Ecosystem Dynamics lab: Honours Opportunities 2021

Here at the Ecosystem Dynamics lab we are offering the following Honours projects:

DigiFarm: incorporating biodiversity into farming decisions (with the Sydney Institute of Agriculture)

We aim to develop a digitally enabled network which will monitor native flora and fauna to inform sustainable agricultural practices. A unique combination of methods will be used: We will test new methods in camera trapping and acoustic recorders (birds and bats) in quantifying on-farm biodiversity and develop spatial models to identify biodiversity hotspots.

Simpson Desert Insights: designing Citizen Science programs for identifying wildlife in remote camera trap images (with Australian Museum)

This project will work closely with DigiVol at the Australian Museum, and the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney. It will determine the level of uncertainty in using Citizen Scientists to identify species in remote camera trap images.

Agricultural land suitability that includes ecological and cultural values (with Dr Floris Van Ogtrop, Primary, & Dr Ayesha Tulloch, USYD)

Land suitability maps for agricultural production are based on agronomic and climate data. The availability of spatial ecological/cultural data is improving. This project will incorporate these new data sources to create maps that are ecologically and culturally sensitive to assist decision makers.

Using digital technologies to track farmland ecological condition in remote arid Australia (with Dr Ayesha Tulloch, Primary, USYD)

Digital acoustic monitoring is increasingly used in wildlife studies around the globe. Acoustic monitoring devices are a powerful and cost-effective method to survey wildlife due to their ease in deployment and ability to continually monitor populations across time through the use of “soundscapes”. Digital monitoring is particularly important for tracking ecosystem condition in remote, poorly accessible locations, such as much of arid Australia where livestock grazing predominates. Numerous metrics can be derived from ecoacoustic monitoring datasets, including sound diversity (a potential surrogate for wildlife diversity) and sound abundance (a potential indicator for wildlife abundance or activity). However, the recency of these technologies means that there is little scientific evidence for a clear link between acoustic monitoring metrics and the condition of wildlife and landscapes.

Determining the distribution of sarcoptic mange in wombats using camera images (with Associate Professor David Phalen, USYD)

Sarcoptic mange is an infestation by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei that has a particularly devastating effect on the bare-nosed wombat.  Left untreated, mange causes terrible suffering progressing to death. It can spread rapidly, particularly in high-density populations.

Little is known about the impact of mange on wombats in NSW. This project will start to address that knowledge gap using camera images to determine the presence and severity of mange in NSW national parks.  Your work will establish the baseline for future monitoring and for targeted welfare and conservation interventions.

Camera images come from the 10-year WildCount fauna monitoring program conducted by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). WildCount monitors sites across 146 national parks and reserves in eastern NSW.  You will assess camera images, assign mange scores and analyse your results to provide a picture of mange prevalence in NSW parks.  Your results will also contribute to a national initiative to monitor mange in bare-nosed wombats.

A parallel project is underway in Tasmania providing opportunities for communication with others conducting similar work.  A growing number of researchers are working to better understand and respond to mange so there will be abundant opportunities for further research and collaboration.

More information about Honours within the School can be found here.

About Aaron Greenville

I'm an Ecologist investigating how ecosystems respond to climate change and the introduction of exotic species.
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