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Friday, 5 February 2016

Radar reveals the hidden secrets of wombat warrens

For the first time ever, researchers from the University of Adelaide have been able to non-invasively study the inner workings of wombat warrens, with a little help from ground-penetrating radar.

Despite being the faunal emblem of South Australia, very little is known about the burrowing habits of the southern hairy-nosed wombat.

As part of a larger study into wombat conservation, Mr Michael Swinbourne, PhD candidate in the University’s School of Biological Sciences, set out to test a new way of mapping wombat warrens. His research has been published in the peer-reviewed journal Wildlife Research.

“A major problem we are grappling with is understanding just how many wombats there are and whether their numbers are increasing or decreasing,” Mr Swinbourne says.

“At the moment we use satellite imagery to count the warrens and then use that information to estimate the numbers of wombats living inside. This method isn’t perfect because we don’t know much about how wombats share their warrens.”

Using ground-penetrating radar meant Mr Swinbourne and his team were able to map warrens built underneath thick layers of hard limestone – which occurs throughout much of the wombat’s range.

“The aim of this project was to map the extent of wombat warrens in different ground conditions; to gain a better understanding of the relationship between how they look on the outside and what goes on underneath,” he says.

They found warrens built under limestone differ substantially to soil warrens, being an extensive series of tunnels and chambers rather than simply a discrete tunnel underground.

“These findings have important implications for how we estimate the numbers of wombats, and also how we think about the social structure of a wombat colony. They might be more social than we previously thought,” Mr Swinbourne says.

Wombats are considered an agricultural pest because their burrowing activity can cause damage to farm infrastructure and equipment as well as crops.

Lessening the southern hairy-nosed wombat’s impact on agriculture on one hand, while conserving it on the other, continues to be a significant challenge for conservationists. [Full Story]

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Thursday, 4 February 2016

Rhino, tiger and snow leopard DNA found in Chinese medicines

More should be done to stop the use of endangered species in traditional Chinese medicines, with snow leopard, tiger and rhinoceros DNA still being found in remedies, according to a leading University of Adelaide pathologist. [Full Story]

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Study identifies most vulnerable tropical reef fish

Scientists have identified the key drivers of why some species are absent from reefs in the Indian and Pacific oceans. [Full Story]

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

More than 2 energy drinks a day could send you to a hospital bay

A new University of Adelaide study has found that drinking more than two energy drinks per day is associated with adverse heart reactions, including a fast heartbeat and heart palpitations. [Full Story]

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Reform needed for courtroom witness oaths

Swearing to tell the truth "so help me God" would become a thing of the past for witnesses in South Australia's courts if the recommendations of a new report are adopted. [Full Story]

Upcoming Events

Research Tuesdays: Animal Dawn

Tuesday, 9 February 2016, 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm
The Braggs lecture theatre

Exhibition at Urrbrae House - Assemblage Basketry

Sunday, 14 February 2016 - Sunday, 28 February 2016, 11:00 am to 4:00 pm
Urrbrae House, Walter Young Drive (off Fullarton Rd) Urrbrae

The Virgin Mary: a History in Matter and Emotion

Tuesday, 16 February 2016, 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Napier 102, Napier building, The University of Adelaide

University of Adelaide Orientation Week 2016

Monday, 22 February 2016 - Friday, 26 February 2016, all day
North Terrace Campus

Free Guided Walk at the Waite Arboretum

Sunday, 6 March 2016, 11:00 am to 12:30 pm
Meet at Urrbrae House, Walter Young Drive, Urrbrae House, Urrbrae

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