​PhD project: Strategic control of feral cats and black rats on Christmas Island

​PhD project: Strategic control of feral cats and black rats on Christmas Island

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Seeking applications from highly qualified and motivated candidates for a PhD program of research on the ecological impacts of cat eradication on Christmas Island. The student will join Eve McDonald-Madden’s group in the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science, University of Queensland, with joint supervision from Parks Australia staff, and others.

Cats and black rats have had a devastating impact on Christmas Island’s unique ecosystem since their introduction by the first settlers about 125 years ago. Through predation, competition and as vectors of disease, they have contributed (with other threats) to the extinction of four of the five native mammals once found on the island, and the extinction in the wild of three of CI’s five endemic reptile species. They continue to exert pressure on the only remaining native mammal species (the CI flying-fox) and other endemic species like the white-tailed tropic bird, hawk-owl, thrush, emerald dove, goshawk, CI frigatebird and the giant gecko.

In response to the threats posed by cats and rats, Parks Australia has collaborated with other organisations to begin a program that aims to eradicate cats from the island.

However, preliminary qualitative modelling suggests that cat control could result in complex impacts on threatened native species, with the potential for negative impacts arising if cat reduction allows the numbers of black rats to substantially increase.

In this project, the student will work with the cat eradication program to identify and measure key indicator species in the Christmas Island ecosystem that will allow managers to understand, and adapt to, the changes in the community caused by the cat control program. The research is likely to include experimental manipulations of black rats, carried out in tandem with the cat control, to help tease apart the species interactions and thus revise our understanding of the ecosystem model.

The student will be part of a team of managers and researchers who are collaborating to improve conservation outcomes for Christmas Island.
The successful candidate will have skills in vertebrate field ecology and data analysis; experience in decision science would be useful, but not essential.

Closing Date for Applications: 15 April 2016

For more information, click here.

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