Talking about Herbivores
from Australia to Africa
Prue’s passion for biological sciences led her to study plant science and zoology at the University of Tasmania and to continue on to complete a PhD on two Tasmanian herbivores, the brush tail possum and the red-bellied pademelon. Her 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”
Prue’s experience studying herbivores provided her with an exciting opportunity to do some volunteer work in Africa, helping research another herbivore, but much larger and aggressive than the possums and wallabies she was used to – black rhinoceros:
“Without my research experience in herbivory, I would not have the opportunity to do this volunteer work. It was a totally awesome and beneficial experience that I will never forget”.
Since graduating from her PhD in 2007, Prue has had a change in career from being a research scientist to a science communicator. She has worked with the CSIRO in Sydney, the Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research, and now has the position of science communication manager at the Cooperative Research Centre for Forestry. This position involves making the research of forest scientists available to the public.
As a Young Tassie Scientist, Prue will talk about the relevance of her PhD research on possums and pademelons to helping Tasmania’s forestry industry, and her research in Africa on the black rhinoceros.
Read more about Prue’s PhD research:
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.
My research, and that of the research group I was involved in, focused on developing non-lethal forms of browsing management. My particular project looked at how I could alter the palatability of eucalypt seedlings to brushtail possums and pademelons, by manipulating the environment eucalypt seedlings are grown in.
Prue manipulated 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.