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November 26, 2020

Critically endangered possums thriving in urban gardens

Bronte Van Helden, a student at UWA’s Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, was the recipient of the 2018 WABSI PhD Scholarship and has been researching the presence of native mammals in suburban backyards in Albany.

Assisted by local community groups and Albany residents, Bronte tracked endangered western ringtail possums fitted with radio-transmitters. The research showed that gardens supported both abundance and diversity of native mammals, with a range of bats, quendas, possums and other mammals thriving in local gardens.

Bronte’s research highlights the conservation potential of residential gardens as valuable habitats for native wildlife.

Overall, gardens are home to similar amounts of mammals as urban bushland, housing possums, bats and quendas, and even a small southwest bandicoot. As novel urban ecosystems continue to expand, the inclusion of gardens in wildlife management plans will greatly increase our ability to conserve wildlife in urban habitats.

Financial support from WABSI has been invaluable, allowing me to broaden my PhD and use all mammals to address my research questions. With the support from WABSI, I was able to include multiple other methodologies including microsatellite analysis, detectors of bat echolocations, pitfall traps and camera traps which allowed me to include native rats, bats, brushtail possums, honey possums, dunnarts and kangaroos in my research. This has broadened the applicability and increased the value of my research and enabled collaborations,” Bronte said.

Whilst Bronte has recently submitted her PhD thesis, her research has already received much national and international attention, with several academic papers already published.

Click here to listen to ABC Radio Perth Focus program: Interview with Bronte Van Helden and Professor Owen Nevin, CEO, WABSI.

Article in New Scientist: Endangered possums finds refuge in back gardens in Western Australia

Contacts: Preeti Castle, Strategic Engagement Director, WABSI

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