Listed below are students with whom we have been working over the last few years:

1. Leisa Fisher, School of Animal Studies, University of Queensland
Mother-infant vocalisations and behavioural interactions of the Spectacled flying fox.

Supervisor: Dr Peter Murray, School of Animal Studies, University of Queensland
Co - supervisor: Dr David Westcott, CSIRO Atherton

Leisa's topic involves researching the behaviours and vocalisations between pairs of mothers and their infants, in both wild and captive situations. Currently there is little knowledge of the mother-infant behaviour of this species, and it is an area of flying fox biology which is poorly understood. By observing wild pairs of mothers and their infants on the Tolga colony, Leisa hopes to better understand the natural behaviours of this species. By observing captive flying foxes at the Tolga Bat Hospital, she is able to observe and document flying fox behaviour from close range.

Leisa's research focuses in particular on the behaviour and vocalisations between mother-infant pairs, whilst reuniting at their roost in the early morning hours. Mothers begin to leave their infants behind in communal 'creches' at their day-roost when the infant is approximately three weeks old, as they become too heavy for the mother to carry to foraging sites. The mother is able to identify her infant within the crèche from vocalisations, as each infant has their own unique call which the mother is able to recognize. She will study the mother-infant behaviour and vocalisations of this species to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms which allow mothers to identify their own infant, as well as observing the behavioural interactions between mother-infant pairs.

2. Jen Parsons, School of Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville.
Patterns of resource use by spectacled flying foxes ( Pteropus conspicillatus )

Jen studied the diet of spectacled flying foxes ( Pteropus conspicillatus) at four camps (daytime roosts) in different habitats in the Wet Tropics bioregion of North-eastern Queensland. Seed, pollen, pulp and other vegetative material was collected from faeces at each camp and identified. She found that the diet of spectacled flying foxes was dominated by seed and pulp from the Ficus genus (Moraceae) and pollen from the family Myrtaceae. Flying foxes at each camp had unique dietary signatures that were not able to be predicted by the vegetation surrounding the camp. Prior to this study, spectacled flying foxes were thought to be 'rainforest specialists'; by the consistent identification of pollen from non-rainforest habitats it appears as though the spectacled flying fox is much more of a dietary generalist than previously reported. The other exciting discovery from this project is that viable bryophytes (namely mosses and liverworts) and live microorganisms were found in faeces, implicating spectacled flying foxes in the possible dispersal of these organisms. The two aspects of this study have broadened our knowledge on the feeding ecology of spectacled flying foxes and raised new questions about interactions between flying foxes and other organisms.

 

3. Sylvana Spena, School of Tropical Environmental Studies and Geography (TESAG), James Cook University, Cairns.
Faunal Disturbance and potential Changes to the Tolga Scrub

This study investigated whether the sulphur-crested cockatoo ( Cacatua galerita) and the spectacled flying fox ( Pteropus conspicillatus) acted as potential agents of hyper-disturbance in the Tolga Scrub, a remnant of the endangered type 5b (Mabi) rainforest. Within the Tolga Scrub, species behaviours and litterfall under roosting trees were quantified and compared to a control area to determine the nature and extent of vegetation damage resulting from roosting by each species. The key forest structural characteristics of the forest type were compared between treatment and control sites to determine whether these features are undergoing change.

Three major conclusions drawn from the results of this study were:

•  Behaviours of both the sulphur-crested cockatoo and the spectacled flying fox were often non-destructive.

•  The sulphur-crested cockatoo produced significantly greater amounts of litterfall than the spectacled flying fox.

•  The forest structure in the treatment site (roosting area) consisted of significantly less canopy cover, smaller and less variable tree heights and girths, more uneven tree and shrub species composition and a significantly denser shrub layer comprised mainly of the shrub species representative of the forest type ( Hodgkinsonia frutescens ). Conversely no significant difference in the number of dead trees and shrub layer height were detected, and Hodgkinsonia frutescens, the dominant shrub species of the forest type was not sampled in the control site.

4. Juliann Schamel, Stanford University, California, USA
In A Land Where Foxes Fly: Discovering the Rehabilitation and Behavioral Ecology of Orphaned Spectacled Flying Foxes in Atherton, Australia

Juliann's thesis will consist of a mixture of creative writing about flying foxes and their current condition/background/role in the
ecosystem, etc, as well as her personal experience with them, and a more scientific-based section consisting of primary research and findings. Because her major is Ecology and Nature Writing, her thesis can be much more in the vein of "popular writing" than most biology theses, but it still must show some unique insight into the target species through primary research. She will conduct research into the rearing of Spectacled flying fox orphans during tick paralysis season at the end of 2006.