- Sarah Legge, National Threatened Species Committee
Conservation fences are a new and challenging method of protecting Australian threatened mammal species, as evidenced in a recent article in The Conversation.
At present, fences protect populations of native species behind their walls. In future, we want to use these fences as source populations to restock the surrounding landscape. Extra animals that can't fit into the small space offered by the fences would be released into the surrounding landscape. These released animals would create a "halo-effect", where the benefit of the fence diffuse into the surrounding habitat.
New mathematical theory is needed to estimate how large this halo will be, and how animals should be released from the fence to maximise its size. Population genetic simulations will be needed to assess whether animals in the halos will ever be able to evolve behaviours that will save them from predation.
While this project will be relevant to conservation science, the methods will be mathematical and computer-based.
The project will develop a spatial reaction-diffusion model of a landscape that contains a fenced and unfenced region. Using methods from operations research, they will then determine the optimal size and configuration of the fence, the optimal proportion of animals to release from inside, and the benefits that will accrue as a consequence.
The goal will be to produce guidelines for conservation fencing activities in Australia. These will help conservation scientists and managers design new fences, and manage existing fences.
Skills and experience
An ideal candidate will have mathematical modelling skills, including computer programming in Matlab. They will have an interest in conservation science, and particularly in using quantitative tools to make good decisions in environmental science.
Contact the supervisor for more information.