KOALA RESEARCH: Andrew Lamb and Powerlink’s Melissa Lunney plant koala food trees.
KOALA RESEARCH: Andrew Lamb and Powerlink’s Melissa Lunney plant koala food trees. David Nielsen

Project monitors health of Brisbane Valley koalas

THIRTY koalas in the Brisbane Valley are being tracked as part of an innovative research project aimed at enhancing habitat values while monitoring the marsupials' health.

The project, set to continue for another two years, is being conducted by The University of Queensland (UQ) in partnership with the state's high voltage electricity transmission service provider, Powerlink Queensland.

Dr Bill Ellis, research fellow at the Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation (CMLR) at UQ's Sustainable Minerals Institute, said the project involved acquiring information on the location and genetic identity of the local koala population, establishing the impact of disease, and undertaking revegetation trials.

"We're conducting our research primarily on Powerlink-owned land, including 20 hectares set aside for koala habitat restoration, with support from Somerset Regional Council and local landowners," Dr Ellis said.

"For the past 18 months we've been following 30 koalas, having fitted some with radio collars with GPS capabilities and proximity loggers, to better understand their habitat use and social behaviour.

"Our team is also examining their health...looking for clinical signs of disease and monitoring reproduction in the local population.

"Through these population studies, we're trying to ascertain the genetic distinctiveness of this group, determine what challenges they face and work out how we can plan to improve their prognosis."

Dr Ellis explained the research team was also conducting revegetation trials to determine the most appropriate koala food and shelter trees to plant in the area in a cost-effective manner.

"We've planted around 250 koala food trees using a range of procedures to assess their growth rates in different environments and to test the use of fertilisers and weed control measures to enhance the growth of both plantations and natural regrowth. Ultimately, we want to be able to provide strategic advice about what and where to plant, in order to nurture koala habitat and enhance biodiversity in the region."

Powerlink chief executive Merryn York said the research project gave Powerlink a chance to work with Queensland's leading koala researchers to gain best-practice advice on building and maintaining infrastructure near koala habitats.



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