Current Research

Current Research

The work of Taronga’s scientists encompasses many important areas of scientific endeavour, from the enormous living organism that is the Great Barrier Reef to the tiny Corroboree Frog. 

Below are the current projects that the Taronga team is leading and contributing to in the areas of Ecology, Populations Dynamics and Viability, Wildlife Health and Behaviour and Nutrition.

Ecology

A dingo in long grass
A dingo in long grass

Developing a scent-based management tool for Dingoes and other Wild Dogs in Australia

This project aims to develop biologically relevant predator management tools based on the dingo's natural communication system. Understanding how long particular critical signals persist in dingo scent marks under natural conditions is critical to applying these territorial signals to manage the movements of dingoes in key areas including around reintroduction sites and livestock areas.

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A dingo in long grass
Regent Honeyeater
Regent Honeyeater

Regent Honeyeater study: Impact of zoo-based life experience, health indices and demographics on post-release fitness and survival

The aim of the project is to identify trends in the relationship between zoo based experiences, health data and characteristics of post-release birds. The first trial release occurred in 2000 at Capertee, NSW.

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Regent Honeyeater
Port Jackson Shark
Port Jackson Shark

Wild Shark social networks

Sharks are apex predators and have played a key role in keeping our oceans healthy for millions of years. Our work on wild Port Jackson (PJ) sharks in Jervis Bay since 2012 using novel acoustic monitoring and genetic analyses has revealed important knowledge of their ecology and life history.

 

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Port Jackson Shark
The iCow project
The iCow project

Human-wildlife conflict program, Botswana

The welfare of humans and animals is impacted by livestock-carnivore conflicts. Dr Neil Jordan has several projects underway and under-development as part of his ongoing research program in Botswana within the broad theme of livestock-carnivore conflict mitigation.

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The iCow project
Platypus
Platypus

Platypus futures

Multiple groups have been working hard to improve our understanding of impacts of river system regulation (dams, diversions) and climate change on platypus health and distribution, with the goal to reduce extinction risk.

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Platypus
Paddling surfer
Paddling surfer

Making the waves safe

For over 30 years, Taronga has housed the Australian Shark Attack File and has an established reputation for research in shark biology. In response to multiple human fatalities from shark attacks in recent years, the NSW DPI Fisheries, commissioned a review of current and emerging shark deterrent technologies and in 2015 convened a Scientific Shark Summit to address the issue of shark attacks.

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Paddling surfer

Population Dynamics and Viability

Coral reef
Coral reef

Reef Recovery

The Great Barrier Reef and other reef systems around the world are threatened by multiple processes, particularly ocean acidification and warming as a result of climate change. Reefs are complex life support systems and their degradation has devastating impacts on marine and terrestrial animal populations, including humans.

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Coral reef
Australian Little Penguins
Australian Little Penguins

Sensing the seascape

This project focuses on a biodiversity hotspot and also a literal climatic hotspot on the area on and around Montague Island on the south-eastern coast of Australia. The work involves assessing the effects of climate change on predator and prey species in this ecosystem and to use this knowledge to guide policies on human activities in the area.

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Australian Little Penguins
Echidna quills
Echidna quills

Forensic science and native animal conservation

Huge discrepancies have bee identified between the number of apparently ‘captive-bred’ animals being exported overseas, and the capacity of actual breeding programs. Up until now there has been no scientific tool available to test if an animal has been raised in captivity or taken from the wild. Taronga’s Forensic team has developed an exciting, novel method to identify the origin of the animal.

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Echidna quills
Southern Corroboree Frogs
Southern Corroboree Frogs

Amphibian IVF

Assisted reproductive techniques (ART), similar to that used in humans, have been adapted for many species of wildlife around the world. Now, we hope to develop and use ART with four critically endangered Australian frog species.

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Southern Corroboree Frogs
Dr Rebecca Hobbs in the lab
Dr Rebecca Hobbs in the lab

Semen collection and cryopreservation in the Eastern Water Skink

To our knowledge, there are only four published reports of successful semen collection in lizards: common geckos, green iguana, brown anole and McCann's skink; and only one detailed study of reproductive physiology and ejaculate traits.

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Dr Rebecca Hobbs in the lab

Wildlife Heath

Christmas Island
Christmas Island

Christmas Island Habitat Health

Christmas Island is home to several highly threatened species of reptiles, two of which have since become extinct-in-the-wild. Highly successful captive breeding programs were established on Christmas Island and at Taronga in 2009 and have rescued both species from extinction, and re-introductions are currently underway in predator-proof “soft release” sites on the island.

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Christmas Island
Koala joey
Koala joey

Do Koala Retrovirus variants alter immune function in captive koalas?

This project aims to determine whether there is any detectable impact of Koala Retroviruses on the immune system of the Koala. 

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Koala joey
Long-nosed Potoroo
Long-nosed Potoroo

Health Assessment and translocation of Long-nosed Potoroo, Southern Brown Bandicoots and Eastern Quolls

At least 36 Long-nosed Potoroos will be translocated over three years into Booderee NP following veterinary evaluation and health assessment provided by the Australian Registry of Wildlife Health at Taronga. It has been more than 100 years since Long-nosed Potoroos roamed Booderee NP.

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Long-nosed Potoroo
A sea turtle getting ready for release
A sea turtle getting ready for release

Satellite tracking of Sea Turtles

Satellite tracking of rehabilitated sea turtles will provide a better indication of release success, especially if the satellite tags remain functional for an extended period of time once the turtles are released to sea. Tracking can help indicate the level of impact of marine pollution/human interaction on turtles and provide critical information about habitat use.

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A sea turtle getting ready for release
Bellinger River Snapping Turtle hatchling
Bellinger River Snapping Turtle hatchling

Bellinger River Snapping Turtle: mortality investigation, virus ecology and husbandry

Following the collaborative project that led to the rapid detection and diagnosis of the diseases causing the Bellinger River Turtle decline, this project will understand the ecology of the virus to assess risks posed to other species and waterways and build an experimental model and diagnostic tests to inform the development and assessment of disease control methods, including the potential development of a vaccine.

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Bellinger River Snapping Turtle hatchling
The investigation spans from Tasmania to Northern NSW
The investigation spans from Tasmania to Northern NSW

Disease Investigation - Risso’s Dolphin Mortalities

The Registry is leading an investigation into an unusual mortality event involving at least 21 Risso’s Dolphins spanning from Tasmania to Northern NSW since the end of August 2014. These dolphins are pelagic and rarely come ashore. 

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The investigation spans from Tasmania to Northern NSW
Egg shells
Egg shells

Origins and potential impacts of a multisystemic bacterial infection emergent in Christmas Island Geckos

An unusual Enterococcus species has been identified as the cause of severe facial swellings and multi-systemic infection in Christmas Island Geckos. There are grave concerns that the infection could become established in the last remaining endemic reptile species on the island, the Christmas Island Giant Gecko.

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Egg shells

Behaviour and Nutrition

Tasmanian Devil joeys
Tasmanian Devil joeys

Dining with Dasyurids

Healthy populations of threatened dasyurid marsupials at Taronga like the Tasmanian devil and the northern quoll are crucial for ongoing wild reintroduction programs.

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Tasmanian Devil joeys
Australian Native Brush Turkey
Australian Native Brush Turkey

Urban management of free-ranging Brush Turkeys

Brush Turkeys are increasingly being seen as a pest around suburban Sydney. The aim of this project is to gauge public perceptions around turkeys in general and study the basic behavioural profile of those Brush Turkeys within the zoo grounds. 

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Australian Native Brush Turkey
A satellite tracking device being placed on a sea turtle's shell
A satellite tracking device being placed on a sea turtle's shell

Building the next generation of analysis tools for animal tracking data

Tracking animals with electronic telemetry devices to gain insight into where they go, how they use their environment and their interactions with other animals has become a major research focus in ecology. However, a lack of statistically sound and intuitive analysis tools has meant that the true potential of animal movement data is often unexplored.

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A satellite tracking device being placed on a sea turtle's shell
Southern Corroboree Frogs
Southern Corroboree Frogs

A silver spoon start to life: investigating the effect of dietary carotenoids on fitness-determining traits in the critically endangered Southern Corroboree Frog

Taronga is a partner on an investigation into the effect of dietary carotenoids on fitness determining traits in the critically endangered Southern Corroboree Frog. 

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Southern Corroboree Frogs