Koala Research at CQU

A Central Queensland researcher is delving into the chemical make-up of koala poo in key areas of Queensland to determine how stressed the species may be. CQUniversity koala researcher Dr Flavia Santamaria said that there’s mounds of information about the health of koalas that can be extracted from a few pellets of poo and this information could help secure koala populations into the future.

Koala Research at CQU


Michael Hewson

The question is: can managers of habitat reserves afford to monitor vegetation health as much as they would like to as the season and weather cycles turn? Probably not. The areas are too big, the worker numbers too small – and the real estate is hard to get to. There are always aircraft options – but now we’re talking money – big money.

What if daily photographs of the whole reserve were available? And what if those photographs classified an entire flora reserve for vegetation type, photosynthetic health, leaf water content, and other parameters?

Earth observation from satellites can do this. Indeed, some image sets are uncharacteristically free of cost. With a little bit of image processing knowledge - and some experience using Geographic Information Systems – large swathe vegetation monitoring is available to the habitat manager. And a GIS can do so much more – the layout of the property, its boundaries; terrain aspect, slope and height – the existence of infrastructure and a whole raft of spatial data – primarily free of charge.

Koala Research-CQ retains expertise in the digital mapping of fauna and flora reserves. And like any ‘information system’; we need to yarn on what GIS can do to suit your particular need.

Rolf Schlagloth

The koala is currently listed as an endangered species.

Loss and fragmentation of habitat are key threats to the long-term survival of the koala.

Here in Central Queensland, in some areas, we still have large tracts of more or less continuous habitat.

Many local landholders and the community value and love their koalas and they do their bit to preserve the species as they are willing to look after the koala habitat in their area.

We work with individuals and groups to promote koala conservation, management actions that support koala habitat retention and improvement and research into specific threats to local koala populations.

Flavia Santamaria

So, now that koalas are unfortunately listed as Endangered, the focus needs to be on restoring populations and ensuring that koalas are thriving.

It is paramount to know if populations in Central Queensland are healthy and if they are able to cope with the current and future challenges posed by habitat clearing and climate change.

Chlamydia, Koala retrovirus, studies of the gut flora, stress levels, knowing the DNA of specific populations are all important indicators for determining the health status of koalas.

With our mostly non-invasive research we want to determine the short- and long-term impact that habitat clearing and climate change have on koalas’ health. We analyse faecal pellets (koala poo) to determine the DNA and the health of these animals.