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Introducing Prue Loney...

Name: Prue Loney
Education: Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Science (Honours)
Current Occupation: PhD student
Where: School of Plant Science, University of Tasmania

Prue attended Taroona High School and Hobart College before completing a Bachelor of Science with Honours, majoring in Plant Science and Zoology, at the University of Tasmania. Prue’s interest in biological sciences began in high school, “I was really interested in why a particular animal or plant lived where it did, and how the environment could affect where the animal or plant lived” says Prue. “I later discovered at college my interest fell under an area of science called ecology, which is the study of the relationship between organisms and their natural environment”.

Prue Loney

Currently Prue is in the final year of her PhD in Plant Science and Zoology, in conjunction with the Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Production Forestry. Prue is lucky enough to have an ecological project in that combines her interest in both plants and animals, as her project examines characteristics of eucalypt leaves that may affect browsing by mammalian herbivores.


Her experience studying herbivores provided Prue with an exciting opportunity to do some volunteer work in Africa last year, helping research another herbivore, but much larger and aggressive than the possums and wallabies she was use to – black rhinoceros. “Without my research experience in herbivory, I would not have the opportunity to do this volunteer work,” says Prue. “It was a totally awesome and beneficial experience that I will never forget”.

Prue’s science background has also come in useful for her part time work as a bushwalking guide in Tasmania. “My background in botany and zoology has come in handy for providing guests with interesting information, and quirky little facts on Tasmania’s flora and fauna”.

Find out more about Prue's research

Keywords: Brushtail possums, mammalian herbivores, marsupial browsers, monofluroacetate

Browsing by native mammalian herbivores in eucalypt plantations is a major economic problem in plantations in Australia, and throughout Australia the methods used to protect forestry plantations from browsing are fiercely debated both socially and politically, particularly the use of monofluroacetate (1080) in Tasmania.

Diagram indicating how repetitive browsing results in bushes instead of trees.

“My research, and that of the research group I am involved in, focuses on developing non-lethal forms of browsing management” says Prue. “My particular project looks at how I can alter the palatability of eucalypt seedlings to brushtail possums and pademelons, by manipulating the environment eucalypt seedlings are grown in”. Prue manipulates the environment the seedlings are grown in, by adding different amounts of fertiliser to the seedlings. By doing this, the physical and chemical characteristics of the leaves are changed, and therefore so is the attractiveness of the leaves to possums and pademelons.


Useful Websites:

For more information and great ideas for classroom activities, visit:

School of Zoology

School of Plant Science

Forestry CRC

Student Activity:

Class discussion on the management of browsing animals in Tasmania’s forests.

Please Note: This activity is not to advocate or condemn a particular method of browsing management. The aim of this activity is to have students think about what problems browsers cause, why browsers cause a problem, methods that can be used to resolve the problem, and the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

As mentioned previously, browsing by native mammalian herbivores in eucalypt plantations is a major economic problem in plantations in Australia, and throughout Australia the methods used to protect forestry plantations from browsing are fiercely debated both socially and politically, particularly the use of monofluroacetate (1080) in Tasmania.

For more information on 1080 in Tasmania there are numerous sites you can visit including:

The use of 1080 will be banned in state forests by the end of 2005, and there has been speculation that it will be banned within the next few years in privately owned forests as well. However irrespective to whether 1080 will be banned, it is important to think of alternatives that will be socially acceptable to the public.

Ask students why browsers are a problem:

In Tasmania we have three problem browsers: brushtail possums, pademelons, and Bennett’s wallabies. These browsers can severely limit plantation establishment by decreasing seedling growth, and even killing seedlings. Furthermore, if browsers continually eat the tips of seedlings, we end up with bushes instead of trees.

Q. why is it important we have trees and not bushes?
A. if we have bushes it is harder to harvest the wood, and impossible to make products such as furniture if we don’t have big straight trees. Also in plantations, bushes take up too much space and crowd the other trees.

Browsing by these animals can cost the forestry industry millions of dollars. Research has shown that a single possum can destroy more than 200 seedlings in a single night – think what 50 possums on one plantation could do in a night!

Sites with high browsing pressure suffer 100% mortality and require re-planting year after year without some form of browsing management.

Ask students what methods could be used to manage browsing in forestry in plantations:

These can be divided into methods that are lethal or non-lethal to the animals – the ones below are only examples as there are other methods.

1. Shooting
2. Poison (e.g.1080)

1. Fencing
2. Tree Guards
3. Cover Crops
4. Trapping and Relocating the Browsers

Ask students to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each:

Lethal methods are controversial, and are often socially unacceptable to the public. Tasmania also prides itself on its ‘clean and green’ image, therefore lethal methods may harm our state image.

1. Shooting

  • Shooting is advocated as being target specific, and professional shooters can kill the animals instantly.


  • Not socially acceptable to many members of the public
  • In some plantations browsers are difficult to access because there is lots of vegetation cover for animals to hide in
  • Expensive – professional shooters charge around $50 hr

2. Poison

  • Low cost
  • Effective way of managing problem browsers


  • Kills browsers, by a possibly painful death
  • Use of poison is controversial and not socially acceptable to many members of the public



1. Fencing


  • Non-lethal


  • Cost
  • Labour intensive
  • Not effective on plantations that have steep or rocky terrain
  • Animals such as wombats burrow under fences, opening holes for browsers

2. Tree Guards


  • Non-lethal
  • Protects seedling initially


  • Seedlings grow out of them
  • More expensive than fencing, due to high labour and material costs – plantations can have millions of seedlings on them
  • Browsers can destroy them

3. Cover Crops
These are crops that are planted around seedlings on plantations. The aim of these crops is that they hide the eucalypt seedlings to the browsers, and that the browsers choose to eat these crops rather than the seedlings.


  • If it works it hides the seedlings from the browsers


  • Time consuming to plant the crops
  • Crops may compete with plantations seedlings for nutrients in the soil, and when higher than the seedlings they may reduce the amount of light the seedling gets and therefore reduce seedling growth.

4. Trapping and Relocating the Browsers


  • Non-lethal and removes the browsers


  • Time consuming and expensive
  • Where do you take the browsers?
  • Other animals are likely to move into the plantation again – so only a temporary solution

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