% since the 1970s [3].  In addition to the direct effects, changing climate is having a substantial impact on wildlife species through changes in habitat….

Wary foxes – smarter than our baiting regimes?

by Tracey Moore.  A recent study looking into the effectiveness of 1080 baiting in Western Australian wheatbelt reserves noted a single fox surviving after 8 baiting campaigns (Marlow et al. 2015). This signifies we are up against some clever foxes when it comes to the control of wild canids. After all the saying ‘cunning as…

Hormones gone wild

By Stephanie Hing.  Hormones, neurochemical signaling substances, are in charge of everything we do. From the time you got up in this morning to when your head hits the pillow tonight (and as you sleep), hormones will be working hard to keep you alive. They coordinate all the systems in our bodies from digesting food…

Death on the road

Bill Bateman & Lauren Gilson.  Perhaps the most fundamental impact we can have on wildlife is killing it.  We can be very opinionated on the rights and wrongs of killing animals; for instance, hunting is a very emotive issue.  One cause of death of wildlife that we might not think about that much but which…

Who are you looking at?

by Bill Bateman & Trish Fleming.   Animals are constantly on the lookout for potentially dangerous situations. Vigilance (time spent observing their environment for danger) is one measure of their antipredator responses. Another is their ‘flight initiation distance’ (simply: FID = how close you can come to an animal before they take off).

Hot ham! Using thermal imagery to count feral pigs

by Peter Adams.  Feral pigs have a significant impact on Australia’s native resources. This is most obvious in the disturbance they cause by their rooting behaviour. They turn over the soil in search for subterranean food resources such as tubers, roots, rhizomes, fungal fruiting bodies, and invertebrates. Basically, they eat everything they can find. But…

Fox predation of turtle nests

by Stuart Dawson.  Turtles are good examples of r-strategists.  They produce many young that experience high mortality (compared with K strategists, such as humans, which invest heavily in each individual offspring).  Most people would know that many turtles are killed as hatchlings, but did you realise that they are often predated even before they even hatch?

The ‘Risky-Decoy’ hypothesis

by Bill Bateman & Trish Fleming.  If an ecologist asks you if you are good at modelling you might think that they are referring to something mathematical, and start running in the opposite direction. But a simpler kind of modelling is often used by behavioural ecologists who are interested in predation. If you wanted to…

Perspective: methods for controlling fox populations

by Shannon Dundas.  Baiting using sustained, coordinated, broad-scale baiting programs between government agencies and private landowners is the most effective way to control red fox numbers. For agricultural areas, effective fox control will reduce stock losses.  Effective predator control is also essential to enable native species to survive within their natural habitat, a much more feasible…

Autotomy – just drop it and run

by Bill Bateman & Trish Fleming.  An organism only has to fail once in escaping a predator for its evolutionary fitness to be reduced to zero. Selection to avoid ending up as a meal is, therefore, intense. More intense than selection on avoiding missing a meal such that in the evolutionary arms race, prey tends…

Life in the city: urban carnivores

by Bill Bateman & Trish Fleming.  Our paper “Bateman P.W. & Fleming P.A. (2012). Review Article. Big city life: carnivores in urban environments. Journal of Zoology, 287, 1–23” has made it on to the list top cited papers of 2013 for Journal of Zoology.  Obviously enough, it pleases us that our research is making an…

Welcome to Western WEB

Western Australian researchers have joined forces to create the WWEB. Working across urban, agricultural and natural landscapes, we investigate how animals respond to human presence, but can also contribute to our quality of life. We are wildlife biologists.  Our research focuses on translational biology, where improving our understanding of the physiology and behaviour of vertebrates…