Tree cavity dependent animals are globally threatened but for many species there remain major gaps in knowledge about basic life history and ecology. This a major impediment to effective conservation management.
This PhD will focus on the largest cavity nesting bird in Tasmania, the endangered masked owl. Masked owls are iconic emblems of old growth forests but much of their basic biology is unknown in Tasmania. This PhD will be aimed at identifying important issues that affect the conservation of masked owls, with a focus on their spatial ecology and resource requirements and the impact of habitat disturbance.
The project will involve exciting use of a new technique to locate masked owls: a specially trained 'owl detecting' sniffer dog. This innovative technique will be critical to building a sufficient sample of owls for additional detailed research. The student will work with the detector dog and handler to conduct a landscape scale survey of masked owls to identify patterns in habitat use and site occupancy.
Owls found by the dog will be included in additional detailed research, including deployment of state of the art GPS transmitters to investigate owl spatial ecology and relate underlying resource availability to behaviour. The project will also identify the types of trees used by owls, and quantify their availability and distribution in Tasmanian forests. This project will be the first of its kind and will have a strong conservation management and ecology focus.