Re-engineering virtual fence approaches to wildlife roadkill mitigation in Tasmania

Closing Date

31st December 2021*

Applicants should contact the primary supervisor Bernardo Leon de la Barra, and submit their Expression of Interest (EOI) and Application as soon as possible.

*unless filled earlier

The Research Project

Wildlife roadkill is a world-wide issue being tackled by using a large array of mitigation methods that have variable efficacy. Tasmania has a significant roadkill issue, and several endemic species that are highly vulnerable to roadkill. One existing method of roadkill mitigation uses an electronic device that is triggered by a car's headlights at night, warning wildlife that a vehicle is nearby through flashing amber and blue lights and a high-pitched siren. These particular devices are manufactured in Austria and have been operating with apparent success in many European countries, reducing wildlife vehicle collisions with big game species such as deer and wild boar.

Between 2014 and 2016 a trial was conducted on the west coast of Tasmania to determine whether these European devices worked on Australian species, especially marsupials, many of which are threatened species. While the initial trial was set up simply to test the field efficacy of these devices, the success of the trial led to the results being published ("Roadkill mitigation: trialling virtual fence devices on the west coast of Tasmania", Australian Mammalogy, 2019, 41, 205–211). However, this trial was conducted at a single site with no replication, and a similar published study conducted on a highway close to Hobart for 3 months did not produce the same positive results ("A trial of a solar-powered, cooperative sensor/actuator, opto-acoustical, virtual road-fence to mitigate roadkill in Tasmania, Australia", Animals, 2019, 9 (10), 752).

The disparity in the results between the two studies has raised questions about the conditions under which these particular electronic devices work to optimal efficacy (e.g., road type, vehicle volume, vehicle speed, road undulation and curve, etc.), but also whether the specific light waves and sound waves used as the "alarm signal" are going to be more effective with some of our native species compared to others.

The broad focus of this PhD project is to determine whether there are ways that could make the existing devices more effective and species specific, thus reducing roadkill even more. The final aim will be to design, build and field-test a state-of-the-art (and hopefully low-cost) electronic device with wide-spread testing, at numerous sites in Tasmania, for a number of endemic species, and under a variety of scenarios (such as road type and vehicle speed, as mentioned above).

Eligibility

The following eligibility criteria apply:

  • The project is open to domestic (Australian and New Zealand) and international candidates.
  • The degree must be undertaken on a full-time basis.
  • Applicants must already have been awarded a First-Class Honours degree or hold equivalent qualifications, such as a research Master's degree or a coursework Master's degree with a substantial research component awarded high marks, or relevant and substantial research experience in an appropriate sector.

Candidates with a Science, Technology or Engineering background are eligible to apply.

Please see the following web page for entry requirements: https://www.utas.edu.au/research/degrees/what-is-a-research-degree

Application Process

Applicants who require more information or are interested in this specific project should first contact the listed Supervisor. Information and guidance on the application process can be found on the Apply Now webpage.

Information about scholarships is available on the Scholarships webpage.

More Information

Please contact Bernardo Leon de la Barra for more information.