Newsletter August 2016

August 2016

Volume 30 Issue 2

Table of Contents

  1. From the President
  2. 2016 AGM
  3. Member Publications
  4. Congratulations to our Conference Liaison Officer Konnie
  5. 2016 Conference
  6. Wildlife Health Australia


General Inquiries


Greg Baxter

General Inquiries

Karen Rusten


Shannon Dundas

Newsletter Editor

Tarnya Cox

Conference Inquiries

Konnie Gebauer

From the President

Welcome to the winter edition of the 2016 newsletter.  Most people will be thinking of tax returns, election results (real and imagined) and the prospect of spring and summer vacations.  I want to interrupt your reverie with a short summary of what your society has been doing and what we plan to do in the future.

Much of the activity between the last newsletter and this one has been occupied with bring our fincancial operations into the 21st century.  Organising the 2016 conference in New Zealand emphasised yet again the difficulty in making relatively small, but timely payments to do things like secure venue bookings.  To address this we determined to obtain a debit card with a separate account into which funds would be placed as and when they were needed.  I don’ know why I was quite so surprised that it took so long, but after 6 months of signing forms, having them examined by various bank branch officers and then  resigning the same forms, we now have a new account linked to two shiny new debit cards.  The cards can only be issued in a way that requires only one person to authorise expenditure.  But our constitution requires 2 authorised persons to be responsible for expenditure.  To accommodate both sets of requirements we have a separate account which is the only one from which funds can be drawn on the cards.  That account will be kept with a nominal balance to keep it open, and funds can only be transferred into it with the authorisation of 2 persons.  Tom (Treasurer) and Tarnya (committee member) have those cards right now and those cards will be passed on to relevant office holders as appropriate in future. Well done Will, Tom and Tarnya for staying the course.

AWMS is also within a whisker of obtaining tax deductable status with the ATO which will allow us to receive gifts and bequests where that status is important to the donor.  Thanks Terry Korn for seeing that through.  Terry has also agreed to act as our new public officer following Sylvana Maas’ retirement.  Many thanks to Sylvana for her work over many years.

Long-time member, Rick Southgate, has advised us that his recently late mother, Joan, has left a bequest of $10,000 to be specifically used to foster closer relations with the African wildlife management community.  We have had discussions with Rick about his mother’s intentions and we have formed a committee consisting of the President, Treasurer, and Peter Fleming to draft guidelines and recommendations for later discussions with Rick before we set a procedure in place.  Rick suggested that one important use of these funds would be for scholarships to support African students to study, for at least some time, in Australia.  One of the important questions to be settled at the outset is, of course, should we spend the funds now, or invest them to provide an ongoing source of funds into the future.  If any of the membership have strong feelings about this then please let the committee know.

Arrangements for the 2016 conference have now been set and are on the website. Registration and abstract submission is now open.  Many thanks to Al Glen and the local committee in New Zealand for making this happen.  Pleas also contact your networks and remind them of the various awards available from AWMS and encourage them to apply.  As a result of last year’s conference AWMS is in a much better financial position that 12 months ago.  But we need another successful conference this year to get back on an even keel.  So encourage your peers and students to attend.  Early bird registration  closes 7 October 2016.

I can also announce that at the Auckland conference this year, AWMS will bestow a Caughley Medal on a member in recognition of a long and outstanding career in wildlife management.  You will have to be there to find out who the worthy recipient is.

I also want to ask for input on a matter that recently arose and was dealt with by the executive without reference to the membership.  I was recently contacted by Professor Richard Kingsford from UNSW asking if AWMS would join a number of a number of other environmental organisations in signing a statement calling for changes in the vegetation clearing laws in SNW and Qld.  This was planned to coincide with legislation on this matter being introduced into the NSW parliament and submissions being taken on the same subject in Qld.  The committee considered the document and decided that it was in the interest of AWMS and our members to sign this statement, although we would probably have worded it slightly differently given further time.  I take responsibility for that decision.  I believed that it was an important issue relating to wildlife management in a large tract of our backyard and where science could be brought to bear to help decision-makers.  I also note that two past presidents were of a similar view and it is likely that given this situation in the past 6 or 8 years the executive would have made the same decision.  My view is that to have declined to sign would have lessened the likelihood of the statement having any effect and sidelined AWMS as an important voice advocating the application of science in wildlife management in our region.  There was limited time available for AWMS to draft an alternative statement so we decided to join the other signatories.  However, other members took a different view and contacted me to air it.  This is, of course, entirely proper of them and I thank them for their contribution.  In precis their argument was, that AWMS is an independent organisation representing the views of scientists and those interested in the application of science to wildlife management.  It is not an environmental lobby group.  They further argued that AWMS should proceed in a considered way on all issues after taking time to consider the implications and known facts.  If there is insufficient time to consult the members on an important issue then no public statement should be made.  If we adopt this point of view as a guiding principle it would have far reaching implications for the way AWMS works.  So I think it deserves thought and debate.  We will put up a forum on our website devoted to this discussion.  I look forward to your input.  To access the forum please log in to the website, hover over the Membership tab and select AWMS Forums.  The forum name is "Member consultation on arising public issues".

Finally I want to note that I have retired from UQ, though I have taken an adjunct position there. This will give me more time to do the things that I choose and that included the AWMS Presidency until December this year.

Greg Baxter


30 November 2016, Quality Inn, Parnell, Auckalnd NZ

Time: TBA

At this year's AGM we will be looking for some new Executive Committee members, including a new President of the Society.  While an official call for nominations will come out a little closer to the conference, we would encourage you to start thinking about getting further involved with the Society by joining our Committee.  The AWMS President should be someone who is well-respected with a long history in the field of wildlife management.  If you know a member that you think would make a good AWMS President, then we would encourage you to approach that person and talk about the AWMS Presidency. Of course, anyone who is interested in becoming more involved is welcome to discuss how they might do that and which positions they may fill by approaching members of the Executive at any time.

Member Publications

Do you have a recent publication that you would like to advertise to the AWMS membership and beyond?  Let us know and we'll include it here in the newsletter.  You can find any of these members by search the membership database (only available to members of AWMS).  Latest publications from our members are:

Bronwyn Fancourt

Fancourt, B. 2016. Avoiding the subject: the implications of avoidance behaviour for detecting predators Behav Ecol Sociobiol, DOI 10.1007/s00265-016-2162-7

Abstract Estimating predator abundance can be challenging. Many predators are inherently difficult to detect due to their low population densities, large home ranges and cryptic behaviour. Detection rates derived from camera traps, spotlight surveys and track counts in sand plots are often used as indices of abundance. However, many factors can influence a species’ detection rate and the extent to which it might reflect the species’ actual abundance. I investigated the relationships between detections, abundance and activity of two sympatric predators, the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) and the feral cat (Felis catus). I used camera traps to detect devils and feral cats across eastern Tasmania in southern Australia,where devil populations have progressively and variably declined since 1996 following the spread of the fatal devil facial tumour disease. Devil and cat detections on individual cameras were negatively correlated; however, this was unrelated to abundance. While cats and devils were detected at nearly all of the same sites, cats appeared to avoid devils over short distances, suggesting that negative relationships in detections at the camera scale may reflect fine-scale behavioural avoidance rather than suppression of abundance. These findings highlight the importance of understanding avoidance behaviour when designing surveys to detect predators and when using indices to infer interactions or numerical relationships among sympatric predators. These findings also provide a cautionary tale that highlights the need to consider alternative hypotheses to explain observed patterns, as the implications for species conservation and management outcomes could vary dramatically.

Stephanie Hing

Hing, S., Narayan, E., Thompson, R., and Godfrey, S. 2016. The relationship between physiological stress and wildlife disease: consequences for health and conservation. Wildlife Research 43, 51–60.

Abstract Wildlife populations are under increasing pressure from a variety of threatening processes, ranging from climate change to habitat loss, that can incite a physiological stress response. The stress response influences immune function, with potential consequences for patterns of infection and transmission of disease among and within wildlife, domesticated animals and humans. This is concerning because stress may exacerbate the impact of disease on species vulnerable to extinction, with consequences for biodiversity conservation globally. Furthermore, stress may shape the role of wildlife in the spread of emerging infectious diseases (EID) such as Hendra virus (HeV) and Ebola virus. However, we still have a limited understanding of the influence of physiological stress on infectious disease in wildlife. We highlight key reasons why an improved understanding of the relationship between stress and wildlife disease could benefit conservation, and animal and public health, and discuss approaches for future investigation. In particular, we recommend that increased attention be given to the influence of anthropogenic stressors including climate change, habitat loss and management interventions on disease dynamics in wildlife populations.

Hing S, Currie A, Broomfield S, Keatley S, Jones K, Thompson R, Narayan E, and Godfrey S. (2016). Host stress physiology and Trypanosoma haemoparasite infection influence innate immunity in the woylie (Bettongia penicillata). Comparative Immunology, Microbiology and Infectious Diseases 46, 32–39. doi:10.1016/j.cimid.2016.04.005

Abstract Understanding immune function is critical to conserving wildlife in view of infectious disease threats, particularly in threatened species vulnerable to stress, immunocompromise and infection. However, few studies examine stress, immune function and infection in wildlife. We used a flow cytometry protocol developed for human infants to assess phagocytosis, a key component of innate immunity, in a critically endangered marsupial, the woylie (Bettongia penicillata). The effects of stress physiology and Trypanosoma infection on phagocytosis were investigated. Blood and faecal samples were collected from woylies in a captive facility over three months. Trypanosoma status was determined using PCR. Faecal cortisol metabolites (FCM) were quantified by enzyme-immunoassay. Mean phagocytosis measured was >90%. An interaction between sex and FCM influenced the percentage of phagocytosing leukocytes, possibly reflecting the influence of sex hormones and glucocorticoids. An interaction between Trypanosoma status and FCM influenced phagocytosis index, suggesting that stress physiology and infection status influence innate immunity.

Sue Briggs

Briggs S. (2016) Teaching and research : challenges for academic staff. Pacific Conservation Biology 22: 1-2. doi:10.1071/PCv22n1_ED

Editorial Unrealistic expectations of research productivity are placed on academic staff who teach and do research. These unrealistic expectations cause a problem for training environmental and conservation managers. Most graduates in environmental science work in management and policy. They need a strong understanding of management and policy aspects of their profession, eg, working with stakeholders, project management, communication and problem solving skills and legislation. The best way to teach this understanding is through tutorials using scenarios based on real world situations. Tutorials about problems and potential solutions in management and policy are best facilitated with practitioners. Because of the pressures on them to have high research productivity and teach, academic staff who do both rarely have time to interact with practitioners, and they struggle to find time to prepare tutorials based on scenarios in environmental and conservation management and policy. Students thus miss out on opportunities to learn skills for their future profession. Sue recommends that the level of research productivity expected from staff who teach and do research should be realistic, and should allow time for staff to prepare and facilitate tutorials that teach problem solving skills, using actual problems in environmental and conservation management and policy.

Kasun Ekanayake

Kasun B. Ekanayake, Michael A. Weston, Dale G. Nimmo, Grainne S. Maguire, John A. Endler and Clemens Ku¨pper, 2015. The bright incubate at night: sexual dichromatism and adaptive incubation division in an open-nesting shorebird. Proc. R. Soc. B 282: 20143026.

Abstract Ornamentation of parents poses a high risk for offspring because it reduces cryptic nest defence. Over a century ago, Wallace proposed that sexual dichromatism enhances crypsis of open-nesting females although subsequent studies found that dichromatism per se is not necessarily adaptive. We tested whether reduced female ornamentation in a sexually dichromatic species reduces the risk of clutch depredation and leads to adaptive parental roles in the red-capped plover Charadrius ruficapillus, a species with biparental incubation. Males had significantly brighter and redder head coloration than females. During daytime, when visually foraging predators are active, colour-matched model males incurred a higher risk of clutch depredation than females, whereas at night there was no difference in depredation risk between sexes. In turn, red-capped plovers maintained a strongly diurnal/nocturnal division of parental care during incubation, with males attending the nest largely at night when visual predators were inactive and females incubating during the day. We found support for Wallace’s conclusion that reduced female ornamentation provides a selective advantage when reproductive success is threatened by visually foraging predators. We conclude that predators may alter their prey’s parental care patterns and therefore may affect parental cooperation during care.

Al Glen

AS Glen, D Anderson, CJ Veltman, PM Garvey & M Nichols (2016). Wildlife detector dogs and camera traps: a comparison of techniques for detecting feral cats, New Zealand Journal of Zoology

Abstract A major challenge in controlling overabundant wildlife is monitoring their populations, particularly as they decline to very low density. Camera traps and wildlife detector dogs are increasingly being used for this purpose. We compared the cost-effectiveness of these two approaches for detecting feral cats (Felis catus) on two pastoral properties in Hawke’s Bay, North Island, New Zealand. One property was subject to intensive pest removal, while the other had no recent history of pest control. Camera traps and wildlife detector dogs detected cats at similar rates at both sites. The operating costs of each method were also comparable. We identify a number of advantages and disadvantages of each technique, and suggest priorities for further research.

Greg Baxter

Danielle Nilsson, Greg Baxter, James R.A. Butler, Clive A. McAlpine (2016) How do community-based conservation programs in developing countries change human behaviour? A realist synthesis. Biological Conservation 200: 93–103

Abstract Community-based conservation programs often target local communities with the aim of altering their behaviours to achieve conservation outcomes. However, these programs can underestimate the complexities of human behaviour, and hence jeopardize their effectiveness. We applied a realist synthesis to 17 community based conservation programs in developing countries that quantitatively measured behavioural changes linked to conservation outcomes. A realist synthesis identifies the critical mechanisms operating within a program and the outcome(s) caused by these mechanisms, and also identifies how the context affects these mechanisms. Our synthesis identified three main mechanisms that best explain the reasoning of individuals to engage in conservation behaviours: i) conservation livelihood provides economic value; ii) conservation provides benefits that outweigh losses of curtailing previous behaviour, and iii) giving local authority over resources creates empowerment. The success of each mechanism was affected by various context factors, including the proportion of income generated for the family, capacity to engage in livelihood, cultural acceptability of livelihood and the livelihood being logistically achievable to partake in. Despite conservation education being a common strategy, there was very little evidence provided of the reasoning of individuals and subsequent behaviour changes from education programs. This is the first application of a realist synthesis to community-based conservation programs. The results advance our understanding of the decision-making processes of communities subject to such programs, and highlight how different contexts influence changes in conservation behaviour. Future reporting of behavioural outcomes and the associated reasoning of individuals and communities to engage, as well as the relevant contextual data, is required for more informed and effective design of community-based conservation programs.


Congratulations Konnie!

The AWMS Committee passes on its congratulations and best wishes to our hard working Conference Liaison Officer Konnie and her partner on the birth of their first child!

2016 Conference


Abstract submission closes 31 August 2016 - don't miss out! Submit your abstract today!


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This newsletter reflects the opinions of the author(s) but not necessarily those of the AWMS Committee or membership. AWMS makes no claim as to the accuracy of stated claims and any party using this information does so at their own risk.