New Zealand based possum research goes international

November 13, 2023 1:13 pm

As part of her PhD at Lincoln University, PF2050 Limited’s Capability Development researcher Brittany Graham presented at the European Vertebrate Pest Management Conference (EVPMC), which was held in Florence, Italy recently.

Brittany has written a blog about her experience and the research she shared with an international audience.

Brittany and Katie celebrate

The research I presented was a section of my PhD work that was investigating alternative lures to attract possums to control tools. The lures I am looking at are visual, olfactory (scent), and audio, and for the conference I presented my findings for attractive audio lures.

Ive been doing a series of pen and field trials. With the pen trials, I compared conspecific (same species) sounds: aggressive possum sound and an alarmed possum sound, to a beep sound and a control (no sound). The data showed that possums are more attracted to the aggressive possum sound in their breeding season and then the beeping sound was most attractive outside of the breeding season, this was then confirmed in the field trials.

Example of lures

This shows us that organisations will have to be more specific and targeted when using sound as a lure for control operations as they will need to change the sound depending on the time of year control is occurring. The positive behaviour towards the sounds shows that these sounds are not a deterrent and could be a valuable tool to have in the toolbox.

I also presented my findings on possum behaviour with my own audio-visual lure (AVL). I had an engineer help me create a lightweight, cheap and easy-to-use lure that could potentially be used by community groups and the wider public for expanding possum control to urban areas as well as lifestyle blocks and farms. I tested my AVL to the only other commercial audio lure on the market at the moment which is the Cacophony Projects thermal camera and speaker. I tested these two types of audio lures in the field, using the aggressive possum sounds (and control treatment, no sound) to see how the possums would react to the different audio lure tools and the control treatment.

Our data shows that possums spent significantly more time at the control and the AVL sites as well interacting with those sites more than the thermal camera sites. This is a really great result as this shows us that the AVL works as an audio lure. It is not a deterrent and is effective at attracting possums to the control tools.

Katie and Brittany arrive at the conference

If we can draw possums to a control station from further away by using an audio lure, this means potentially fewer control stations and less labour is needed to maintain control operations. This could save both time and money when it comes to furthering the country towards the Predator Free 2050 initiative.

Being able to attend this conference was an amazing experience. I learnt about new animals I have never heard of before (google what a raccoon dog is… you can thank me later for the serotonin boost), the impact they have on the very niche ecosystems they occupy as well as different strategies when controlling these populations. Strategies that we may be able to replicate here in New Zealand on our pest mammals. It was also great to meet so many other researchers in the same industry and bounce ideas off each other.

Highlights of my trip include, seeing all the beautiful history and scenery that Italy has to offer and having the opportunity to travel abroad with Katie! We started our undergrad degrees together all those years ago and it’s just crazy how we have managed to get this far where we are presenting our PhD research in Italy!

More from Around the traps