Tuesday 10 October 2023
4:30PM - 5:00PM
Sponsored by WA Museum
5:00PM - 6:00PM
UWA CLUB TERRACE
Sponsored by Ecocene
Laura Fagan (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development): The ‘Best’ Biosecurity Engagement and Surveillance Tool
The ‘Best’ Biosecurity Engagement and Surveillance Tool
Laura Fagan, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development
Isabel Arevalo-Vigne, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development
Alexander Popoff-Asotoff, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development
Nadine Guthrie, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development
Invasive species threaten biodiversity. The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) built a Biosecurity Engagement and Surveillance Tool (BEST) called MyPestGuide®. It is a simple and free mobile app developed for the public to engage in general surveillance activities across Australia. Our strategic approach encourages people to report common, damaging, or interesting organisms to diagnostic experts. In return, individuals receive two-way communication plus advice on identification, allowing for local and landscape scale conservation planning using evidence-based species distributions. The MyPestGuide system includes four comprehensive pest identification guides to support the cropping, forestry, and viticulture industries as well as a reporting app linked to an online community database. Experts can view reports anywhere in the world to confirm the identification of a species. In addition, responses outline any risks posed by the organism and the reporter receives this information onto their device and via an email. Experts may ask individuals to help prevent thespread of an exotic pest or provide them with information about the interesting beneficial species reported, give advice to control a pest, or advise how best to manage common pests, including species that might resemble an exotic pest. Advice about species which may be biosecurity threats to overseas markets is prioritised. Data is used to support Australia’s biosecurity systems and to protect the natural environment so continued access to overseas markets remains secure. Overseas markets provide the greatest gains for the Australian agricultural sector and are critical to an industry which provides over $15.5 billion to Western Australia’s (WA) economy. Since its launch in 2017, the MyPestGuide team of experts have verified over 415,000 MyPestGuide Reporter submissions, including multiple detections of new exotic pests to WA as well as species new to science.
Sonia T (Murdoch University): Evaluating Risk of Turbine Strike to Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo Using 3D GPS and State-Space Modelling
Evaluating Risk of Turbine Strike to Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo Using 3D GPS and State-Space Modelling
Sonia T, Murdoch University
Trish Fleming, Murdoch University
Fiona Scarff, Murdoch University
Jill Shephard, Murdoch University
The transition to renewable energy sources has been rapidly increasing in recent years due to policy reforms in efforts to match global zero-emission targets. Renewable power is forecasted to expand by 50% between 2019 and 2024 with significant trends showing a rise in wind and solar power worldwide. The scaling of these energy sources, however, comes with its own criticisms towards their impacts towards biodiversity if not designed and managed constructively. Wind energy has been scrutinized for its impacts on bird and bat species specifically. Wind turbines pose a significant risk to bird and bat species as turbine strikes have led to deaths in species numbers. This danger is generally estimated using a collision risk model. Populating the model is dependent on available species-specific flight data, including flight height. However, at present, knowledge of turbine collision risk is incomplete for many species. The validity of these models is paramount when dealing with endangered species. In Western Australia, the Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo is currently threatened under State and Commonwealth legislation. Our research aims to describe flight performance and height distributions of the Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo relative to underlying vegetation and topography to evaluate a ‘collision risk window’ corresponding to hypothetical rotor sweep zones informed by current turbine designs used in Western Australia. Existing 3D GPS data and accelerometer data will be used to model the flight performance and activity budgets as well as fit state-space models to describe the flight height distributions. With wind farms increasing in popularity, understanding, and modelling the impacts of these energy sources on Carnaby’s Cockatoo prove crucial in establishing significant data and healthy population trends for these threatened species.
Rebecca Quah (Edith Cowan University): Assessing the Diet and Habitat Requirements of Gilbert’s Potoroos Using eDNA
Assessing the Diet and Habitat Requirements of Gilbert’s Potoroos Using eDNA
Rebecca Quah, Edith Cowan University
Robert Davis, Edith Cowan University
Jackie Courtenay, Gilbert’s Potoroo Action Group
Harriet Mills, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions
Anna Hopkins, Edith Cowan University
The Gilbert’s potoroo (Potorous gilbertii), once believed to be extinct, was rediscovered in 1994 and declared the world’s rarest marsupial. Successful translocations have led to the species persisting across four locations on the south coast of Western Australia, however, population growth and gene flow are at a stand-still due to the small size of habitat patches and the presence of physical barriers. With a maximum estimate of 120 individuals in the wild, recovery plans for the Gilbert’s potoroo have highlighted further translocations to mainland sites as a priority for the species. Amongst other considerations for ensuring successful translocations, a better understanding of the species’ mycophagous diet and habitat requirements is essential. Traditionally, labour-intensive manual searches for hypogeous fungi and the classification of fungi through spores in scats have been employed. Unfortunately, these methods have not always proven to be reliable. This study aims to design a new and robust strategy using environmental DNA (eDNA) techniques to refine the study of diet and habitat requirements for potoroos. Next-generation sequencing of DNA from scat and soil samples will be used to reveal the diet of potoroos in contrast to the overall fungi diversity in the habitats they persist in. Plant-fungi associations will also be studied using growth trials to elucidate the type of vegetation that is associated with preferred fungi species. The methods and results from this study will help to inform future translocation decisions for the species as similar eDNA techniques can be applied to proposed translocation sites to identify the abundance and diversity of hypogeal fungi to support future populations of the Gilbert’s potoroo.
Ali Babington (Murdoch University): Human Preferences for Native Streetscape Plantings
Human Preferences for Native Streetscape Plantings
Ali Babington, Murdoch University
Rachel Standish, Murdoch University
Michael Hughes, Murdoch University
Jane Chambers, Murdoch University
Claire Farrell, University of Melbourne
Increasing urbanisation poses a threat to biodiversity, however, integrating native vegetation into urban streetscapes can mitigate this threat and provide many social and environmental benefits. Successful streetscape plantings must be socially acceptable to gain public and council support, therefore, we investigated public preferences for various plant and planting features in the context of the Woody Meadow Project. This urban greening project uses diverse mixtures of Australian shrubs, adapted to local conditions, that are densely planted and coppiced (cut to 100–200mm above ground level) every few years. This creates long-lasting plantings that require minimal maintenance and generate a diversity of flowers for aesthetic appeal. An online survey asked respondents (n = 985) to rate their preferences for 32 computer-generated images of streetscape Woody Meadow plantings of Western Australian plants that differed in structure (low (<1m), mid, and upper (>2m)), flower presence, foliage colour, and visual symmetry. These were compared to an image of lawn, representing a typical streetscape. We also assessed how environmental world views, knowledge, demographics, and suburb scale tree cover influenced preferences. Woody Meadow plantings were liked by 88%, and lawn disliked by 87% of respondents. The most preferred aspects of naturalistic plantings were multiple structural layers, flowers, and both green and grey foliage. Positive preferences for naturalistic plantings and dislike of lawn were stronger from respondents with pro-environmental world views, greater knowledge, and who resided in suburbs with higher tree cover. We recommend Woody Meadows of local plants as a publicly acceptable method to improve streetscape quality and conserve biodiversity in a changing urban environment.
Suzanne Thompson (Edith Cowan University): Chasing Flamingos: Tracking Synthetic DNA in a River Network
Chasing Flamingos: Tracking Synthetic DNA in a River Network
Suzanne Thompson, Edith Cowan University
Environmental DNA (eDNA) is increasingly used to survey freshwater biodiversity, but complexities of flowing waters can limit its interpretation in riverine environments. Inferences on species distribution are based on the unidirectional flow with assumptions of how far upstream the source of the DNA might occur. However, reported values for distance eDNA can travel downstream of source have been wide ranging, from hundreds of metres to 20 km. Improved understanding is needed of how eDNA moves in rivers and the rate of loss or degradation of eDNA with distance from the source, to enable more meaningful interpretation of eDNA detections.
This research will investigate DNA movement through a river using an artificial DNA tracer. Synthetic American flamingo DNA will be injected into the river with a salt tracer (a standard method for hydrological studies). The salt tracer will be measured at multiple downstream locations at frequent intervals using in situ conductivity measurements. Simultaneously, water samples will be collected at the same locations and intervals. The DNA tracer contained will be measured using qPCR to amplify the tracer DNA. Cross-sections of the river will measure the morphology of the stream channel. They will be combined with flow measurements to calculate the volume and velocity of water flowing through the experiment area. These measures and tracer concentrations will be used to calculate the velocity and loss over time and distance for the DNA tracer. The outcomes of this study will contribute to the global need for quantifying DNA movement in flowing waters and the factors affecting it.
Shelby Middleton (Edith Cowan University): Are They One or are They Many? Morphological Diversity Among an Iconic Australian Possum Species (Trichosurus Vulpecula)
Are They One or are They Many? Morphological Diversity Among an Iconic Australian Possum Species (Trichosurus Vulpecula)
Shelby Middleton, Edith Cowan University
Robert Davis, Edith Cowan University
Kenny Travouillon, Western Australian Museum
Linette Umbrello, Western Australian Museum
Harriet Mills, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions
Anna Hopkins, Edith Cowan University
The brushtail possum genus Trichosurus shows considerable phenotypic variation among populations of the three generally recognised species, T. vulpecula, T. caninus, and T. cunninghami. This morphological variation, as well as their widespread distribution across Australia, has led to progressive taxonomic re-evaluations of the genus. This taxonomic confusion is particularly evident in T. vulpecula, which contains six generally recognised subspecies spread across Australia. There has yet to be a comprehensive modern study analysing the morphological differences within Trichosurus that includes detailed skull morphometrics, body measurements, pelt colouration, and uses 3D scanning approaches to quantify morphology. This study aimed to assess whether morphology varied across the currently recognised species, sub-species and the geographical range of populations. We assessed morphological variation by analysing cranial and dental data using both linear and 3D geometric morphometric techniques, as well as including external body measurements and pelt colouration using museum specimens across Australia. All holotype and other type specimens were examined. Preliminary linear cranial and dental measurement results show that T. caninus and T. cunninghami are not morphologically distinct, grouping within one another despite being classified as two separate species. Within the species T. vulpecula, morphological separation is shown between populations across Australia. Western Australia’s Barrow Island possums grouped more closely with Kimberly and Top End (currently regarded as subspecies T. v. arnhemensis), than south-west Australian and Pilbara possums (currently regarded as subspecies T. v. hypoleucus). Varying habitat types and environmental variables across the large distribution of T. vulpecula has likely driven the morphological differences between populations across Australia.
Austin Guthrie (Curtin University): The Degradation of Vertebrate Environmental DNA in Response to Time, UV Light and Temperature
The Degradation of Vertebrate Environmental DNA in Response to Time, UV Light and Temperature
Austin Guthrie, Curtin University
Environmental DNA (eDNA) degradation influences the effectiveness of eDNA-based biodiversity monitoring, but the factors that determine the rate of decay of eDNA in terrestrial environments are poorly understood. We assessed the persistence of vertebrate eDNA from a mock vertebrate community created with soil from zoo enclosures of ten exotic target species. We examined species detection rates resulting from eDNA metabarcoding, as well as relative eDNA concentrations via qPCR, from soil samples over eight time points (0 to 12 weeks), during exposure to three ambient temperatures (10, 25 and 40 °C) and three levels of ultraviolet B (UV-B) radiation (0%, 50% and 100% intensity). We recorded considerable variation in detectability of individual species, independent of temperature and UV-B effects. Cycle threshold values indicated degradation of eDNA over time for all temperature and UV treatments, although it was still possible to detect eDNA from some species after twelve weeks. Degradation rates were lowest for high UV-B treatments, presumably due to UV-B reducing bacterial activity. The temperatures investigated did not influence eDNA decay. Our results indicate that eDNA in soil can persist under a range of temperatures and high UV radiation for longer than expected. Sheltered sites with minimal UV-B radiation, which have previously been considered ideal sites for terrestrial eDNA collection, may not be optimal for eDNA persistence due to microbial decay. A better understanding of eDNA degradation in terrestrial environments is needed before eDNA metabarcoding of soil can be used as a stand-alone method for accurate surveying of terrestrial vertebrate communities.
Yang Liu (Murdoch University): Cost-Effective Portfolio Allocation Across Quarantine, Surveillance and Eradication Using Info-Gap Theory
Cost-Effective Portfolio Allocation Across Quarantine, Surveillance and Eradication Using Info-Gap Theory
Yang Liu, Murdoch University
Invasive species can lead to community-level damage to the invaded ecosystem and extinction of native species. Ecological systems, and the species within, are highly complex and variable. Uncertainties need to be considered in bio-economic modelling to assist in decision making and evaluate the robustness of designed policy. In our research, info-gap decision theory (IGDT) is applied to model and manage such uncertainty. Such robust decision making methods are often desirable in ecological systems characterized by Knightian uncertainty, without considering the probability or frequency of policy outcomes. This research provides a novel method for applying IGDT to determine the robust population threshold estimate and the allocation of funds in a biosecurity context, in particular the cost of pre-border prevention versus post-border surveillance and eradication. We use the risk of incursion of the Asian house gecko, Hemidactylus frenatus onto Barrow Island as a case study.
Our work provides guidance for decision makers to balance the robustness against parameter estimate errors and specific total budget limit. We demonstrate that, allocating budget to both quarantine and surveillance results in a more robust option, irrespective of the risk of incursion. Increasing investment in either quarantine or surveillance increases the annual budget, but also decreases the total budget limit (i.e. the maximum total budget that decision makers may allocate to all three biosecurity activities). Budget allocated to quarantine should outweigh that to surveillance. A higher estimated population threshold for post-border surveillance detection could increase robustness against unacceptable total management costs. The method outlined here can be used to assist in robust portfolio allocation of limited budget to manage invasive species in a wider context, and to better tackle uncertainty in protection of biodiversity and native species in a cost-effective manner.
Cecelia Crowe (Murdoch University): Are Quendas More Vulnerable to Introduced Predators in the Presence of Dieback?
Are Quendas More Vulnerable to Introduced Predators in the Presence of Dieback?
Cecelia Crowe, Murdoch University
Trish Fleming, Murdoch University
Giles Hardy, Murdoch University
Tom Mansfield, Murdoch University
Phytophthora cinnamomi (dieback) is a plant pathogen causing significant loss of vegetation cover in many parts of the world. In Australia, P. cinnamomi has devastated native flora, resulting in extensive vegetation loss and degraded fauna habitats. Predators such as feral cats and foxes have greater hunting success in more open habitats and prefer hunting in areas where vegetation clearing occurs through livestock grazing or fire. The habitat loss due to P. cinnamomi and increased predator activity could negatively impact native wildlife, including important ecosystem engineers like the quenda (Isoodon fusciventer). In Mundaring, Western Australia, P. cinnamomi-infested sites have reduced shrub density and fewer grasstrees (Xanthorrhoea spp.) suitable as a refuge for animals, including quenda, and there is 33% less evidence of quenda digging activity. We investigated whether dieback-infested sites had greater activity of introduced predators (foxes and cats) and whether quenda could be more vulnerable in these sites due to the loss of protective cover across five northern jarrah forest urban reserves within the Shire of Mundaring. These sites have had spatial mapping of P. cinnamomi-affected areas, and vegetation assessments for P. cinnamomi-infested and healthy areas. A total of 40 camera traps were deployed to record predator and quenda activity to test the prediction that quendas spend more time in healthy sites that are likely to provide more food resources (i.e., insects, fungi fruiting bodies), and that predator activity is greater in infested sites, where they are likely to have greater hunting success due to lack of protective vegetation cover.
Data gathered from this project can assist in predator management and habitat restoration to protect native fauna and their habitats. The project will also add to the knowledge base of the relationship between habitat health and predator/prey interactions.
Cielito Marbus (Umwelt (Australia) Pty Ltd): The Journey of a New Taxon: Exploring the Floral Diversity of Western Australia
The Journey of a New Taxon: Exploring the Floral Diversity of Western Australia
Cielito Marbus, Umwelt (Australia) Pty Ltd
David Coultas, Umwelt (Australia) Pty Ltd
Marlee Starcevich, Umwelt (Australia) Pty Ltd
Alison Saligari, Umwelt (Australia) Pty Ltd
Jaroslav Hruban, Umwelt (Australia) Pty Ltd
Catherine Godden, Umwelt (Australia) Pty Ltd
Gregory Woodman, Umwelt (Australia) Pty Ltd
Western Australia boasts an internationally recognised megadiverse flora, resulting from its large spatial extent, variety of ancient to more recent soil and landscape environments, varying climatic conditions and history of impacting processes. The known diversity of flora in terms of numbers of recognised taxa is constantly increasing, with extensive botanical surveys conducted each year funded through either resource projects (primarily for environmental approvals purposes), or through dedicated scientific endeavour and citizen science. These efforts regularly bring to light taxa that are new to science, which both delight the taxonomic community and pose potential consternation for developers.
Through the lens of botanical consultants undertaking ecological surveys across the State, we present the journey of new taxa from field encounters through to scientific recognition and publication. Our experience makes clear the role of survey methods and the importance of relationships with government bodies and resource stakeholders. We discuss potential implications to development projects and to contributions to overall taxonomic knowledge, and encourage improvements to biodiversity outcomes through continuing our pursuit of knowledge of our unique flora.
Edda Guareschi (Murdoch University): The Forensic Relevance of a Rare Association: Bryozoa and Ivory in Western Australia
The Forensic Relevance of a Rare Association: Bryozoa and Ivory in Western Australia
Edda Guareschi, Murdoch University
Paola Magni, Murdoch University
Eckart Håkansson, The University of Western Australia
The technology of underwater investigations has been leading to the frequent recovery of submerged bones and teeth, biomineralized tissues left after vertebrate organisms have decomposed. The identification of the events that the organisms experienced antemortem (in life), perimortem (around the time of death), or postmortem (after death) can be inferred by the study of the physical, chemical and biological alterations of their bones and teeth. In fact, in the postmortem period, their taphonomy and diagenesis provides crucial information to a diversified array of disciplines, such as archaeology, environmental sciences and palaeontology. The biological component of the degradation of biomineralized tissues in aquatic environments is represented by numerous taxa, which imprint macroscopic and microscopic alterations. Bryozoa are microscopic invertebrates which build colonies attached to hard substrates (e.g., rocks). Their exoskeletons, specific of marine taxa, have been rarely observed attached to bone or teeth. In this study, the association of archaeological elephant ivory, recovered underwater on the site of the historical shipwreck Vergulde Draeck (Gilt Dragon) (1656), and Bryozoa colonies is presented and characterised. This allows to discuss both the taxonomy of Bryozoa living in Western Australian waters and their potential application to forensic sciences. In fact, the estimation of a minimal time-since-death (postmortem interval – PMI) and/or time-since-submersion (postmortem submersion interval – PMSI) of submerged skeletal remains, either human or non-human, could be refined by including the association with the Bryozoan species to other methods used to estimate the PMI and the PMSI in aquatic environments (e.g. radiometric).
Thinley Choden (Murdoch University): Bhutan’s Commitment to Achieving Post-2020 Conservation Targets
Bhutan’s Commitment to Achieving Post-2020 Conservation Targets
Thinley Choden, Murdoch University
Bhutan is a tiny Himalayan country that covers only 0.03 percent of the world’s surface, yet it is home to 30 percent of the world’s wildcat species, and also has one of the highest proportions (51.41%) of its geographical areas under protection in the world.
Bhutan has made conservation a priority during its rapid development and modernization, and has adopted measures to address emerging challenges necessary to balance conservation and development. Bhutan has acted locally to be seen on the global platform, and has been successfully progressing towards achieving the post-2020 biodiversity conservation targets.
Protected Areas (PAs) have always had local communities living within them providing sources of food, energy, and timber to sustain rural livelihoods. At the regional level, PAs have contributed to achieving conservation and have brought together all of the countries within the range of both tigers and snow leopards. These countries plan for and seek to deliver conservation goals.
Sara Cavalcanti Marques (Murdoch University): Bush Tucker Potentials in Land Stewardship: Exploring Co-benefits of the Savannah Enrichment Model
Bush Tucker Potentials in Land Stewardship: Exploring Co-benefits of the Savannah Enrichment Model
Sara Cavalcanti Marques, Murdoch University
Faced with an urgent need to halt biodiversity collapse and mitigate the effects of a warming climate, a range of vegetation initiatives involving tree-planting have been increasingly incentivised through carbon farming, landscape-scale restoration and biodiversity accreditation. With a growing need for these land management practices, further employment opportunities arise for Traditional Custodians on-Country. However, these activities typically focus mainly on environmental factors or tend to employ few species rather than a diverse design, with little regard for socio-cultural considerations. On the other hand, demand for Australian native bush foods and medicines is expanding rapidly, creating a need for sustainable models of cultivation and harvest. Nevertheless, there is a substantial gap in Indigenous leadership and participation in the sector, despite the vital contribution of Indigenous knowledge to the industry.
Savannah Enrichment (SE), an emerging horticultural concept that incorporates high-value native edibles to degraded landscapes, could potentially address these issues in unison, offering a pathway forward. While anecdotal evidence in WA’s Kimberley points to promising results, an in-depth assessment is currently lacking to gauge whether the model could be adapted and applied to land management practices such as carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation. To this end, this study seeks to develop an innovative SE model together with Indigenous participants and test its performance as a landcare tool by monitoring SE trials in comparison to degraded and intact reference sites. This poster presentation will provide an introduction to the concept of Savannah Enrichment as a Indigenous enterprise development opportunity and land management tool, and will deliver a preliminary overview of the opportunities and challenges of the model for remote communities.
Dr Erika Jacobson (Edgewalkers): Walking with Wildflowers: Wild and Not so Wild Ideas about a Role for Ecotourism in Monitoring, Data Gathering and Education
Walking with Wildflowers: Wild and Not so Wild Ideas about a Role for Ecotourism in Monitoring, Data Gathering and Education
Erika Jacobson, Edgewalkers
Edgewalkers is an ecotourism company offering walking adventures and creativity retreats in Western Australia and Mongolia.
Our mission is to bring people closer to nature and reconnect them to their most creative possibilities through immersive experiences in natural wilderness environments.
From August to September, we walk with wildflowers taking small groups of people through some of the most florally biodiverse regions in the world.
We spend most of our time in the Fitzgerald Biosphere – the Fitzgerald River National Park and the Ravensthorpe Range and surrounding areas – and the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park.
We also walk through the Stirling Range, the Kalbarri and the Lesueur National Parks.
During this fast-moving and interactive presentation, using images and footage collected over 7 years of walking with wildflowers, I share some wild and not so wild ideas arrived at using a creative problem solving process.
I invite the audience to join in a discussion and assessment of some of these ideas that propose a bigger role for tourism operators in monitoring, data gathering and education about wildflowers biodiversity.
Monica Hunter (National Trust of Australia (WA)):The Importance of Private Land Conservation: Hear from National Trust Covenant Landholders
The Importance of Private Land Conservation: Hear from National Trust Covenant Landholders
Monica Hunter, National Trust of Australia (WA)
Diana Papenfus, National Trust of Australia (WA)
The National Trust of Australia (WA) is an advocate for natural heritage and contributes to the creation and protection of private land biodiversity havens through its Conservation Covenant Program. The Program was formally established in 1999 however, the National Trust has been using covenants to protect native bushland since 1971. To date, a total of 189 covenants have been registered, covering over 18,000 hectares of bushland.
These conservation covenants are legally-binding, in perpetuity agreements registered on land titles which bind all owners into the future. The covenants restrict certain activities in the bushland and immediate surrounds to protect the natural values and long-term viability of bushland parcels. The Program develops and reviews bushland management plans in partnership with covenant landholders and provides stewardship visits and advice. Many covenants with the National Trust were entered into voluntarily by passionate, conservation-minded landholders wishing to ensure the protection of their bushland beyond the years of their ownership. Several covenants over the last decade have been negotiated to meet subdivision conditions with numerous post-subdivision conservation lots sold to landholders with some sense of appreciation for nature.
This presentation will showcase some of these outstanding covenant landholders and their passion and commitment to the remnant vegetation on their land. The presentation will also briefly discuss challenges as well as the resourcing and servicing opportunities needed to sufficiently support private landholders including grant limitations, mutable global markets, disparate natural resource management frameworks, ageing rural population, investment competition and public perception of nature.
Ramesha Jayaramaiah (Murdoch University): Soil Invertebrates and Their Roles in Nutrient Transformations of Agricultural Soils
Soil Invertebrates and Their Roles in Nutrient Transformations of Agricultural Soils
Wei Xu, Murdoch University
Soil fauna refers to the various types of animals that live in the soil, including invertebrates such as earthworms, mites, springtails, nematodes, and insects. These animals play a critical role in maintaining healthy soil ecosystems by helping to break down organic matter, regulate nutrient cycling, and improve soil structure. They also provide food for other animals, such as birds and mammals, and can help to control pests and diseases. The diversity and abundance of soil fauna can be influenced by various factors, including soil type, moisture levels, temperature, and the presence of other organisms. Understanding the interactions between soil fauna and other components of the soil ecosystem is important for maintaining healthy soil and supporting agricultural productivity. This project aims to identify soil faunal communities, especially invertebrate species, reveal their interactions with soil microorganisms, and decipher their roles in regulating soil nutrient cycles using combined morphological identification, advanced stable isotope tracing technique, and state-of-the-art molecular approaches. This project will develop new standardized methodologies and generate a new framework that can assist soil biodiversity assessment and conservation, and improve Australia’s international leadership in soil faunal research, and provide significant benefits for improved soil health and agricultural productivity.
Daniel Gomez Isaza (Murdoch University): Temperature Variation Imposes Costs and Benefits to Cold-Blooded Animals
Temperature Variation Imposes Costs and Benefits to Cold-Blooded Animals
Daniel Gomez Isaza, Murdoch University
Adrian Gleiss, Murdoch University
Belinda Robson, Murdoch University
Stephen Beatty, Murdoch University
Patricia Fleming, Murdoch University
Alan Lymbery, Murdoch University
Chad Hewitt, Lincoln University / Murdoch University
Essie Rodgers, Murdoch University
Climate change is seeing temperatures breach exceptional thresholds that threaten global biodiversity. Extreme climate variation and heatwaves are becoming the new norm and pose a far greater threat to species persistence than gradual increases in average temperatures. Yet, the effects of increasing temperature variability on ectotherms have been overlooked, constraining predictions of climate change impacts. Here, we assembled the most comprehensive database to date, spanning 165 ectothermic species, and performed meta-analyses to quantify the effects of temperature variation on key biological traits. We show that temperature variation increases upper limits of thermal tolerance, but reproductive traits are significantly compromised by temperature variation. Mean temperature and daily temperature variability pose strong moderating effects on biological traits, with responses increasing under warmer and more variable temperatures. Vulnerability assessments considering mean temperature increases without concurrent increases in temperature variability are severely underestimating the susceptibility of ectotherms to climate change.
Callum G. Donohue (Murdoch University): Bioenergetic Approach to Freshwater Conservation: A Dynamic Energy Budget Model for the Western Minnow (Galaxias occidentalis)
Bioenergetic Approach to Freshwater Conservation: A Dynamic Energy Budget Model for the Western Minnow (Galaxias occidentalis)
Callum G. Donohue, Murdoch University
Decades of alteration and over-exploitation of freshwater ecosystems have resulted in a steep decline in freshwater biodiversity. With climate projections predicting dryer and hotter conditions, the rate of decline is expected to increase. Southwestern Australia is a global biodiversity hotspot, but in the last 50 years, has suffered a 16% decline in rainfall, equating to a 50% reduction in streamflow. This level of flow reduction, coupled with significant temperature increases, will reduce the size and quality of essential refuge pools that native freshwater fish rely on for persistence during the dry season. Little is known about how these conditions will affect fish survival, growth, and reproduction. Dynamic Energy Budget (DEB) theory offers a framework to quantify how organisms uptake and allocate energy through their life cycle and because of a mechanistic underpinning, DEB theory is a powerful approach to make predictions under rapidly changing or novel conditions. We parameterised a DEB model for the endemic western minnow (Galaxias occidentalis) using published field data. The model is a good fit to empirical growth and fecundity data which suggests that the model has utility in predicting metabolic processes throughout the species’ life cycle. Furthermore, initial results suggest that the energy reserve at birth of G. occidentalis is higher compared to other Galaxias species, possibly suggesting a higher energy demand of juvenile G. occidentalis. This is the first DEB model for G. occidentalis and has the potential to aid in habitat suitability assessment for this species including potentially novel habitats and under climate change scenarios.
Lizzy Lowe (Invertebrates Austalia): Invertebrates Australia: For a Future Where Australian Invertebrates are Appreciated and Valued so Their Biodiversity is Sustained Across Our Lands and Waters
Invertebrates Australia: For a Future Where Australian Invertebrates are Appreciated and Valued so Their Biodiversity is Sustained Across Our Lands and Waters
Lizzy Lowe, Invertebrates Austalia
More than 80 percent of Australia’s 320 000 invertebrate species are found nowhere else in the world. We have named roughly 100 000 invertebrates species, one third of our estimated total species, leaving much to discover. Invertebrates make up more than half of Australia’s total biodiversity, and 95 percent of our animal diversity.
Invertebrate decline is leading to lost interactions with nature, poorer human health, decreased resilience to threats like climate change, and destabilised ecosystem services. Their importance is well understood but their conservation has been ignored for too long and at our great peril.
To address these issues Invertebrates Australia was founded in 2021 by a group of leading Australian scientists working on invertebrates who have the expertise and networks to transform conservation in Australia by championing invertebrates. Our mission is to provide an integrated scientific approach to the conservation and promotion of Australian invertebrates.
Invertebrates need resourcing in many areas. Our poster will outline our priorities for invertebrate conservation in Australia for
2023-2025 and details on how you can get involved.
Dr Gillian Bryant: What Next for the WA Feral Cat Working Group?
What Next for the WA Feral Cat Working Group?
Dr Gillian Bryant, Dr Bruce Webber, Lis McLellan, Jane O’Malley, Dr Dave Algar and Susan Hunt AM PSM, WA Feral Cat Working Group
Many Western Australian researchers, conservation groups, Government and non-Government organisations seek to improve the trajectory of native fauna. Cats have a significant impact on native species populations with feral cats federally listed as a Key Threatening Process and declared pests in Western Australia. The Western Australian Feral Cat Working Group (WAFCWG) promotes information on impact and showcases best-practice of effective and humane cat management across the State. Our group is a community driven initiative comprising experienced people who represent community, government, industry and the research community. This poster highlights stakeholder evaluation from our 2023 WAFCWG Symposium and demonstrates the group’s current priority areas of cat management. Visit www.wafcwg.org.au to find out how we can assist your endeavors in improving cat management outcomes to protect our native WA species.
Faith Chen: Fuzzy Felines: What affects the ability to identify individuals from camera trap images?
Fuzzy Felines: What affects the ability to identify individuals from camera trap images?
Faith Chen, Murdoch University
Trish Fleming, Murdoch University
Shane Tobe, Murdoch University
Stuart Dawson, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development
Tracey Kreplins, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development
Since their introduction to Australia, feral cats (Felis catus) are one of the contributing causes in the decline of Australia’s biodiversity and are a known cause of mammal extinctions. Recent estimates indicate that there are 1.4–5.6 million feral cats across Australia and consume over 2 billion animal per year, with devastating consequences for native wildlife populations. Significant resources are therefore invested in feral cat control, and understanding whether the effort and expense in controlling feral cat populations requires that we monitor and quantify management outcomes. Any robust monitoring methods require knowing about the presence of individuals across a landscape. We used camera traps to obtain images of cats, using their unique coat patterns to identify individuals. 30 paired cameras were deployed along tracks on a site 5 hours from Perth. The cameras were placed at a 90-degree angle from each other on the same side of the track and angled at 45 degrees along the track to maximise detections. One camera faced a lure 2–3 m away, while the other faced away. I used generalised linear models (GLMs) to test for the effect of 5 variables on confidence of individual ID. ‘Confidence of individual ID’ was scored: ‘1’ if >90% of the cat’s flank was shown clearly along with clear markings on their legs; ‘0.5’ if 50-90% of the cats’ flank was shown clearly or if markings on their legs were clear; ‘0’ if <50% of the cat’s flank was shown clearly, i.e., blurry image). I found strong differences with (1) the presence of a lure (p=0.033), (2) the cat’s movement speed (p=0.013), whether the cat investigated (3) the camera itself (p=0.001), or (4) the lure (p=0.004), while there was a trend for (5) time of day (p=0.058). These results suggest that attaining sufficient quality to show distinguishing features is complicated and affected by a myriad of factors. Therefore, developing robust monitoring techniques to ID individuals is of paramount importance.