Management for the Conservation of the Northern Quoll on Cape York Peninsula
The northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus) is one of Australia’s few native mesopredators. It has declined severely across its range throughout the tropical eucalypt woodlands and open forests of northern Australia. Remnant populations are very strongly associated with rugged, rocky habitats, such that it is locally extinct in almost all eucalypt woodlands and open forests lacking rocky refugia. However, a northern quoll population persisting just outside Weipa on Cape York Peninsula appears to be an exception. Quolls persist in this area of tall Eucalyptus tetrodonta open forest, despite the absence of rocky habitat.
The PhD project will address the following questions:
- What characteristics of the habitat enable quoll persistence in open forest where they have largely disappeared from elsewhere?
- Does the density and activity of cats (and other predators such as dingoes) suppress quoll population size and can this suppressive effect influenced by fire regimes (e.g. do frequent, high-intensity fires facilitate predation of quolls)?
- How do cats, dingoes and quolls interact on a spatiotemporal scale?
- What method of cat control (e.g. baiting, trapping and/or shooting) is most effective in this region?
- Does cat control and/or fire management have any effect on quoll survival and population size?
- What is the most cost-effective mix of direct cat control and fire management to maintain quoll populations.
To address these questions we will use a range of well-established field methods including live trapping, camera trapping, GPS tracking and radio-tracking. Population models, parameterised using field data collected during the project, as well as existing data on cats and quolls from the Kimberley and Kakadu National Park, will be used to predict the likely effects of management.
Required skills and experience
The student will need to be able to work independently, showing a high level of initiative. They will need to have field experience, and have trapped and handed small mammals. They must have the capacity to plan and implement a logistically complex field programme in remote and physically challenging environments.
Project funding and supervision
The project is fully funded and will involve close collaboration between Charles Darwin University and Rio Tinto. The student would need to successfully apply for Research Training Program scholarship ($26,682 per annum) from Charles Darwin University (see www.cdu.edu.au/research/ori/scholarships), and the project will provide a ‘top up’ of $10,000 per annum for three years. The student would be based at CDU’s Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods (RIEL; http://riel.cdu.edu.au/), and be supervised by Dr Teigan Cremona and Dr Brett Murphy.
Closing date: 20 October 2017