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Ms Erin Flynn

profile_flynn_thumbMs Erin Flynn
PhD student

Topic: assessing the effect of environmental disturbance on milk composition and physiological parameters in the common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula)

University of Tasmania

I study the impact of habitat disturbance on brushtail possums using key physiological variables and body condition to assess population health.

Particularly, I study logging and logging/bushfire habitat disturbance, and the key physiological variables of cortisol concentrations (stress hormones) and immune system function using white blood cell differentials.

As part of this capture-mark-recapture study, I look both at brushtail possum demographics and small ground mammal ecology at each site.    I use adult condition and milk composition to assess the reproductive stage of the possums.

This study is complementary to Lisa Cawthen’s which looks at brushtail den requirements and hollow use, while mine is looking at how resources (i.e. den or food availability, which are altered by disturbance) affect their physiology.  This study is also relevant to the Forest Practices Authority (FPA) biodiversity study on hollow dependent-fauna. This study will provide understanding of the physiological resilience or susceptibility of brushtail possums to habitat disturbance, valuable background information on the physiology and ecology of a very ‘common’ and misunderstood animal, and reference information for future studies as it is a prevalent marsupial study species.  As such, results will hopefully be incorporated into conservation management actions in Tasmania by the Forest Practices Authority.While doing my undergraduate degrees, I was both a zookeeper and a laboratory technician. I was excited about the opportunity to combine these skills and experiences. I love being out in the bush and working with animals! I am very interested in reproduction, conservation, and ecology and my project allows me to deal with all of these aspects.

My supervisors are Associate Professor Susan Jones and Dr Sarah Munks of the University of Tasmania.This project is part of the CRC for Forestry Biodiversity Project (4.2), subproject 4.2.5 on management of forest species of high conservation significance, including threatened species. To browse other PhD projects available with the Biodiversity Project, click here

An article featuring an update on my project features in BioBuzz 6.