Revisiting wombat hair
SUPPORTED BY AGS FUNDING in the early 2000s, Dr Faith Walker used non-invasive genetic tools to uncover the social structure and population dynamics of the southern hairy-nosed wombat in South Australia. Sixteen years on, Faith and Dr Matthew Gaughwin are looking to determine if the same individuals are still alive, how space use differs, and whether the population size has changed after episodes of drought and mange. ‘Team Wombat’ collected hair samples from Brookfield Conservation Park in April 2017, from which they extracted DNA that is now being analysed for the genetic fingerprints of each wombat. This will be one of the few studies of Australian wildlife that follows individuals through time, and will provide much-needed information for management and conservation of SA’s state faunal emblem.
A southern hairy-nosed wombat at Brookfield Conservation Park, SA.
Faith Walker peers into a burrow entrance, where hair is collected by double-sided sticky-tape.