Wildlife researchers barking up right tree with artificial environments


Wildlife researchers barking up right tree with artificial environments

Charles Sturt researchers create artificial bark covers to survey reptiles and tree-dwelling species in wetlands along the Murrumbidgee River.

  • Charles Sturt University academics create artificial bark covers to survey reptiles
  • Dr Damian Michael has been surveying tree-dwelling species at wetlands along the Murrumbidgee River
  • Four species of reptiles, two species of frogs, one microbat plus numerous insects have been using the artificial covers

It is a question that has plagued researchers for decades – how do you survey animals that typically like to remain hidden?

A team of Charles Sturt University researchers from the University’s Institute for Land, Water and Society believe they have developed a solution.

Dr Damian Michael and the Murrumbidgee MER project team are conducting research on arboreal reptile species that live in trees and near wetlands.

“Across the wetlands there are several tree-dwelling species, such as geckoes and tree skinks, which live under the bark of river red gums; however, they are difficult to survey without removing the bark from the tree or spotlighting them during the night,” Dr Michael said.

Bark coversHis team has deployed artificial bark covers (ABCs), a yoga mat with a silver back, fastened to the tree with an elastic strap.

The strap can be undone and the cover peeled back to allow for easy hand-capture of the geckoes and skinks sheltering underneath the artificial cover.

Dr Michael said 112 ABCs were set up in August 2019 in 14 wetland sites across the team’s observation area.

Four species of reptiles and two species of frogs have been found using the covers – the southern marbled gecko, the tree dtella gecko, the tree skink and the ragged snake-eye skink, the Peron’s tree frog, and the threatened southern bell frog.

The aim of the study is to determine whether using artificial bark covers is effective for surveying arboreal reptiles in a floodplain system and to better understand the distribution of the arboreal species across the floodplain, as well as model their habitat use and occupancy patterns.

“Conserving these reptiles is important because they contribute to the broader ecological food web by feeding on invertebrates, and they themselves are food for other animals,” Dr Michael said.

Charles Sturt Bachelor of Animal Science (Honours) student from the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences Ms Eva Moore is using the data collected to evaluate their habitat and model occupancy patterns of those species.

Dr Michael said the methodology could be adapted to use across the Murray-Darling Basin.

Media Note:

For more information or to arrange interviews with Dr Damian Michael, contact Nicole Barlow at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0429 217 026 or news@csu.edu.au.

Photo captions: (Image 1) A tree dtella (Gehyra versicolor) as surveyed by Dr Damian Michael and (image 2) the bark covers placed on trees along the Murrumbidgee River.

Share this article

Share on Facebook Share
Share on Twitter Tweet
Share by Email Email
Share on LinkedIn Share
Print this page Print

Albury-Wodonga Wagga Wagga Charles Sturt University ILWS Research