Brush-tailed Phascogale Project

Please note   - the FoBR project information and updates are being hosted on a team page on the SWIFFT website as it provides some additional online database facilities.

Update April 2016  Phascogale Project Update


Background

The use of nest boxes to provide habitat for arboreal mammals is experiencing a significant increase in popularity and implementation. A quick online survey searching for groups using nest boxes for Brush-tailed Phascogales found 10 groups with a combined total of nearly 2500 nest boxes in place (Appendix 1). Although the boxes were not always intended just for phascogales, they occupied the nest boxes on a frequent basis. The other mammals to occupy the boxes were Sugar Gliders, Squirrel Gliders, Brushtailed Possums and Ringtail Possums.

While many groups are constructing and installing nest boxes, there does not appear to be any significant effort put into follow up monitoring or, if it is being done, it is not being reported. There is an enormous opportunity to use nest box monitoring to gain critical data on the populations of many arboreal mammals, some of which are listed as threatened.

The Friends of Brisbane Ranges were successful in obtaining a grant ($9300) from the DELWP Threatened Species Protection Initiative to conduct habitat surveys and construct nest boxes for Brush-tailed Phascogales. We were also selected to take part in a pilot program to try out crowdfunding on the Pozible website to raise more funds. If we met our crowd funding target ($10,000), DELWP would match the funds raised dollar for dollar. The crowdfunding campaign was successful and we received a total of $XXXX in funds.

Project aims

The aim of the proposed project is to investigate the effect of the number of hollow bearing trees on the incidence of threatened arboreal mammals and to determine the impact of control burns. The benefit of replacing tree hollows with nesting boxes will also be investigated. The potential of using nest boxes as a routine monitoring technique will also be assessed.

•Determine the number of hollow bearing trees in specific areas.

•Select specific areas for monitoring based on likely number of hollow bearing trees.

•Conduct intensive monitoring for arboreal mammals (esp Brush-tailed phascogales) in specific areas.

•Conduct follow up monitoring of arboreal mammals and hollow bearing trees after control burns.

•Construct and install 50 nesting boxes in areas with few or no tree hollows and monitor their use by threatened arboreal mammals via nest box inspections and periodic installation of monitoring cameras.

•Develop electronic data capture forms for use in field devices, with automatic transfer of data to a central website database.

•Communicate with and develop a network of like-minded groups who wish to monitor the occupancy of installed nest boxes 

•Develop standard protocols for nest box monitoring and field data recording in collaboration with network members

•Develop field data collection routines using devices such as smart phones and tablets with GPS capability

•Develop a web based interface/database so that collected data can be transferred to the database with minimal effort

•Ensure that the database has inbuilt controls for privacy of private landholders and the location of significant species

Project collaborators

Mark Trengove, a consulting ecologist, will be helping design the habitat survey techniques.

We will be working in collaboration with two schools: Newcomb Secondary College and Wyndham Central College, who already conduct environmental education activities in the park. Wyndham and Newcomb colleges have adopted the Brisbane Ranges and have been conducting environmental activities for approximately 12 years and curriculum is currently being planned for next year, with nest box making high on the agenda.

WERPP

The Woodland Ecosystems Resilience Partnership Program (WERPP) has been meeting and coordinating the implementation of the Brush-tailed Phascogale FFG Act Action Statement since 1997. The WERPP is not a recovery team per se, but more of a working group that coordinates management actions that occur within a variety of woodland systems across the State. At present WERPP is made of individuals who are Biodiversity team members from some of the DELWP regions (Hume, Loddon - Mallee, and Grampians) and Parks Vic (Warrandyte / Kinglake area) and they have recently had some involvement from local government, but are also keen to involve community groups especially if they are actively involved in projects working on Brush-tailed Phascogale habitat.

SWIFFT 

The State Wide Integrated Flora and Fauna Teams is a combined initiative between the community, conservation, education and government sectors. 

SWIFFT is freely available to anyone in the community who has an interest in nature conservation or threatened species. SWIFFT actively encourages contributions from members of the community, conservationists, field naturalists, farmers, land carers, researchers, scientists, management agencies and environmental consultants.

CeRDI 

The Centre for eResearch and Digital Innovation is located with the Federation University Australia Research Portfolio. Through research, knowledge transfer and commercial activities CeRDI promotes innovation through the application of new technologies. They work with many community groups to develop online solutions to conservation projects.

CeRDI are in the process of developing the Visualising Victoria’s Biodiversity (VVB) online map portal to allow easy data entry into the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas. This would include data captured from a range of environmental assessment methods including nest box surveys. They are collaborating with the DELWP VBA team to ensure data collected through SWIFFT/VVB can be transferred to the VBA database. This ensures that the VBA remains the key repository of Victorian biodiversity data.

Parks Victoria

We will be working closely with Parks Victoria, as the responsible manager for the Brisbane Ranges National Park, especially when deciding on suitable locations for nest box installation, as well as ensuring that the installation process is conducted safely.

Project outcomes

The main outcomes of the project will be:

•A network of groups using nest boxes that can share ideas and success stories

•Significant data on the presence of arboreal mammals in a wide range of locations and habitats

•Data on the factors which contribute to the success or otherwise of nest box construction and installation, ensuring that future nest box programs have a higher rate of occupancy of target species.

•Standard procedures for nest box construction, installation and follow up monitoring

•Standard procedures for conducting habitat surveys

•A website (probably part of the SWIFFT site) dedicated to providing ready access to information and links for phascogales, nest boxes, monitoring etc

•Increased public awareness of the Brush-tailed Phascogale and it’s preferred habitat

Project reporting

Regular updates on the progress of the project, as well as reports on the results of nest box monitoring will be made to:

•Pozible campaign donors via the campaign website or email

•Friends of Brisbane Ranges members

•Participating schools

•Parks Victoria and DELWP

•WERPP

•Members of the public via the FoBR and SWIFFT websites

•Regular media releases to local media outlets

Detailed reports on project planning, activities, outcomes and expenditure will be made to:

•Friends of Brisbane Ranges members

•Parks Victoria and DELWP

•WERPP