• Wombats. Photo credit: Tourism AustraliaWombats. Photo credit: Tourism Australia

University of Adelaide uses radar to map wombat warrens for the first time

Australia is home to many unique animals, including the wombat. Wombats are not found anywhere else in the world. This is one of the reasons why researchers at the University of Adelaide have set out to ensure the conservation of this unique species by finding out more about them.

As part of this study, Mr Michael Swinbourne, PhD candidate in the University of Adelaide’s School of Biological Sciences, set out to test a new way of mapping wombat warrens. He explained: “A major problem we are grappling with is understanding just how many wombats there are and whether their numbers are increasing or decreasing.

"At the moment we use satellite imagery to count the warrens and then use that information to estimate the numbers of wombats living inside. This method isn’t perfect because we don’t know much about how wombats share their warrens."

Michael and his team have instead begun using ground-penetrating radar to map the warrens. The radar maps give scientists a better understanding of the relationship between how the warren looks on the outside with what is going on underground.  For example the team have found that warrens built under limestone differ substantially to soil warrens, being an extensive series of tunnels and chambers rather than simply a discrete tunnel underground.

Mr Swinbourne said: "These findings have important implications for how we estimate the numbers of wombats, and also how we think about the social structure of a wombat colony. They might be more social than we previously thought." 

If you are interested in conducting research at an Australian or New Zealand university, you can find out more about how to apply for a PhD on this page.Talk to a Study Options advisor if you have found your supervisor and are ready to make an application.

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