By Kevin Newman, La Trobe University

We started this research project without really knowing where we were going to end up. We had our data, five years of frog surveys collected at the La Trobe Wildlife Sanctuary and an idea. Hopping straight into learning new methodologies and applying those to real world applications when people are interested in the outcome of your research is a new challenge. Would I find anything of value? Would it work? Would we end up with something that I could write a full report on? These were all the questions that I had going through my head before starting the six-week project. Well, six-weeks is a bit of an understatement when it comes down to it.

The first job was to handle the tedious task of cleaning and organising the data into a format that we could use for the modelling and then the real fun begins. I spent many hours pouring over papers, coding in R, rewriting code, running new code, trying to understand why I was getting the output I was getting and stressing to my supervisor that I didn’t really know what I was doing (even though I probably did, it just felt like it). Thankfully Natalie was always calm and collected and knew which direction to steer me in to help me past my roadblock.

We hit a few snags along the way, but the vacation research has really opened my eyes and piqued my interest to continue with this kind of work. As for the frogs at the sanctuary, we are seeing a trend towards a decline in occupancy, the probability that they occupy one of the sixteen sites regularly monitored in the sanctuary, for four out of the five species that are present in the sanctuary. This was observed based on a multiseason approach which is an extension of the modelling that we started the research project on. Our five species are the Common Froglet [Crinia signifera] (stable population), Eastern Banjo Frog [Limnodynastes dumerilii] (decline), Spotted Marsh Frog [Limnodynastes tasmanienses], Southern Brown Tree Frog [Litoria ewingii] and Peron’s Tree Frog [Litoria peronii]; the latter four being the species with declining occupancy probabilities.

Being able to understand the way that species are dispersed within an area allows us to develop conservation strategies to ensure that they are still around for many years to come. I would like to thank the La Trobe Wildlife Sanctuary for providing the data, Natalie Karavarsamis for her supervision and patience and my partner Robert Ashworth for putting up with my many stressful days.


Kevin Newman was a recipient of a 2018/19 AMSI Vacation Research Scholarship.

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