Integrating telemetry, remote sensing and landscape genetics for assessing feral pig (Sus scrofa) movement ecology

  • Shandala Cole Loving

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    Invasive pests threaten native biodiversity and impact economies worldwide. Assessing their movement and persistence patterns is essential for planning management interventions to limit their impacts. However, such assessments can be costly and time-consuming. My study aimed to evaluate the viability of using modern techniques to quantify movement patterns, explore population persistence, and identify factors that influence the dispersal of one of Australia’s most prevalent invasive vertebrate pests. My study used a multidisciplinary approach to assess regional, and landscape-scale movement ecology of feral pigs (Sus scrofa) to inform the efficacy of current and future management options.

    My research reveals a historically low use of mass-produced tracking devices that have been modified for deployment on wildlife. However, I have shown that using these unconventional devices can be cost-effective, compared to typical methods, and that these technologies successfully measured the impact of management interventions. These tracking devices provided evidence that feral pigs changed their habitat preferences for long periods after interventions. Additionally, on a larger spatial scale, my modelling shows landscape resistance using easily identifiable landscape features can help explain genetic dispersal. My research also identified recent genetic connectivity between geographically distant populations that cannot be accounted for by currently quantified natural dispersal. This body of work uses a synergy of large-scale population genetics and fine-scale individual GPS tracking to provide holistic insights into the landscape-level movement ecology of feral pigs in remote and isolated regions of the Northern Territory, Australia.

    Overall, my findings highlight the importance of trialling new techniques for understanding complex problems. My research reviews a range of subject matter, using various techniques to address topics at the forefront of wildlife science. My thesis contributes to animal management and behavioural ecology by improving our understanding of the ecological drivers of this pest species, and helps explain underlying patterns of persistence in a uniquely Australian setting.
    Date of Award2022
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorSam Banks (Supervisor) & Hamish Campbell (Supervisor)

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