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Mr Michael Todd

profile_todd_thumbMr Michael Todd
PhD student

Topic: ecological requirements of the Tasmanian masked owl Tyto novaehollandiae castanops

University of Tasmania

Tree hollows have been identified as being critically important for many animal species both as roosting sites and nesting sites. Australian eucalypt forests are particularly prone to forming tree hollows yet it can take more than 120 years for these trees to begin hollow development. This presents a dilemma for those involved with forest management who have a responsibility to manage sustainably the hollow resource and the animals that live within them while still maintaining production.

The Tasmanian masked owl is Tasmania’s largest nocturnal bird-of-prey and the largest of the world’s barn owls (genus Tyto). It is a listed endangered species in Tasmania with a breeding population estimated at 1,100 individuals. It requires cavities in large over-mature eucalypt trees for nesting of dimensions between 95-191 cm in diameter and over 165 years of age.

My study proposes to investigate the the Tasmanian masked owl's breeding requirements, territory size, habitat use and their relationship to each other. Forest stand variables that define suitable nesting habitat and the value of habitat retained after logging will be investigated. A key question to be answered will be whether the masked owl is occurring in areas with an above-average density of large owl-suitable tree hollows and whether a specific density of tree hollows is required for their survival. It follows on from the PhD project of Amy Koch on tree hollows in Eucalyptus obliqua forest that also had support from the CRC for Forestry.

The project will compile baseline information on the ecological requirements of the Tasmanian masked owl. From this prescriptions and guidelines for the management of the Tasmanian masked owl in production forests and other proposed developments associated with forest environments will be constructed. It is anticipated that this will inform forest practices plans in the future.

After finishing my honours in 1995 at the University of Newcastle, I’ve worked in fauna research and conservation planning overseas (Hawaii) and in Australia, in state and local government in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia. I worked for the Tropical Savannas CRC between 1998 and 2000 researching two species of endangered finch in northern Australia. Before coming to Tasmania I was working as an environmental planner in local government in New South Wales. I was looking for a new challenge, and decided that the Tasmanian masked owl was the challenge I sought.

My supervisors are Associate Professor Alastair Richardson and Dr Sarah Munks (University of Tasmania), Dr Phil Bell (Nature Conservation Branch, DPIW, Tasmania) and Dr Rod Kavanagh (DPI, NSW).

This project is part of the CRC for Forestry Biodiversity Project (Project 4.2), subproject 4.2.5 on management of forest species of high conservation significance, including threatened species.

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