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UNE Partners with NSW DPE on Koalas in the Landscape Project

UNE has partnered with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment to conserve koala populations across the state. Called Koala’s in the Landscape, this collaborative project led by Associate Professor Bradley Evans aims to predict where koalas will be living in the future and how climate change will affect their habitats.

A major part of the project involves modelling. A/Prof. Brad Evans explains that this is where the DPE comes in. “They’re leading the core component of the modelling. There’s actually a number of models that go in to the final model that produces the maps of the koalas, so the data that goes into that is coming from the department as well.”

“They’re coordinating across a number of teams to provide the core modelling team with everything they need so that we can get it as accurate as possible.”

Dr Karl Vernes, who is working with A/Prof. Brad Evans on the project, explains that there’s a wide variety of things that can be done to improve the lives of koalas.

“There’s lots we can be doing to improve the lot of koalas on this land. Putting in appropriate tree species into corridors that will allow koalas to move around the landscape, and protecting existing habitats so that koalas are more able to ride out things like drought and bushfires – and better bushfire management.”

Dr Vernes goes on to explain that while we might jump to this idea of bushfires being one of the biggest threats to koala populations, they’re not the only one.

“It’s the way we’ve managed the landscape, inadvertently, that has really affected koalas. We’ve taken out trees, we’ve fragmented the landscape, and we’ve done all of this without a really clear understanding of the direct impact on koalas.”

A/Prof. Evans adds that one of the main goals of the project is to better understand koala’s needs. “It’s not like the possum that climbs into your roof, of the bats that get in your rafters. The koala is just that little bit further away [from us] and they’re hard to see.”

“So the more we can educate people about living with koalas and strengthening their habitat for them, I think we can live with them better. I see that as a really major outcome.”

Photo by Michael Williams II on Unsplash