Katherine Moseby

Katherine Moseby

Dr Katherine Moseby is a DECRA Research Fellow with the Centre for Ecosystem Science at UNSW. She has a PhD in reintroduction biology from the University of Adelaide and over 25 years experience with reintroductions and research into threatened species and feral animals. Katherine's DECRA will investigate specialization in the hunting behavior of feral cats and the impacts on reintroduced threatened species. She hopes to improve our understanding of predator-prey relationships between native prey and introduced predators with the view to improving conservation outcomes for threatened species. Katherine also conducts research into optimum reintroduction strategies, effectiveness of feral control methods, development of new technologies for feral control, threatened species ecology and arid zone ecology. One of her main interests is facilitating the co-existence of native mammals and introduced predators through novel techniques. 

Katherine supervises Honours and PhD students on a range of species including bilbies, quolls, possums, bettongs, bandicoots, native rodents and arid zone reptiles and birds. Topics are as diverse as land use impacts on threatened species, behavioural change and selection, interactions between predators and prey, improving reintroduction success, the ecological effects of individual differences in personality and restoration of ecosystems after threat removal.

Katherine is a member of the Executive Management Committee for the Wild Deserts project which aims to reintroduce 7 locally extinct threatened species to NSW. She is also on the Scientific Advisory Committee for the National Bilby Recovery Team and the Great Victoria Desert Biodiversity Trust (WA) as well as being the conservation representative on the Wild Dog Management Board and Principal Scientific Advisor to Arid Recovery in South Australia. Katherine is passionate about improving the conservation outcomes for Australia's native species through research and on ground action.

 

Email: k.moseby@unsw.edu.au

Phone: 0407617679 or 0886481878

Publications

Author Date Title Link PDF
Steindler et al 2018 Discrimination of introduced predators by ontogenetically naïve prey scales with duration of shared evolutionary history

Abstract: Hypotheses on the discrimination and recognition of predators by prey are divided as to whether the prey species' ability to recognize and avoid predators is proportionate to the duration of evolutionary exposure to specific predators or is a result of more generalized discrimination processes. Moreover, understanding of the timeframes necessary for prey species to maintain or acquire appropriate responses to introduced predators is poorly understood. We studied a population of wild, ontogenetically predator naïve greater bilbies, Macrotis lagotis, living within a large (60 km2) predator-free exclosure, to determine whether they modified their burrow-emergence behaviour in response to olfactory stimuli from introduced predators, dogs, Canis familiaris, and cats, Felis catus. Greater bilbies have shared over 3000 years of coevolutionary history with dogs but less than 200 years with cats. Bilbies spent more time only partially emerged (with at most head and shoulders out) as opposed to fully emerged (standing quadrupedally or bipedally) from their burrows when dog faeces were present, in comparison to faeces of cats, rabbits and an unscented control. Our results were consistent with the ‘ghosts of predator past’ hypothesis, which postulates that prey species' abilities to respond to the odours of predators scales with their period of coexistence. Our study supports the notion that introduced predators should be regarded as naturalized if prey possess an innate ability to detect their cues and respond accordingly.

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West et al. 2018 Predator exposure improves anti‐predator responses in a threatened mammal

Abstract

1. Incorporating an understanding of animal behaviour into conservation programmes can influence conservation outcomes. Exotic predators can have devastating impacts on native prey species and thwart reintroduction efforts, in part due to prey naïveté caused by an absence of co‐evolution between predators and prey. Attempts have been made to improve the anti‐predator behaviours of reintroduced native prey by conducting laboratory‐based predator recognition training but results have been varied and have rarely led to improved survival in reintroduction programmes.

2. We investigated whether in situ predator exposure could improve anti‐predator responses of a predator‐naïve mammal by exposing prey populations to low densities of introduced predators under controlled conditions. We reintroduced 352 burrowing bettongs to a 26‐km2 fenced exclosure at the Arid Recovery Reserve in South Australia and exposed them to feral cats (density 0.03–0.15 cats/km2) over an 18‐month period. At the same time, we translocated a different group of bettongs into an exclosure free of introduced predators, as a control. We compared three behaviours (flight initiation distances, trap docility and behaviour at feeding trays) of cat‐exposed and control bettongs before the translocations, then at 6, 12 and 18 months post‐translocation.

3. Cat‐exposed bettongs displayed changes in behaviour that suggested increased wariness, relative to control bettongs. At 18 months post‐reintroduction, cat‐exposed bettongs had greater flight initiation distances and approached feed trays more slowly than control bettongs. Cat‐exposed bettongs also increased their trap docility over time.

4. Synthesis and applications. Translocation is recommended as a conservation tool for many threatened species yet success rates are generally low. We demonstrate that controlled levels of in situ predator exposure can increase wariness in the behaviour of naïve prey. Our findings provide support for the hypothesis that in situ predator exposure could be used as a method to improve the anti‐predator responses of predator‐naïve threatened species populations.

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Moseby et al. 2018 Designer prey: Can controlled predation accelerate selection for anti-predator traits in naïve populations?

Abstract: Prey naïveté is thought to be a significant factor contributing to the failure of native prey to re-establish in the presence of introduced predators. We tested whether exposing naïve prey to low levels of in situ predation pressure from introduced predators could cause accelerated selection for certain physical or behaviour traits. Such selection could improve the chance of future co-existence between introduced predators and native prey. In 2014, we reintroduced 352 burrowing bettongs (Bettongia lesueur) into a 26 km2 fenced paddock where predation levels could be carefully controlled. Four feral cats (Felis catus) were introduced to the paddock several months after bettong reintroduction and predation events were subsequently recorded. We measured a suite of physical and behavioural traits on the bettongs prior to release and compared these between individuals that survived or were assumed to have died. Population level parameters were also compared between the reintroduced population and the predator-free source population. No a priori measured physical or behavioural traits were significant predictors of individual survival after release and the high survival rate of radio-collared bettongs and the positive population growth rate suggests that the predation pressure from the introduced feral cats may not have been sufficiently high to cause strong selection over a short time period. However, population level comparisons found cat-exposed male bettongs had significantly longer hind feet than the source population at 18–22 months after release. Hind foot length was consistently longer in both older released animals and younger recruits and thus may be an indicator of selection and/or phenotypic change in response to the presence of predators. Our study suggests that predation may cause phenotypic change over short time periods but that higher cat predation pressure may be required to enable the benefits of accelerated natural selection to be adequately assessed.

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