Honours projects for 2015 (closed)

NOTE: these places have now been filled.

Looking for an exciting honours project in ecology? I have five openings for 2015.

I also welcome other project ideas from students if they fit with my expertise and research priorities.

To find out more, please refer to the Deakin University School of Life and Environmental Sciences Honours 2014 Information Booklet, or contact me.

The distribution, abundance and habitat preferences of mammals in Wilsons Promontory National Park (two projects)

Wilsons Prom is home to native mammals such as the Swamp Wallaby, Wallabia bicolor. Image by Toby Hudson [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Wilsons Prom is home to native mammals such as the Swamp Wallaby, Wallabia bicolor. Image by Toby Hudson [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Principal supervisor: Dr Euan Ritchie

Associate supervisors: Dr Dale Nimmo EMAIL WEB and Dr Greg Holland EMAIL

External supervisor: Dr Naomi Davis EMAIL

Start date: February and July 2015

Fire and predation are key processes that shape the structure and function of ecological communities. Despite their importance, few studies have examined how they may interact to affect the distribution, abundance and habitat preferences of species across different habitats.

Two separate but related honours projects will examine the effects of fire and predation on mammals in Wilsons Promontory National Park.

Experience with using GIS will be an advantage for these projects.

This work is supported by Parks Victoria.  

Where and when did Tasmanian devils last occur in Victoria? (one  project)

 Tasmanian Devils, Sarcophilus harrisii, were once abundant on the Australian mainland. Image by JJ Harrison[CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Tasmanian Devils, Sarcophilus harrisii, were once abundant on the Australian mainland. Image by JJ Harrison[CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Principal Supervisor: Dr Euan Ritchie

External supervisors: Dr Erich Fitzgerald EMAIL

Start date: July 2015

This project seeks to establish the prehistoric geographic distribution and habitats of devils across Victoria using the palaeontology collection at Museum Victoria and established proxies for palaeo-environmental reconstruction.

It will also use Carbon dating of fossil and sub-fossil devil specimens in the palaeontology collection to estimate when devils existed across Victoria and refine the timing of their extinction on mainland Australia.  

Movement patterns and habitat use of camels in arid Australia (one project)

Camels blah Blah Image credit "07. Camel Profile, near Silverton, NSW, 07.07.2007" by Jjron - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:07._Camel_Profile,_near_Silverton,_NSW,_07.07.2007.jpg#mediaviewer/File:07._Camel_Profile,_near_Silverton,_NSW,_07.07.2007.jpg.

How do environmental conditions affect the movemnet and habitat choices of Australian’s largest introduced herbivore? Image credit: Jjron [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Principal supervisor: Dr Euan Ritchie

Associate supervisor: Associate Professor John Arnould EMAIL

External supervisor: Dr Andrew Woolnough, Department of Environment and Primary Industries EMAIL

Start date: July 2015

The camel is Australia’s largest introduced herbivore and populations of this species are reaching high numbers across much of the arid zone. Due to their large body-size and mobility, camels may have significant effects on both the habitats and rural communities in which they occur.

There is therefore a clear need to better understand what environmental conditions influence their movement patterns and habitat choice.

A large data set exists from GPS collars which tracked the movements of camels in the Pilbara region of Western Australia over a year. Data includes ambient temperature, activity (every two hours), and GPS location (every three hours).

Using this dataset the aim will be to investigate the links between environmental conditions, activity and movement patterns (habitat use) in camels. The successful student will ideally be experienced in using GIS and have a competent statistical background.

Predators and prey: understanding interactions between wild canids and other fauna in North West Victoria’s semi-arid landscapes (one project)

The Australian dingo,  Canis lupus dingo. Image courtesy Angus McNab.

Dingoes are the top predators in northwestern Victoria’s national parks, but what does their distribution and abundance tell us about the wider ecosystem?. Image credit: Angus McNab, used with permission.

Principal Supervisor: Dr Euan Ritchie

Associate supervisor: Dr Dale Nimmo EMAIL WEB

Start date: February 2015

Northwest Victoria’s national parks are key flagship areas that are home to high species diversity, including many species of conservation concern. Within this region, wild canids (dingoes/wild dogs), the top predators, are patchily distributed, being relatively common in Big Desert national park but largely absent from the northern Murray Sunset and Hattah-Kulkyne national parks.

Wild canids, like other top predators worldwide, are known to be critical in influencing species throughout the ecosystems in which they occur. However, it remains to be examined what role(s) dingoes/wild dogs perform in northwest Victoria’s national parks. Specifically, do they regulate populations of overabundant herbivores (e.g. goats, kangaroos and rabbits) and/or invasive predators (e.g. cats and foxes), and does this in turn benefit native prey species (e.g. hopping mice and mallee fowl)?

We will examine the role(s) of wild canids by surveying their distribution and abundance across the region, and relating it to that of other key species of conservation and/or pest management concern. This will be achieved through a combination of remote camera trapping and sand pads. In addition, canid diet will be examined through the collection and analysis of fecal pellets, allowing examination of the impact of canids on species recorded in their diet.

More information