Researching artificial homes to protect threatened wildlife

Providing artificial shelters to keep wildlife safe from feral predators is the subject of a research project by Murdoch University PhD student Tenaya Duncan.

“Materials as simple as corrugated iron, wooden pallets, and fence posts can give our wildlife a refuge when their habitats are disturbed and natural shelters are lost,” she said.

“As well as somewhere to hide, artificial homes can provide shelter from stormy nights and hot days.”

Wooden pallet refuge. Photo credit: Tenaya Duncan, Murdoch University

Conservation and wildlife biology is Tenaya’s field, and she is passionate about contributing to changes that can save Australia’s unique wildlife.

Dr Trish Fleming, Professor in Environmental and Conservation sciences and principal supervisor for Tenaya Duncan’s research, says feral cats and habitat disturbance represent the largest threat to biodiversity.

“Cats are much more successful hunters in disturbed landscapes,” she said.

“The research has the potential to save the lives of many wildlife species, reduce feral cat impacts, and will help us work towards preserving Australia’s biodiversity.”

Tenaya Duncan has been working across two sites, Hamelin Station Reserve and Eurardy Nature Reserve, managed by national not-for-profit conservation organisation, Bush Heritage Australia.

According to her supervisor and Bush Heritage ecologist Michelle Hall, this research to use artificial refuges to reduce feral cat predation on small Australian mammal and reptile species is vital to helping restore essential ecosystems.

“Returning the bush to good health needs a holistic and multi-faceted approach, and Tenaya’s research is vital for helping us understand the potential for artificial shelters to contribute to ecosystem restoration.”