Training wild quolls not to eat cane toads
Our research was featured in an iconic Australian comic strip, First dog on the Moon. This has to be a career highlight!
Stress helps cane toads' desert invasion
Cane toads (Rhinella marina) are highly toxic invaders that were deliberately introduced to Australia in 1935. Since then, they have spread across much of northern Australia. Recently, toads invaded the fringes of the Tanami Desert, one of the most inhospitable places on the planet. We manipulated toad stress hormones to find out how they cope with high temperatures and desiccation stress.
Quoll School - training quolls not to eat cane toads
The Northern Quoll's taste for cane toads isn't helping its chances of survival. To wean them off this deadly diet, we founded the Quoll School, with enough cane toad sausages on the menu to turn the quolls off toads forever.
Restricting toad's access to water could halt the toad invasion
Cane toads recently invaded desert regions of Australia. How do cane toads survive in this hot, dry, semi-arid landscape?
Honours student Daniel Florance radio-tracked adult toads and discovered that adult toads have to soak in farm dams every 3 days to survive. Hence, the provision of artificial water (bore-fed dams) for grazing livestock has enabled toads to survive in arid regions of Australia.
By restricting the toads' access to these artificial water sources, we eradicated cane toads from a large area. We showed that a simple method - replacing earthen dams with plastic water tanks - could prevent cane toads from invading the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Keeping the Pilbara toad-free would have enormous conservation and cultural benefits.
Sexual deceit helps lady-boy lizards mate
How do young, male lizards desperate to mate, access females and avoid attack from older males? We found that young young male Augrabies flat lizards (Platysaurus broadleyi) hide their colours so as to imitate plain, brown females. Imitating a female allows the juvenile lizards to mate with females, without being detected and driven away by the larger, territorial, adult males, who will chase and bite their young rivals.
Desert cane toads no longer nocturnal
Adult cane toads are usually active at night. However, they have radically altered their activity patterns to survive in arid Australia. We used acoustic fish tags, like the one attached to this toad, to discover how often toads visited farm dams to rehydrate near the Tanami Desert. Amazingly, cane toads made most visits to the water during the day time! The toads' extraordinarily plastic behaviour has allowed them to colonise one of Australia's most hostile environments, and explains why they are one of the world's most successful invasive species.