What are the detailed mechanisms by which bandicoots can persist with cats?
Tasmania represents the only location where eastern barred bandicoots (EBB) are widely distributed however, in the past 30 years populations have been rapidly declining. This has mostly been attributed to habitat loss and degradation and predation, mainly feral cats.
I will conduct both captive and field experiments to test responses of bandicoots to visual and olfactory cues of cats. To do so, I will use camera arrays and GPS trackers on bandicoots to test how they respond to the presence of a cat, i.e. do they freeze or flee and how do they use open areas or cover in the habitat? The increased presence of feral cats also imposes a greater risk of disease transfer. Toxoplasma gondii is known to be present in cats as well as cause high mortality rates in EBB. By using blood serum collected from individuals across years, I will determine whether T. gondii poses a significant threat to bandicoot population dynamics in wild Tasmanian populations.
Lastly, to manage landscapes such that EBB can persist and expand, we need to understand what landscape features promote or inhibit their movement. This study will employ landscape genetic approaches to identify the landscape features that influence movement to inform landscape restoration activities and identify candidate areas for the (re-) establishment of new populations on mainland Australia.