24 October 2018
Microbat genetics under the microscope
Microbats, as tiny as a spoonful of sugar, have captivated the heart and mind of Murdoch University PhD student Diana Prada, who has been working alongside Alcoa’s mining environmental team in a quest to research the population genetics of different microbat species throughout the South-West.
Diana and the Alcoa team travelled a labyrinth of dirt roads near Dwellingup to one of the oldest patches of bush in the jarrah forest, where bat communities thrive.
Alcoa Sustainability Manager, Andrew Grigg said Diana’s project on bat genetics across the South-West was a useful extension to Alcoa’s own research into jarrah forest bats.
“We have had bat-related studies conducted by other researchers within mine rehabilitation and surrounding forest in the past few years, which reflects Alcoa’s ongoing environmental research program to protect biodiversity values,” Andrew said.
Microbats are known as important pest controllers within the jarrah forest ecosystem and the study of microbat genetics allows Diana to understand their genetic diversity, patterns of migration and population trends.
Out of nine microbat species in the jarrah forest, the team managed to catch six, including three variations of the long ear bat.
Diana said the highlight of the trip was catching a Western False Pipistrelle (Falsistrellus mackenziei) bat – a species unique to WA’s South-West jarrah forest and not found anywhere else in the world.
“We have collected more samples than we could have imagined. I could not have wished for a better trip or more amazing crew,” Diana said.
Alcoa continues to support the local community and environmental conservation by engaging its teams in local projects.
Diana’s research is financially supported by Murdoch University, the Gunduwa Regional Conservation Association, the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment and the Australian Wildlife Society.
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