Potential student projects

Would you like to do an Honours project with urban bandicoots? If you’re eligible to start Honours in 2017, please get in touch to discuss project ideas. Below are a few projects that would make great Honours projects.

What makes a “quenda-friendly” garden?

All over the world, people are realising that their front and back gardens can provide important habitat for local wildife. But what garden features are important to urban bandicoots? Are some gardens safer or more accessible than others? This project will be based in the City of Mandurah, and will examine which features of front and back yards correlate with bandicoot presence.

Bandicoot activity will be assessed by surveys to count the number of diggings, use of motion-sensor cameras, and questionnaires about interactions between residents and bandicoots. Desktop and field surveys will be used to assess features such as fencing, vegetation type and structure, distance to remnant bushland, and connectivity.

Suggested reading: Frank et al. 2016.

Are foxes a threat to urban bandicoots?

To understand whether feral foxes pose a threat to bandicoots within the City of Mandurah, we need to know some basic information about where foxes are going and what they are doing in urban areas. Possible methods to gather this information include GPS tracking of foxes and using motion-sensor cameras to examine fox presence/absence across the urban landscape.

Other projects

The overall aim of the “Backyard Bandicoots” project is a better understanding of both the threats faced by urban bandicoots (predators, habitat fragmentation, roads, and so on) and the ecological and social benefits of bandicoots in urban areas. For example, bandicoots play an important role as ecosystem engineers (Fleming et al. 2014), and there may be serious consequences for the urban ecosystem if bandicoots were to disappear.

Backyard Bandicoots: Nature Relatedness and Community Wellbeing in the City of Mandurah (PhD or components for Honours)

The City of Mandurah has identified that its community feels a strong affiliation with the environment. Recent research has shown that higher levels of ‘nature relatedness’ (NR) is associated with increased overall psychological well-being and vitality (Brymer, 2016). NR is also a strong predictor of visitation to local greenspace, and predicts meeting of physical activity guidelines. Australian research shows that for urban residents, people living in areas with higher tree canopy have increased NR scores. It is argued that maintaining the availability of nature close to home is therefore a critical step in safeguarding psychological and physical well-being (Shanahan, 2017). An opportunity exists to examine how engagement in community
planting events influences NR, and if engagement in such events can be linked to improved social outcomes in CoM. For more information, please contact Catherine Baudains c.baudains@murdoch.edu.au.

Community wellbeing and education

The cognitive benefits of spending time in ‘green space’ has been well documented (Berman et al , 2012; Bratman et al, 2015). Student academic performance has also been shown to improve with increasing time spent exposed to nature (Matsuoka, 2010). School proximity to natural
environments has been associated with improved academic performance (Wu et al 2014; Dadvand, 2015). It would be interesting to examine the level of nature-relatedness of students engaged with the ‘Backyard Bandicoots’ project and other CoM environmental education projects, with students from schools from the region which are not participating in these projects. For more information, please contact Catherine Baudains c.baudains@murdoch.edu.au.

Does the use of a ‘flagship’ species increase participation and engagement in community planting/ecological restoration events (PhD or components for Honours)

Most Local Government and NGO organisations depend heavily on volunteer participation to achieve important conservation outcomes through community planting days. There is some evidence in the environmental education literature that a whole of system educational approach to events can increase engagement and participation. This project could examine how using the Quenda and its role as an ecosystem engineer can improve engagement of community volunteers in planting days and long term ecological restoration projects.  For more information, please contact Catherine Baudains c.baudains@murdoch.edu.au.

Volunteering, sense of place and engagement with local conservation and ecological restoration efforts (PhD or components for Honours)

This project could consider the drivers for volunteering and examine if they have changed over time. It would follow on from earlier work by Buizer, Kurz & Ruthroff (2011) and further explore volunteering in the context of environmental change and restoration outcomes. It could be an alternative way to examine the way in which participation in ecological restoration influences Nature Relatedness, and allow exploration of the role different educational and marketing strategies have on participant engagement. This would be a primarily qualitative study. For more information, please contact Catherine Baudains c.baudains@murdoch.edu.au.

Is there a connection between gardening choices and the presence/absence of Bandicoots in CoM? (PhD or components for Honours)

Recent research has highlighted the importance of using both ecological and Social research methods for examining the health of endemic species in urban settings (Bartholomaeus 2016). It is likely that choices about the species planted and the structure of gardens in urban areas will influence the usefulness of the space for Quenda. This project will explore the patterns of Quenda movement in the urban area in conjunction with the patterns of resident knowledge, attitudes and gardening behaviour. For more information, please contact Catherine Baudains c.baudains@murdoch.edu.au.

Who cares about Backyard Bandicoots? (Honours)

This small research project would use survey data to explore the knowledge and perceptions of CoM residents in relation to Quenda. It would use survey methodology to explore residents knowledge relating to: Quenda habitat needs, threats and inappropriate interaction (feeding). It would examine how/where residents are sourcing their information, and how willing they may
be to adopt new information/behaviours. The project would provide useful information for the development of education programs and information dissemination techniques. For more information, please contact Catherine Baudains c.baudains@murdoch.edu.au.

Black spots for bandicoots?

Of 378 mortality events reported under the 2012 Community Quenda Survey (Howard et al. 2014), vehicle strike accounted for 44% of deaths. Vegetated road reserves and cycle paths provide quendas with refuge habitat, and also enable them to move between habitat patches and to access suburban gardens; however, quendas living alongside busy roads are at risk from vehicle strike. Identifying key habitat resources by tracking ~30 individuals (above) will enable us to locate road ‘black spots’, sites that could be reconstructed to include wider verges, impermeable fencing, or underpasses to reduce likelihood of animals crossing roads. Additionally, we will collate information on quenda mortalities through citizen science. This project is funded by the City of Mandurah and the Australian Research Council and there is $15,000 for project costs in addition to the School’s contribution ($1,500). For more information, please contact Trish Fleming t.fleming@murdoch.edu.au.  This project would be suitable for the Vincent-Serventy honours award.

‘Quenda inoculated’ plants   (PhD or components for Honours)

We will trial novel and innovative approaches for improving plant health, testing effects of inoculation of seedlings. Eucalyptus gomphacephala (tuart) has undergone a significant decline since the early 1990s, throughout its distribution along the coastal dune belts of the Swan Coastal Plain, WA. The greatest decline has occurred in the woodlands around the Mandurah area, where tuarts are the dominant keystone species and many tuart of all age classes have died. There is a strong correlation between mycorrhizal root associations and signs of tuart tree crown health (r216=0.75), suggesting a link between the decline and absence of ectomycorrhizae. In the absence of bandicoots in isolated and altered habitats, ‘inoculating’ plants with bandicoot scats could serve to artificially increase mycorrhizal associations. For some fungi, passing through the gut of an animal can break spore dormancy, leading to increased germination rates; this may explain why directly inoculating seeds with mycorrhizal fungal inoculum sometimes has no effect on eucalypt seedling establishment and growth, while inoculation using mycophagous marsupial scat can enhance seedling growth. Our pilot data indicate that inoculating E. gomphacephala seedlings with bandicoot scats significantly increases plant-mycorrhizal associations compared with negative controls. This study will use High Throughput Sequencing (HTS) from across a broad range to sites to identify the best locations (most diverse mycorrhizal fungi community) to derive source material for inoculations. We will then inoculate nursery seedlings with bandicoot scats for extensive plantings, and monitor their recruitment success and growth over time. This project is funded by the City of Mandurah and the Australian Research Council and there is $15,000 for project costs in addition to the School’s contribution ($1,500). For more information, please contact Trish Fleming t.fleming@murdoch.edu.au.  This project would be suitable for the Vincent-Serventy honours award.


FLEMING, P. A., ANDERSON, H., PRENDERGAST, A. S., BRETZ, M. R., VALENTINE, L. E. & HARDY, G. E. S. 2014. Is the loss of Australian digging mammals contributing to a deterioration in ecosystem function? Mammal Review, 44:94-108.

FRANK, A. S., CARTHEY, A. J. & BANKS, P. B. 2016. Does Historical Coexistence with Dingoes Explain Current Avoidance of Domestic Dogs? Island Bandicoots Are Naive to Dogs, unlike Their Mainland Counterparts, PLoS One, 11, e0161447.