IA CRC research in focus at the Genetics Society Conference

Catriona Campbell with her highly commended award for her poster ‘Sugar gliders in Tasmania: an introduced predator or an elusive native?’ at the 2015 Genetics Society of AustralAsia Conference.
Catriona Campbell with her highly commended award for her poster ‘Sugar gliders in Tasmania: an introduced predator or an elusive native?’ at the 2015 Genetics Society of AustralAsia Conference.

IACRC PhD student, Catriona Campbell, presented her research ‘Sugar gliders in Tasmania: an introduced predator or an elusive native?’ at the 2015 Genetics Society of AustralAsia Conference, with her poster being highly commended by the conference committee.

The sugar glider has been implicated in the predation of the endangered swift parrot in Tasmania. Where the two species are found living together, it has been reported that 100% of swift parrot nests fail due to loss of eggs or chicks, with adult birds occasionally being preyed upon as well. Historical records suggest that sugar gliders were introduced to Tasmania from mainland Australia in 1835 with no known sightings of the species before this time. The Tasmanian sugar glider population is now widespread, but their origins have never been investigated. Without intervention to prevent the presumed predation by sugar gliders, the swift parrot is predicted to go extinct within two decades.

To determine appropriate management of sugar gliders around swift parrot nesting sites, there was an urgent need to establish the origins of sugar gliders in Tasmania. Preliminary mitochondrial data suggest the Tasmanian population is a recent introduction, with all Tasmanian sequences being identical to each other at both mitochondrial genes. Tasmanian sequences showed little to no genetic variation from sequences originating from Victoria and South Australia. Further research using a genotype by sequencing approach is underway which will further clarify these findings. Management implications of a recent introduction to the Island are high and researchers with the swift parrot recovery team are looking at novel ways to prevent further predation of this highly endangered native parrot.

IA CRC PhD student Jonas Bylemans (pictured top of page) also presented at the conference about the detection of invasive fish species, specifically how detection can be improved through the sampling and analysing of trace DNA that species leave behind in the environment. This is known as environmental DNA (eDNA). He talked about how combining traditional monitoring methods and eDNA based detection enables researchers to accurately define the distribution of the invasive redfin perch in Blakney Creek NSW. Within this system the spread of redfin perch is threating the long term survival of one of only three populations of Southern pygmy perch in NSW. Based on the results of this study appropriate management actions can be undertaken to safeguard this Southern pygmy perch population and reduce the spread of the invasive redfin perch.

Dr Elise Furlan, is also involved in the IA CRC’s eDNA project and presented this work at the conference. This project involves estimating the sensitivity of eDNA detection surveys. The team developed a model that will allow researchers to estimate the probability of detecting a target species in the environment and will allow them to optimise the sampling strategy to detect a target species with a high degree of confidence.