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February 24th 2013 print

Science as she is done

Little seen but much feared, the Australian Drop Bear is the subject of a new and groundbreaking peer-reviewed paper. While it makes no mention of climate change, students of catastropharian literature will nevertheless recognise all the hallmarks of modern academic inquiry


One of the most important and remarkable papers in the entire history of settled Australian science was published late in 2012. Employing the methods pioneered by state-of-the-art, world-class climate scientists, it is replete with peer-reviewed citations and builds upon the body of grant-subsidised knowledge that continues to boost travel and symposia budgets for leading academics, medium-heft academics and ambitious grad students keen to see the world.


ABSTRACT Animal tagging and tracking has been a fundamental tool in the quest to increase our knowledge and understanding of biogeography and ecology for about 50 years. Monitoring animal populations is also necessary for conservation purposes and to limit negative effects on the human population, particularly in an era of human expansion into traditional animal habitats. The use of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technology has been responsible for significant advances in this field by providing the ability to obtain accurate, regular and frequent estimates of the changing distributions of many rare animal species. Employing conventional GNSS-based animal tracking methods to study drop bears is extremely difficult due to their habitat. The dense tree canopy regularly causes extended periods of complete GNSS signal loss, and sensors are often damaged during attacks on prey. This paper proposes an indirect, GNSS-based method for tracking drop bears. This involves tracking the prey rather than the predator in order to map the population of drop bears in a particular area. The method can be used to effectively estimate the number of drop bears in the study area. Analysis of the collected data provides valuable insights into the hunting behaviour of drop bears and has implications for a better understanding of the geographical distribution of other rare species, including hoop snakes and bunyips.

While the full paper will undoubtedly be promoted at great length by ABC science reporters and Fairfax envirtonmental editors, Quadrant Online readers can download and read the entire document by clicking here.