Research at Gluepot Reserve

Overview

The Reserve has been extremely successful in developing Gluepot as a 'Quality Centre for Scientific Research' and to date, 14 Australian universities and research institutions conduct ongoing research projects on the Reserve. To date, five PhD projects have been undertaken at Gluepot along with a number of MSc and Honors projects. The Reserve has recently completed ‘hosting’ a $1.4 million research project that is studying fire mosaics in relation to biodiversity. This project is supervised by La Trobe and Deakin Universities and six PhD projects were involved over three seasons. Visitors to Gluepot are encouraged (where practical) to assist with the Reserve's research and monitoring projects. Gluepot is ideally suited to a diverse range of biological research projects. All areas of the Reserve are open to use by researchers, and the Birdseye Block, an area of 17 000ha of old growth mallee, has been specifically designated as a core reference area (research and conservation access only) - public access to the block is restricted.

Current research projects

Gluepot has the greatest number of permanent biodiversity sites of any Australian land area – 95 sites. These sites are monitored annually by Reserve personnel for vegetation, birds, mammals and reptiles. 50 of the sites are photo-point, vegetation quadrat sites and seven 1km x 2km Malleefowl research and survey grids have also been established. These are monitored annually. Bird banding is conducted a week per month in selected areas to establish populations of cryptic ground dwelling species of birds for long-term research. The Reserve’s Bird Banding Manager also provides a bird banding service to students undertaking bird research projects. A vegetation exclosure was established in 2000 and is monitored annually. Gluepot also has the highest concentration of Atlassed sites in Australia. Following the 2006 fire that destroyed 8,000ha, additional monitoring sites have been established in the burnt areas to monitor vegetation and fauna recovery in those areas. The Reserve is establishing Australia’s first permanent bat recording station in addition to a number of long-term bat research projects (12 species of bats occur on Gluepot two being on the endangered list). Accurate base mapping of the entire Reserve was completed in 1999 by orienteering volunteers, and floristic mapping was completed in 2001 by botanist Michael Hyde, who also published a 100 page report on the Vegetation of Gluepot Reserve. Feral pests such as goats and foxes are controlled and their numbers monitored. A Weed Management program has been in effect since 1999. All of these data are entered onto a Reserve GIS database to guide managers.

Gluepot is also the field study centre for the endangered Black-eared Miner and years of intensive research has produced an intimate knowledge of the species breeding habits and behavior. Through this research we now know that there are over 200 colonies with more than 3,500 birds breeding on and around Gluepot Reserve – over two thirds of the species remaining numbers. To spread the risk to the species, the Recovery Team successfully translocated eight colonies of Black-eared Miners from the Gluepot area to supplement tiny, genetically isolated colonies in north-west Victoria – this was a world first for such a highly social species. Further colonies will be translocated to Scotia in the NSW mallee when the drought breaks and breeding conditions improve.

Potential research projects

Gluepot Reserve provides outstanding opportunities for research on several threatened or declining species, as well as common mallee birds. Future research projects could target:

- Striated Grasswrens - threatened, and yet common at Gluepot.

- The four species of ground-dwelling bird (Southern Scrub-robin, Crested Bellbird, Chestnut Quail-thrush and Shy Heathwren).

- White-fronted Honeyeaters - both common and accessible.

- All of the cryptic species could be colour-banded on one or two of the Malleefowl grids as a precursor to more detailed student projects. Malleefowl grids are an ideal resource for studying other species (eg territories of ground-dwelling birds).

- Regent Parrot feeding ecology.

- Other groups of common birds highly suitable for study at Gluepot are: nightjars (2 species), parrots (4), treecreepers (2), fairy-wrens (2), honeyeaters (8), robins (2), babblers (2), woodswallows (4) and the Apostlebird.

- Gluepot's rich reptile population may show a greater and earlier response to management regimes than birds because they are less mobile and are generally more affected by changes to the ground layer.

- There are opportunities to record some species of small mammals likely to be captured in the pitfall traps set for reptiles. The Bookmark Biosphere Trust has a small mammal survey program which could be extended to Gluepot.

- Frogs can be surveyed and monitored annually as part of the Environment Protection Authority’s ‘Frogwatch’ program.

- Among invertebrates, ants are a very diverse and numerous group in the Mallee. They are good indicators of environmental disturbance and recovery, and they will be captured as a by-product of pitfall trapping. CSIRO is undertaking invertebrate surveys in neighbouring areas and it is anticipated that this will be extended into Gluepot.

Information for prospective researchers

Members of the Gluepot Reserve Research and Monitoring Committee can assist students and other researchers in the formulation of project proposals. Present research projects will provide valuable assistance to the rural community in the areas of the influence of artificial watering points on habitat; methodology to identify ecologically sensitive areas; long term feral control and land management practices that are both ecologically and culturally sustainable. Through the research, monitoring, training and educational programs, Gluepot is contributing to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, and species and genetic variation which are directly related to regional, national and global conservation and sustainable development issues. University graduates and under graduates are given the opportunity to undergo reserve management training as Assistant Volunteer Rangers.

Research projects at Gluepot should abide by the Research Policy. Requests to undertake research projects on Gluepot Reserve should be submitted in writing using the Application to Undertake Research and Surveys protocol forms, to Duncan MacKenzie, Chair, Gluepot Reserve Management Committee. Click on the 'Contacts' tab for contact details.

malleefowl spinifex regent parrot old mallee