The reasons for koala population declines are well known. They include habitat loss and fragmentation (which reduces genetic diversity and connectivity), infectious disease caused by the bacterial pathogen, Chlamydia (which causes blindness and sterility), and risks associated with koala movement in human-altered landscapes (including dog attacks and car strikes).
Our group undertakes research to collect and analyze fine-scale information about 1) where koala populations are, 2) how connected versus isolated they are, 3) how healthy they are, and 4) how they move in the landscape.
We train and use detection dogs to locate koala poo (scat), and use next-generation sequencing for genetic analyses of scats. This allows us to investigate koala landscape genomics and help develop evidence-based management strategies for the species.
To date, we have undertaken more than 1400 field surveys, detected koala scat at more than 2300 locations, collected more than 700 samples for genetic analysis and verified sightings of more than 70 wild koalas across the south east Queensland and New South Wales.
Our research has been funded by the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads, Noosa Biosphere Reserve, Northern Tablelands Local Land Services, Sunshine Coast Regional Council, Fraser Coast Regional Council, Gympie Regional Council, Redland City Council, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Koala Action Inc, and Queensland Koala Crusaders.
Is restoring flora the same as restoring fauna? Lessons learned from koalas and mining rehabilitation Experimental evaluation of koala scat persistence and detectability with implication for pellet-based fauna census