Award-winning presentation puts Tim in the spotlight.

on 09 Nov 2015 

When you study a secretive nocturnal species, you might be shocked to find yourself squarely in the scientific spotlight.

In August, Tim Doherty, Edith Cowan University PhD graduate and Bush Heritage research partner, was awarded the Best Student Presentation in the Oceania Section of the International Congress for Conservation Biology. Tim’s prize-winning poster describes how birds, mammals and reptiles respond to wildfires in south-western Australia. The judges were impressed by Tim’s ‘clear and effective presentation’, his ability to answer tough questions and his talent for engaging with conference attendees.

Tim was presented with the award in Montpellier, France – far from the wheatbelt of Western Australia.

Tracking cats, foxes and dingoes 

Since 2012 Tim has done fieldwork on Charles Darwin Reserve, one of our largest reserves in Western Australia. Over the last three years he has collected and dissected cat faeces and stomach contents. He has tracked cats, foxes and dingoes to assess their relative abundance and habitat use. He has conducted thousands of trap-nights to monitor small mammals and reptiles. He's even set up infrared cameras to capture photos of cats, day and night.

Why? Feral cats – some exceeding five kilograms in weight – are largely responsible for the extinction of over 20 mammal species in inland Australia. And, like much of Australia, feral cats continue to be a serious threat to the many mammals, reptiles and bird species that call Charles Darwin Reserve home.

In response to this, Bush Heritage began a trial of Eradicat® – a bait developed by the WA Department of Parks and Wildlife specifically designed for feral cats – in 2012. Tim’s brief was to evaluate the effectiveness of this baiting strategy. Over two years, 1500 baits were laid annually and the response of feral cats was measured using remote cameras in a before–after, control–impact design. There was a significant reduction in feral cat activity when baiting occurred in autumn in the second year (2014), but not when baiting was conducted in spring in the first year (2013).

In addition, Tim has helped Bush Heritage to understand what cats on Charles Darwin Reserve eat, how they respond to different fire regimes and how they move across the landscape. Ultimately, Tim’s research will help Bush Heritage to better manage these ‘introduced killing machines’.

Tim's next steps

Since his PhD thesis was conferred in September, Tim has continued his research on fire ecology, predator-prey interactions and invasive species. He's now working as an Associate Research Fellow at Deakin University in Melbourne, teaming up with Drs Euan Ritchie and Dale Nimmo on their research into predators and fire ecology.

We wish Tim all the best in his career, thank him for his impressive contribution to Bush Heritage and look forward to continuing our association with Tim in the future. You can read more about Tim’s research at http://www.tim-doherty.com/. You can also read an extended interview at the Society for Conservation Biology Oceania site.

Are you interested in Bush Heritage’s plan for more science-based research partnerships? Take a look at our 10-year Science Plan, and how we plan to partner with other award-winning researchers like Tim.