Small mammals, fire and climate: Join our long-term Grampians research team for your honours.

trap in burn AA krisitin pygmy poss Heath mouse psuedomys shortridgeii

How will our southern Australian ecosystems respond to climate change? How will small mammals cope under hyper-variable rainfall conditions and increased fire activity? Do these questions sound like you? Read on 🙂

My team has been conducting critically important long-term ecological research in the Grampians landscape of Victoria, Australia, since 2008. The only way we can really understand how systems will respond to changes in climate is to conduct long-term research under variable climatic conditions, and this is one of the few long-term small mammal research projects in southern Australia.

In 2016, we have two honours research projects for the right students. Come and be a significant part of the Nancy Millis Science in Parks Award winning team (2015), and learn great field and research skills along the way.

If you are interested in either of these projects (see below), please contact me on john.white@deakin.edu.au. It would be useful to have a small resume indicating your skills and expertise and marks in your undergraduate degree.  The honours information for our school is available here

The Grampians landscape and our long-term small mammal monitoring sites

The Grampians landscape and our long-term small mammal monitoring sites.

Project 1: How do small mammals respond to climate, fire and vegetation productivity? The Grampians long-term climate, fire and small mammal diversity project.

 Principal Supervisor: Associate Professor John White

Principal Supervisor contact details: john.white@deakin.edu.au

Associate Supervisors: Dr Raylene Cooke raylene.cooke@deakin.edu.au

Start date: February 2016

Project description:

This is an extremely exciting opportunity to be part of a long-term ecological research program in Victoria. Long-term data sets are extremely rare, but the value of such data for investigating aspects such as fire and climate change are unsurpassed, and the experience you would gain on such a project are enormous.

In early 2006 the Grampians suffered an extreme fire event where almost 50% of the Grampians landscape was burnt in a high intensity landscape-scale fire. In 2008, Parks Victoria and Deakin University established 36 long-term small mammal monitoring sites to investigate the recovery of wildlife after major fire events. These sites have been monitored for the last eight years by different honours students.

In 2013, a 35,000ha wildfire affected the Grampians, and again in 2014 a 55,000ha burnt much of the remaining unburnt vegetation. Over 90% of the Grampians landscape is now less than 10 years post-burn.

Since 2012 we have also genetically sampled every small mammal that is captured with the aim of eventually investigating the landscape genetics of populations in response to fire and climate conditions.

As part of your honours project, you will collect the 2016 small mammal data in the field, and analyze the long-term trends in small mammals (9 years of data). The project aims to understand

  1. the rate of recovery of mammals in response to time since fire,
  2. the relative role of rainfall in modifying the rate and intensity of recovery, and
  3. the influence of vegetation productivity (previously developed from satellite imagery) on the rate and intensity of recovery.

Requirements: A manual drivers license, and experience driving a manual vehicle (Our 4WD fleet are manual). A willingness to do a 4WD training course and a first aid certificate as part of your honours (Costs will be covered as part of your honours by Deakin University, and will provide an additional boost to your resume).

A commitment to spending as much as 9 weeks in the field in an intense 3 month period. An ability to work in a team environment with other students and Parks Victoria rangers. Desirable: Experience in trapping and handling small mammals.

The Wannon fan in the southern Grampians.  Dots are the proposed camera grid, against a background of NDVI.  NDVI is a measure of vegetation productivity and relates to soil moisture.

The Wannon fan in the southern Grampians. Dots are the proposed camera grid, against a background of NDVI.  NDVI is a measure of vegetation productivity and relates to soil moisture.

 

Project #2: Using camera traps to investigate the small scale impacts of winter fuel reduction burns in extremely long unburnt heath ecosystems.

Principal Supervisor: Associate Professor John White

Principal Supervisor contact details: john.white@deakin.edu.au 9251 7625

Associate Supervisors: Dr Raylene Cooke

Start date: February 2016

Project description:

This project aims to investigate how small mammals utilize a patchy mosaic of burnt and unburnt heath in the Wannon fan in the southern Grampians. Using camera trapping we will be sampling mammals at 150 fixed points that have been established across the Wannon fan area. Each camera is located in the middle of a 4ha grid cell, with the total grid covering an area of 600ha. The area has been subjected to experimental winter burns to try to reduce the risk of large high intensity wildfires. In this research we aim to establish what small mammal species use the Wannon heaths and how they respond to different vegetation and fire recovery conditions. This project will be critical in establishing a long-term fine scale monitoring approach to fire management actions.

This information is critical to informing how heath based systems can be burnt at lower intensities under variable climatic conditions. This is an exciting project with considerable real World application.

Requirements: A manual drivers license, and experience driving a manual vehicle. A willingness to do a 4WD training course and a first aid certificate as part of your honours (Costs will be covered as part of your honours by Deakin University).

A commitment to spending as much as 9 weeks in the field in an intense 3 month period. An ability to work in a team environment with other students and Parks Victoria rangers.

Desirable: Some experience with GIS (i.e an undergraduate GIS unit). Previous experience with camera traps.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s