Our Koala Research – CQ group was established in 1994 to collaborate with communities and industries to enhance koala conservation through research. The group receives support and/or funding from a variety of stakeholders, research partners, community partners and individuals.
The group’s focus is on aspects of koala ecology, biology, history and community engagement in Central Queensland and beyond.
- Koala Ecology – habitat mapping and assessment; koala surveys; threat assessment and abatement
- Koala Biology – non-invasive assessment of diseases and stress
- Koala History – past interactions of Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians with koalas and their habitat
- Community engagement for sustainability – using the koala as a flagship species; education; community-led programs; stakeholder surveys; internships.
Day-to-day management is provided through the School of Health, Medical and Applied Sciences. The University provides financial oversight and ethical oversight is provided by its Animal Ethics Committee. Dr Rolf Schlagloth is the Research Group Leader.
Building 32 G.42 CQUniversity,
Rockhampton North, QLD 4701
Research Program Lead
Dr Rolf Schlagloth has been working on many aspects of the Koala in different capacities, in Victoria and Queensland since 1992. He has worked with universities, industry, government and community to investigate issues associated with koala history, ecology and management.
- Flora and fauna surveys, some associated with formal impact assessment (e.g., Golden Plains Shire, Ballarat (Vic); St Lawrence, St Bees Is (Qld)),
- Koala management plans (KPoM) and associated monitoring,
- Revegetation strategies and restoration projects, restoration of koala habitat (e.g., Ballarat KPoM, Golden Plains Koala Habitat Atlas, Framlingham Koala Habitat Revegetation Project) and,
- Koala conservation biology (e.g., research on Koala diet and movement in a roadkill blackspot).
He has provided impartial, expert advice to community, industry, state and federal agencies (e.g., National Koala Strategy, Eton Range Realignment Project – Dep. TMR) and local governments (e. g. Ballarat, Golden Plains, Moorabool, Macedon, Central Goldfields) on a variety of issues associated with koala conservation. Rolf is also very interested in exploring historical aspects of the flagship species koala including the relationships that existed between it and Indigenous Australians.
Dr Flavia Santamaria’s PhD, carried out in Victoria at the former University of Ballarat (now Federation University), studied the impact of translocation on the health, food selection and movement of thirty koalas relocated from French Island to three forests around Ballarat. Both in Victoria and Queensland, she has worked on projects that included GIS mapping, vegetation and koala surveys. Flavia's current and future research focus are on koalas' response to stress and koala ecology, and in particular:
- the impact of anthropogenic environmental changes on koala populations, including the potential pressure of environmental stress on the health of koalas (i.e., Chlamydia)
- how long-term changes to structural diversity of partially cleared land, specifically the removal of middle-storey vegetation, impacts on the nutrients of Eucalyptus's foliage.
- educating communities on sustainability, as a way forward to improving the health of ecosystems using the Koala as a flagship species.
Dr Michael Hewson is an environmental geographer at the Rockhampton North campus of CQUniversity.
Michael's research projects involve applying GIS, satellite remote sensing and weather models for the spatial analysis and mapping of weather and climate questions. Current research revolves around satellite image analysis of threatened species climate varying habitat health. Previous research projects have included numerical weather modelling of wind and aerosol transport (environment, energy and health impacts), land surface temperature mapping, and land-use change mapping for ecological applications.
Residing within the CQU College of the Arts, Michael explores Environmental Humanities as a public policy voice for concerns of the Anthropocene - biodiversity, climate change and sustainability. Amongst his geographical science publications, Michael has contributed creative artefacts of eco-poetry and strategic storytelling to influence environmental policy.
Michael's academic motivation is the Earth System Science imperative of inter-connectedness - economic-induced change in one part of the system affects the other parts. Secondly, Michael is concerned that evidence is vital to public environmental policy debate and decisions.
Dr Mike Danaher is an environmental historian, with a number of publications, including an edited book, on the environmental history of the Capricorn Coast. His interest in koala research is more recent and is from a humanities perspective, particularly in understanding the human/koala relationships over time. His work/outcomes in this field includes:
Danaher, M., Schlagloth, R., Hewson, M. & Geddes, C. 2023 ‘One Person and a Camera: a relatively non-intrusive approach to Koala citizen science’. Australian Zoologist.
Successful CQU Internal Grant with Dr Rolf Schlagloth et al, ‘Understanding Community Attitudes to further Koala Conservation in Central Queensland’, with $14,307.15 awarded in 2022.
Schlagloth, R.; Hewson, M.; Schultz, M.; Danaher, M. & Santamaria, F. 2023 ‘Gauging landholder attitudes and willingness towards koala conservation in a Central Queensland region’. Australasian Journal of Environmental Management.
Co-Supervisor of current Bachelor of Arts Honours student, whose dissertation title is ‘Translocations and Critical Habitats: A History of Koalas on Queensland Islands’. Dissertation expected to be submitted for examination in October 2023.
Dr Bradley Smith works as a senior lecturer in psychology at CQUniversity (Adelaide campus). He combines his background in comparative psychology and ethology with a multidisciplinary approach to the study of animal behaviour and human-animal interactions. Bradley is actively involved in research examining the human dimensions of wildlife (namely how people’s knowledge, values and behaviours relate to the conservation of nature and wildlife) as well as the cognition, behaviour and management of a variety of Australian wildlife in natural settings. He aims to utilise his expertise to explore ways to foster co-existence between humans and wildlife, including examining the nature of human attitudes and values toward wildlife, the impact of humans on wildlife (and vice versa), and finding solutions to resolving the conflict.
Dr Alistair Melzer
Dr Alistair Melzer (PhD Ecology UQ) has been working in regional Queensland since 1989 when he commenced studies into koala ecology around Springsure in Central Queensland. Dr Melzer has worked with Queensland’s industry, government and community since 1995 to resolve environmental problems associated with project development and subsequent management. Alistair also pursues independent, applied research projects in partnership with state agencies, universities and the community. Currently, these include:
- Koala conservation biology;
- Restoration of koala habitat under climate change;
- Management of environmental weeds and the recovery of fire sensitive ecosystems; and
- Ecosystem change under pressure from climate change on Australia’s continental islands.
Dr Melzer has provided impartial, expert advice to community, industry, state (New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland) and federal agencies and local governments on a variety of environmental issues associated with conservation biology, biodiversity management, and environmental risks. He has been formally and informally involved in the recovery planning processes for the bridled nailtail wallaby, northern hairy-nosed wombat, and the yellow chat, as well as conservation planning for the koala and some ecosystems. Most recently, Dr Melzer was appointed to the Queensland Government’s expert panel to provide advice on ways to better protect koalas and provides advice to the New South Wales Natural Resource Commission on koala research strategy.
Dr Melzer is an Adjunct Research Fellow at CQUniversity (formerly Director of the Centre for Environmental Management, CQUniversity, Gladstone). He has authored or co-authored over 50 scientific publications and more than 60 technical reports. He also continues to run koala research projects through CQUniversity.
Ms Paige Bwye
Thesis Title (PhD): Evaluation of health status and distribution of Central Queensland Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) populations using non-invasive methods
Supervisor: Dr Flavia Santamaria. Associate supervisors: Dr Joerg Henning (UQ), Dr Mark Schultz (FBA) and Dr Rolf Schlagloth.
Within the School of Health, Medical and Applied Sciences at CQ University, Paige is investigating the health status and distribution of Central Queensland’s (CQ) koala populations. Health status will be explored by determining the disease prevalence, stress and microbiome diversity of koalas through non-invasive faecal monitoring. For the past ten years, Paige has been involved in ex-situ conservation and research of small mammal species at Bristol Zoo, UK. Here she oversaw exotic animal husbandry and care whilst undertaking a Masters of Research and independent research projects. Having volunteered with animal NGOs in Europe and SE Asia, she is now expanding her research skills towards in situ conservation through this project in CQ.
Roshan Akther is a PhD student at the School of Education and the Arts, Rockhampton North campus of CQUniversity. Roshan earned his MSc in GeoInformatics and BSc (Hons) in Environmental Science from the University of Peradeniya and the University of Jaffna, respectively. He has several research articles published in online journals and at research conferences in the fields of GIS and environmental management.
Roshan's PhD project involves analysing the habitat suitability of koalas in Central Queensland using GIS and remote sensing techniques in order to inform effective management of this endangered species in the region. He is well-versed in spatial analysis and has worked in the environmental management aspects of mining projects in particular.
Over the years, he has gained expertise in researching land use changes, vegetation mapping, water resource management, land surface temperature evaluation, multiple criteria decision-making approaches, and an array of environmental applications.
He believes that environmental management requires a system thinking approach, taking into account the interconnectedness of environmental phenomena, and spatial tools/software should be used to their full potential for enhanced decision-making.
Mrs Charley Geddes
Thesis Title (honours): Can utilising a citizen science approach add valuable scientific data, and make a meaningful impact, to scientific research and environmental decision making? A koala monitoring case study.
Supervisor: Dr Rolf Schlagloth
The value of the ‘collective’ nature of citizen science to wildlife monitoring, data collection and conservation is well established. However, one person’s practice can also be valuable to citizen science projects and is often overlooked in the literature. Charley explores and critically evaluates her novel approach of identifying individual koalas by particular facial and body features and its contribution to scientific monitoring of koalas living in close proximity to highway underpasses near Nebo in Central Queensland.
Using faeces to detect diseases and stress in koalas
The Koala Research – CQ Lab established the main cortisol metabolites in koala faeces and the baseline levels of these metabolites during the breeding and non-breeding seasons and between sexes. Our Lab also established that the tetrahydrocorticosterone enzyme immunoassay (50c EIA) is most suitable at detecting these metabolites to obtain consistent information. Current research is looking at the correlation between stress and diseases and injuries in hospitalised koalas and in CQ’s wild populations.
This research has been supported by:
- University of Queensland ‘Science with Impact Fund’ and CQUniversity
- CQUniversity NSRG internal grant
- Stanmore Industries; Earthtrade; Fitzroy Basin Association supporting a CQUniversity industry-funded PhD scholarship
Managing Central Queensland's Clarke Connors Range Koalas
This research focuses on the hills and ranges associated with the Clarke-Connors Ranges from around Collinsville south to Marlborough.
This is a long-term study. The research program commenced in 2016 with funding from the Qld Department of Transport and Main Roads. This multidisciplinary program involves local landholders, CQUniversity, local community groups and other stakeholders. Areas of research include the ecology of the koala, population and habitat dynamics, threat abatement as well as broad-scale remote sensing of koala habitat landscapes.
Understanding Community Attitudes to further Koala Conservation in Central Queensland
This research seeks to improve the success of conservation programs for the endangered koala in Queensland by adopting a novel social science approach. Focusing on a key population of koala in the Central Queensland, it engages directly with key stakeholders such as the public, landholders and local rescue organisations. Knowledge of the cultural significance, history, attitudes to, and experiences with koalas form a critical foundation of any successful conservation strategy and such information is crucial to future koala conservation.
Three key CQ stakeholder groups are being engaged (1) landholders (2) general community members and (3) wildlife carers/veterinarians providing information. Key research questions across these groups include: (1) How are koalas represented in the oral histories of local landholders? What are their current attitudes toward koala conservation? (2) What importance do local CQ community members put on local koala population, do they know they exist? And (3) What input do wildlife carer and veterinarians have to the conservation of the species? Answers to these questions provide critical information for instigating successful management plans that are acceptable to all members of the community.
Central Queensland Councils' Koala Conservation Plans
All Local Government Areas within Central Queensland with koala habitat are welcome.
The relic koala habitat within Central Highlands, Rockhampton, Livingstone and Isaac Local Government Areas has been mapped. Also, the lands with potential for recovery as koala habitat have been mapped. This project will develop conceptual plans for the realistic conservation of koalas and koala habitat in these Central Queensland local government areas.
Ecology and Management of Central Queensland's Koala Islands
St Bees Island, Brampton Island, Rabbit and Newry islands. The study area is primarily focused on St Bees and Brampton Islands in the South Cumberland Islands and Brampton Islands national parks north-east of Mackay in Central Queensland. Secondary study areas have been established on the nearby Rabbit and Newry Islands north of Mackay and in the Newry Island National Park.
This long-term study commenced in 1998. It is a multidisciplinary research program involving community, universities, state government agencies and international interests. Areas of research interest include structure and dynamics of koala habitat; koala ranging behaviour, habitat utilisation and diet; demography, population dynamics and social interaction; genetics and disease profiles.
Central Queensland's Koala Re-Introduction
Rockhampton and Livingstone Local Government Areas and potential off-set properties.
This project explores the potential to recover koala populations in relic koala habitat in eastern Central Queensland. Initially, the project will test the feasibility of direct reintroduction or release of rehabilitated koalas, and develop the methodology for the acclimatisation, release and monitoring of the koalas. The project will also explore the needs of rural landholders to accommodate koalas into property planning.
Koala Mortality Black-Spots on Regional Highways
Midland Highway, between the City of Ballarat and the township of Meredith (on the way to Geelong), Victoria. The study area focused on a 48 km stretch of highway with a detailed koala monitoring study along a 5 km section on both sides of the highway.
This study analysed data collected from local wildlife carers on sick and injured koalas to determine the significance to the local koala population of collision with vehicles. It further looked at koala road kills along the highway, attempts to identify koala road kill black-spots and ultimately aimed at developing a model to determine the parameters that are most significant in the formation of these black-spots. A koala population at one black-spot was radio-tracked for 6 months; here koala ranging behaviour, habitat utilisation and diet, as well as koala interactions with the road corridor, were investigated.
Koala habitat health
A range of koala habitats in Queensland - with an initial focus on South-East and Central Queensland habitat types in remnant and non-remnant landscapes.
As part of a successful 2017 Community Sustainability Action grants Round 1 – Koala Research - CQ was awarded $91,812.00 to study Koala habitat health. The project identified the most applicable satellite remote sensing tools for landscape-scale assessment of koala habitat condition change and developed a low-cost koala habitat 'health check' to enable rapid assessment of habitat before any management intervention.
Dr Michael Hewson
Understanding the Ecology of Over-Abundant Koala Populations
Great Otway National Park, Victoria, and adjacent private lands. The study was centred on private and public lands around Bimbi Caravan park.
This was a study led by Dr Desley Whisson, Deakin University. Here the fate of an overabundant koala population and the associated habitat were followed over time. Areas of research interest include: structure and dynamics of koala habitat; koala ranging behaviour, habitat utilisation; demography, population dynamics and social interactions.
Dr Desley Whisson (Deakin University)
Stakeholders and external relationships
Rockhampton Regional Council
Fitzroy Basin Association
Department of Transport and Main Roads (Qld)
The University of Queensland
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service
Threatened Species Unit within the Department of Environment and Science
Koala research at CQUniversity is supported by various funding sources, including competitive research grants, sponsored research, and donations (select research and then koala research from the drop-down menu) from the general public.