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Posted on 28/06/2019 by Phillip Island Nature Parks

Cape Barren Geese study commences

Phillip Island Nature Parks is supporting a ground-breaking collaborative research project to investigate the impact of Cape Barren geese on forage crops and renovated pasture on Phillip Island.

This project is the first of its kind on Phillip Island and is a joint effort between Phillip Island Nature Parks, Federation University and the Phillip Island agricultural community.

It represents the Nature Parks’ commitment as outlined in our Conservation Plan 2019-2023 towards evidence-based solutions for living with wildlife through direct research and working in partnerships.

Trial sites have been established on two Phillip Island farms. Measurements of pasture growth will be used to determine the effect of grazing by wildlife and rabbits on the yield of forage crops and pastures. Fifteen cameras on the sites take photos every fifteen minutes, this will help to identify the species impacting the agricultural outcomes which also includes rabbits. The findings will enable an estimation of the economic impact caused by the losses of pasture and forage crops.

Nature Parks Board member, Dr Danielle Auldist in her role as lecturer with Federation University Australia, is working with the Nature Parks’ Research Director, Dr Peter Dann on the project.  They are being assisted by members of the Island’s farmer discussion group and its facilitator, agricultural consultant, John Gallienne.

“This research has been designed to quantify the extent of goose grazing in newly sown crops and renovated pasture,” says Dr Dann.

“The Nature Parks is taking a whole of Island approach to living with wildlife. We are the stewards of the Island’s nature reserves while farmers look after a large proportion of other areas on the Island. It should be that the island can have profitable agriculture, biodiversity and tourism opportunities. It’s all about balance.”

“We are aiming for Phillip Island to have both profitable agricultural systems and healthy wildlife populations.”

The project has the support of Phillip Island’s farmers and land managers,

“In order to manage the issue, we need data,” says Bill Cleeland, one of the farmers involved.

“We are happy to live with wildlife, but there needs to be a balance.”

Ian McFee, another farmer involved in the project, says: “We are very grateful for the support of the Nature Parks in this initiative.”

Celeste Fraser is the Federation University student undertaking the study. Last year she completed an undergraduate degree in wildlife and veterinary science and has now started her Honours. She has visited AgVic’s Ellinbank Research Institute to learn the measurement and sampling skills needed for the research.

“I want to find solutions to manage wildlife and agriculture,” says Celeste.

“It’s about good relationships and maintaining a balance between conservation and agriculture.”

The field component of the first phase of the study is expected to be completed in October 2019. Results will be shared with farmers through the Island Goose Consortium and presented to Department Environment Land Water and Planning.