Near-surface geophysics as a tool to help manage the Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat in South Australia

Geoscientists Without Borders
Habitat Management Projects

Farmers worry about increased damages caused by wombats, and the associated viability of their land, whereas the general public and some conservation groups are concerned that current practices will see the SHNW reduce in number, or become locally extinct

This project is focused on southern hairy-nosed wombat (SHNW) which is found predominantly in South Australia (SA) on agricultural properties. SHNWs live in large burrow systems, which are vital for their survival in the harsh SA climate, however it is these warrens that often lead to conflict with the agricultural sector. The digging behaviour of this species can, in some settings, cause significant damage to properties. Currently the main management tool to manage overabundance of this species is culling. Landholders can apply to local government wildlife rangers for destruction permits. This is a very contentious and emotional issue for all stakeholders; landholders, the regional community, general public, government and conservation groups. Recently there has been more community concern and media attention regarding the management of SHNWs.

This project is part of a large-scale project aimed at developing a technique to model SHNW abundance at several different scales (state-wide, regionally and/or property specific). This model will be an important tool for SHNW managers and policy decision makers, and will assist in alleviating all areas of conflict and ensure the long term survival of this species. Developing a toolkit for landholders to improve management of SHNWs on their property will reduce farmer/wombat and promote co-existence; allowing farmers to make a living, but ensuring this species survives in future.

Status Complete

Statement of Work

Determining the trace of animal burrows is difficult without destroying the burrow. A limited number of studies have shown that it is possible to trace burrows using GPR, when ground conditions are acceptable. For this study we anticipate that most soils will be sandy, with limited clay content. Some potential field areas are dominated by the existence of extensive surface calcrete layers that wombats are able to burrow under at their margins. These areas are especially difficult to determine burrow trace locations and their density.

For this work we intend to use the Mala X3M receiver system paired with the Mala 500 MHz shielded antenna, mounted on a rough terrain cart. We will bring other antennae as well, to match local conditions. Each field area will be gridded so that measurements can be made on a suitably fine scale (~50 cm to 1 m across-line spacing). Positions will be logged directly to the GPR receiver system using a differential GPS. Additionally, each survey area will also be surveyed using an EM31 soil conductivity meter (or equivalent), to ensure that soil conductivity is known, and data are not collected where conductivity is too high.

Principal Investigator

Dr. Michael Hatch, University of Adelaide  

Team members

University of Adelaide: selected honours students
Zoos South Australia: Dr Elisa Sparrow

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Call for Abstracts closes 1 April!