Halfway through 2019 and things are steaming ahead..
> We’re delighted that our Blue Mountains Koala Project is one of 10 projects in NSW recently awarded funding under the NSW Koala Research Plan.
> Our first round of koala scat surveys in and around Kanangra are done, adding more koala records to the map
> There is a training day for koala radio-tracking coming up, on 14th July
> Please Donate – help us keep up the momentum! End of financial year is here, all donations are tax deductible.
NSW Koala Research Plan Funding for the Blue Mountains
Starting next month, we’ll be collecting a lot more data on koalas in the Blue Mountains region. We’re delighted to be receiving funding for the next 3 years from the Office of Environment and Heritage to support some important aspects of our koala research.
It’s exciting that, as a result of our research so far, the Blue Mountains region is now recognised as an important site for koala conservation – we have come a long way from “there are no koalas in the Blue Mountains”!
The World Heritage Area and surrounding regions are likely to be important for koalas and other species under climate change. Climate refugia can help wildlife populations to persist over time, they are created by variations in the landscape that produce local conditions which are separate to broader climate patterns. For example, think about how it’s cooler at higher altitudes, and how rainfall changes higher up too. We don’t know how koalas use the landscape under different climate conditions, but our study site is a perfect place to find out, since we have koalas living at 30m to over 1100m, with an unprecedented choice of habitats and microclimates to choose from.
Our past research, where we looked at 21 koala populations across Australia, has already shown that koalas in the Blue Mountains are the most genetically diverse of any population studied so far. We’ll be working with James Cook University to build on this work and produce a standardised, low-cost tool for ongoing genetic assessments of koalas across Australia, including assessing the regional diversity of koalas at more sites across the Blue Mountains.
We’ll be using our koala survey data, genomics and disease assessments (working the Koala Health Hub at the University of Sydney) to find out how koala populations across the region are different to each other, if they need to be reconnected with each other, and how the threats they face differ across locations.
Koala Scat Survey Update
With the help of some dedicated volunteers we have just completed scat surveys for koalas in and around Kanangra-Boyd National Park across 4 habitat groups. We’ve discovered a couple of habitats that appear to be koala favourites. Snow gum country isn’t one of them, at least not in winter, which although disappointing is not all that surprising given the bleak and exposed positions of these ridgeline habitats.
If you’re not on our volunteer list you might have missed the photo above of “Snowala”, a snowbeing built by the survey team one day when there was too much snow on the ground to look for scats (pic by volunteer Rochelle Witt). The surveys took us to some lovely places as usual, including the famous Bowtells Swing Bridge across the Coxs River on the Six Foot track.
If you missed out, or if you are getting withdrawals from a lack of leaflitter fossicking, don’t worry there will be more surveys running later in the year near Kanangra-Boyd, and then we’ll be starting at our next study site in the Lower Blue Mountains.
Training days for radio-tracking koalas in Kanangra-Boyd
On the 14th of July I’ll be running another training day for anyone wanting to learn how to radio-track our koalas and help us collect data on the habitats they use. If we receive a lot of interest I will run an additional day on the 28th July.
To take part at our current study site in Kanangra-Boyd, you’ll need to have experience with off-track hiking including basic navigational skills, and also a reasonable level of fitness as the country gets steep and some of our koalas lead us down into gullies.
It a takes a few sessions to get the hang of radio-tracking, it is part science and part art in steep terrain, and because of the amount of training involved we ask that you commit to tracking koalas a minimum of 6 times this year (dates are flexible, we’ll give you more details during training).
Sign up HERE
End of Financial Year is here
It’s that time of year, if you’re looking to make a tax deductible donation please consider giving to Science for Wildlife. All donations over $2 are tax deductible.
All proceeds go directly to our conservation programs. We are currently raising funds to help get our Lower Zambezi Flagship Species project off the ground this year. This project aims to conserve wildlife in a stunning part of Africa, on the Zambezi River, as well as benefitting the communities living adjacent to the National Park.
We also still need funds for our Blue Mountains Koala Project to complete training for Smudge, our koala scat detection dog, to get him ready for surveys in the Lower Blue Mountains.
You can donate directly to either project via our Give Now fundraising page.