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Underground, overground – the wombats not nimble, uncommon

Underground, overground – the wombats not nimble, uncommon

Published:12 July 2017

Danish research student Kristinia Jorgensen is completing her Masters degree focused on the behaviour of the elusive northern hairy-nosed wombat.

Danish research student Kristinia Jorgensen was under no illusions when she signed on to complete a Masters degree focused on the behaviour of the elusive northern hairy-nosed wombat.

She knew she would only have limited opportunities to interact with her nocturnal research subjects.

These critically endangered wombats, within an overall population of only around 200, are so shy they can sometimes spend up to 10 days at a time hiding in their burrows if they can smell humans.

Despite this, Kristina signed up to drive up to 8 hours each way to visit their only habitats, at Epping Forest National Park west of Clermont and at the Richard Underwood Nature Refuge in remote south-west Queensland.

It was at Epping Forest where Kristina had the most opportunity to help with trapping, micro-chipping, tagging, identifying, measuring and weighing wombats to assess their body condition score.

At the nature refuge for re-located wombats, she had to rely on cameras set up in a grid to detect night-time movement around the burrows.

Kristina’s research data indicates patterns of burrow use, social encounters and the type of vegetation and terrain favoured by the wombats.

The burrow data certainly indicates that wombats prefer to keep to themselves, are solitary and rarely socialise.

Together with the vegetation and terrain data, this research will help the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection plan a second re-location site, to bolster the species survival.

“We need to know where they burrow, do they usually share their burrows with others and how big are their ranging areas and what kind of habitat do they like and how big does the site need to be, or the capacity of how many wombats we can trans-locate,” Kristina says.

This Danish student has certainly decided to make the world her work space.

She originally journeyed to Germany to work professionally with horses at a dressage stable, where she worked as a rider/groomer for an Italian national team rider.

She continued to China to do volunteer work with giant pandas at a research centre in central China, to better understand the principles and underlying work behind preserving a critically endangered species.

Kristina started her bachelor degree in biology at the University of Copenhagen, however she decided that Australia had more potential for her field of conservation biology because it is home to a wide range of endangered mammals, particularly marsupials.

She applied to CQUniversity to finish her bachelor degree, via a six-month project on koalas.  This investigated the influence of human disturbance on koala behaviour in different environments.

She then continued into the masters by research degree focused on the northern hairy-nosed wombat.

Kristina has fingers crossed for her next project, which could involve doctoral-level study of endangered snow leopards in the rugged mountains of Kazakstan in central Asia, under the supervision of CQUniversity’s Professor Owen Nevin.