We’ve all come across wooden pallets before. Stacked outside of markets, lifted by forklifts, or, if you’re a DIY whiz, repurposed into a bed base or planter box. But Tenaya Duncan, Conservation and Wildlife Biology PhD student at Murdoch University, is using pallets in a unique way – as homes for native wildlife!
Tenaya is investigating techniques to provide artificial shelters for wildlife to keep them safe from predators. She is working across two Bush Heritage sites, Hamelin Station Reserve and Eurardy Reserve. Both reserves have revegetation efforts such as tree planting underway, but it may take years before the trees are well-established enough to provide sufficient habitat for native wildlife.
That’s where Tenaya’s project and her pallets come in.
“The idea is that by replacing shelter that’s been lost with artificial refuges, we are giving [the animals] some protection against habitat disturbance as well as areas to protect themselves from feral cats,” says Tenaya
Hamelin Station Reserve and Eurardy reserve form part of a nature corridor in an area of high conservation importance. Historic land clearing and sheep grazing have caused significant habitat disturbance in the region, making these areas the perfect hunting ground for feral cats.
Species such as the nationally vulnerable Malleefowl, Western Grasswrens, dunnarts and native mice are now threatened due to feral cat predation and habitat loss.
Using salvaged pallets as well as fence posts and corrugated iron Tenaya has created refuges for the threatened species that call Hamelin and Eurardy home. And there are already some regular visitors.
“I’ve got a lot of reptiles using them at the moment, which is great,” says Tenaya. “I’ve stacked the fence posts like a log pile and I think the reptiles like the complexity of that structure. There’s lots of nooks and crannies and microhabitats they can slither into.”
Meanwhile the wooden pallets, which have been fitted with shade cloths, are a favourite of the small ground-dwelling mammals like hopping mice.
“They can build their own little nests underneath the pallets and we’ve got two pallets next to each other so that they have multiple exits and entry points. That way they’re not stuck if a predator wants to come in.”
Creating the refuges with recycled material has allowed Tenaya to save a lot of money on her project. The fence posts and corrugated iron were salvaged from Eurardy and Hamelin, Tenaya’s PhD supervisor provided the shade cloth, and the pallets were sourced via Facebook.
“I just did a call out for materials and one of my friends was like, ‘Yeah, I've got 50 pallets.’ I was like, ‘Oh, beauty. Mine.’ And I didn’t have to pay for it and they’re brand spanking new, which was great.”
The money Tenaya has saved by using recycled materials can now be spent on fieldwork, monitoring and equipment for the remainder of her PhD.
But saving money by recycling was just one benefit. Recycling and repurposing common materials was also key to the aims of Tenaya’s project: to make the science accessible.
“I tried to keep it as simple as possible because I really want to make it easily replicable for anyone, not just conservation scientists or ecologists,” says Tenaya. “If you’ve got a property and want to support native wildlife then this is the kind of thing you can do easily.”
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If you'd like to follow Tenaya's research you can find her on Twitter at @Talk2tt182