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Research into habitat restoration wins scholarship

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Research into habitat restoration wins scholarship

Mick Callan

Climbing up trees searching for possums and endangered birds is just another day in the office for PhD candidate Reannan Honey.

Reannan Honey conducting field work, climbing trees is all part of the fun. Image courtesy of Reannan Honey.

Reannan Honey conducting field work, climbing trees is all part of the fun. Image courtesy of Reannan Honey.

It’s all part of Ms Honey’s current research project investigating habitat restoration for animals that are dependent on hollows.

“Tree hollows take a very long time to form—usually over one hundred years,” Ms Honey said.

“With native forestry, we tend to cut down the trees that are over a hundred years old because they are the big ones that provide the most wood.”

The current strategy to solve this problem is using nest boxes. But so far, they haven’t proved to be very effective, with many endangered animals often rejecting the nest boxes.

Ms Honey’s research is looking at whether artificial hollows can provide an alternative option to nest boxes.

“Artificial hollows are basically hollows that are cut into the tree itself,” she said. “The face plate is removed, the trunk is hollowed out and then the face plate returned with a hole in it, so the animal can enter and exit.”

The project is in its early days with Ms Honey often travelling into the bush, trapping possums and sugar gliders in order to microchip and track them to see which animals are using the artificial hollows, and how.

Now Ms Honey’s research has received a generous boost thanks to the 2017 AWS Wildlife Ecology Science Research Scholarship, which she will spend on data logging equipment that will allow her to effectively measure temperature and humidity.

“Thermochron and hygrochron are the size of a button-battery and they can collect three months of data, such as temperature and humidity every hour—so they’re pretty cool,” Ms Honey said.

Reannan’s research will investigate whether artificial hollows can provide an alternative option to nest boxes for animals, like this possum. Image courtesy of Reannan Honey.

Reannan’s research will investigate whether artificial hollows can provide an alternative option to nest boxes for animals, like this possum.
Image courtesy of Reannan Honey.

Ms Honey’s PhD project is also generously supported by the Central Tablelands Local Land Services, the Wettenhall Environment Trust and the Central West Councils Environment & Waterways Alliance who created over 200 artificial hollows to increase habitat for the Superb Parrot.

Ms Honey has been at UTS for six years, starting in a Bachelor of Science in Applied Chemistry, before transferring into a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences. Last year she completed her honours research year investigating whether incubation temperatures affect the learning abilities in hatching geckos.

Ms Honey is also part of the Student Promotional Representative of UTS (SPROUT) team at UTS Science, and is passionate about science communication and talking to the general public about scientific discoveries.

“Communicating science is challenging, there’s a lot more things that both scientists and the media could be doing to help explain scientific research better,” Ms Honey said.

“I enjoy communicating my work to difference audiences and that’s something I hope to develop more at as I progress through my PhD.”

You can follow Reannan Honey on Instagram @reehoney17.

*This article was written by Filip Stempien and originally appeared at www.uts.edu.au