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Meet the team


 
 
Julie

Associate Professor Julie Old is an animal scientist/zoologist at the Western Sydney University in Richmond, NSW. Julie is passionate about wildlife conservation, having completed a PhD and Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in marsupial biology. She has extensive experience in comparative and developmental immunology, native mammal biology, wildlife management, conservation and citizen science. In 2006 Julie joined WSU as an academic in Animal Science. In between teaching, she conducts her own research. Julie’s research combines immunology, developmental biology, molecular biology, anatomy, microscopy, ecological techniques and citizen science to solve important issues in wildlife health and disease, especially marsupials. Since 1998, her research has resulted in over 90 peer-reviewed research publications in high impact journals including PLoS One and DCI. Julie is on the board of the Australian Wildlife Society, and a NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Regional Advisory Committee and Advisory Council member. She also supervises PhD and Masters students working on a range of wombat-related projects. She has been exploring sarcoptic mange in wombats for several years and is very concerned about the plight of wombats. Her observations of wombats suffering with sarcoptic mange led her to develop the Citizen Science project, WomSAT. Using WomSAT Julie aims to enhance the profile of wombats in the wider community and hopes everyone gains a greater appreciation of wombats and their role in the environment. She hopes WomSAT is a tool that will help in successfully managing and conserving these wonderful Australian animals for future generations.

Sujatha

Sujatha Mayadunnage has been working as a Biologist/Ecologist at the Road Development Authority of Sri Lanka for more than 10 years where she was involved in animal-vehicle collision mitigation projects. She is now applying her knowledge and experience to mitigating wombat vehicle collisions in Australia. Sujatha’s PhD research at WSU focuses on identification patterns of wombat road kill using WomSAT as a tool and aims to reduce wombat vehicle collisions by applying low cost site-specific mitigation measures.

Rowan

Rowan Thorley completed her Bachelor of Natural Science (Animal Science) at the end of 2016. Rowan has been passionate about Australian native animals after seeing wombats at the Dubbo Zoo when she was young. After completing her undergraduate degree, Rowan decided to pursue her passion for native animals through a Masters of Philosophy (Animal Science). Rowan’s research focuses on the diet of wombats and its possible correlation with sarcoptic mange, as well as monitoring the severity of mange in a number of wombat populations across NSW. This research is a continuation of previous research conducted by the WomSAT team and aims to increase our understanding of the occurrence of sarcoptic mange. Rowan’s project is funded by a WDA Challenge grant through Experiment, and donations provided to WSU Wombat Research.

Blaire

Blaire Vallin completed her Bachelor of Natural Science (Animal Science) at the end of 2017. Blaire has had a passion for wombats from a young age and took advantage of this by studying sarcoptic mange in wombat populations as a part of her undergraduate final project, where she compared the incidence of the disease along with population sizes in the Wolgan Valley, Rylstone and Merriwa in NSW. She is helps to promote WomSAT on social media including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Blaire’s passion for wombats led her to enrol in WSU’s Master of Research where she is currently studying wombat nutrition, which includes the analysis of wombat scats and commonly consumed vegetation seasonally with the aim of determining whether or not wombats are receiving adequate nutrition. Blaire’s project is funded by a WDA Challenge grant through Experiment, and donations provided to WSU Wombat Research.

Danielle

Danielle Beard is currently studying a Master of Research at WSU. She is investigating ticks and tick-borne diseases in wombats. Danielle is exploring the pathogens and microbial communities in wombat ticks, which may pose an additional threat to wombats affected by sarcoptic mange, using molecular methods. Very little is known about the species of ticks that feed on wombats, the pathogens those ticks carry and transmit, the relationship between the mite Sarcoptes scabiei and other ectoparasites such as ticks, how tick-borne pathogens affect immunocompromised wombats, and more. She is hoping that the results of her research will provide insights into potential tick-borne threats for both healthy and mange-affected wombats, and provide awareness for vets, wildlife carers and others handling wombats. Funds for Danielle’s project are provided through donations received by WSU Wombat Research.

Alisha

Alisha Westerberg is a Master of Research student at WSU investigating volunteers and carers motivations for, and issues associated with, wombat conservation efforts. Her research aims to identify issues faced by volunteers and carers associated with the threats facing wombats and the motivations behind volunteer and carers continued dedication to wombat conservation efforts. Through identifying issues and motivations, it is hoped that the information provided by volunteers and carers will aid in supporting continuation of their work, engage individuals to participate, and create further awareness on the work that volunteers and carers provide in wombat conservation.

Fiona

Fiona Casey is a WSU Master of Research student. She is investigating the diet and nutrition of the critically endangered Northern hairy-nosed wombat and the impact that buffel grass may be having on the species. The research she is conducting is funded by ‘The Wombat Foundation’ and supported by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science.

Hayley

Dr Hayley Stannard is a comparative nutritional ecologist. Current she is a Lecturer at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga. Prior to this she was a Postdoctoral Research Associate on an ARC Linkage Grant with Taronga Zoological Park and the University of Sydney. Her Postdoctoral work developed nutritionally adequate diets for captive dasyurids used in breeding programs. Hayley’s current work is investigating the role of diet and nutrition in wombat sarcoptic mange, and ways we can support wombat health by optimising nutrition. Hayley is also working on northern hairy-nosed wombats, investigating diet and nutrition in this critically endangered species to support recovery efforts.

Jai

Dr Jai Green-Barber is a Fauna Ecologist at Urban Bushland Management Ecological Consultants and has worked as a sessional academic at Western Sydney University for the past 7 years. Her PhD research examined the behaviour, group dynamics, and health of eastern grey kangaroos, and she has studied the behaviour and health of a variety of terrestrial vertebrates for the past 10 years. She has presented her research on the health and behaviour of urban marsupials at conferences such as the Australasian Wildlife Management Society Conference (Brisbane, 2014 & Katoomba, 2017) and International Urban Wildlife Conference (San Diego, 2017). Jai has assisted in multiple wombat spotlighting surveys in the Wolgan Valley, and has promoted WomSAT. She has also created illustrations for promotional purposes and is currently helping to promote WomSAT and all things wombat on Instagram.

Pru

Pru Carpenter first started getting involved with wombats about 7 years ago and volunteered surveying with the team in the Wolgan Valley. Since graduating from a Bachelor of Natural Science (Animal Science) she has continued to be involved with captive and wild wombats. Now residing in Tassie, she believes it is even more important to help save wombats. She currently volunteers through wombat organisations in Tasmania and helps support WomSAT.

Ricky

Associate Professor Ricky Spencer is currently a Zoology academic at the Western Sydney University, Richmond. Prior to joining the team at WSU, Ricky was a Senior Research Scientist within the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre. In this role he helped to develop new vertebrate pest control methodologies. Ricky has continued to explore pest management through his role at WSU. Through a linkage project with the Australian Research Council Ricky, Ricky has devoted the past 20 years studying turtles, as well as evaluating optimal fox management strategies for managing nest predation on turtles and water birds. In 2014 Ricky launched TurtleSAT to help determine the factors affecting turtle populations. 

Peter

Peter West is based at Orange as an Invasive Species Officer/Research Officer with the NSW Department of Primary Industries’ Vertebrate Pest Research Unit. He is also a Project Leader with the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions, and is the national coordinator of the FeralScan program – a community resource for monitoring invasive animals. The platform that FeralScan provides has been shared with Western Sydney University to provide a tool for mapping native animals through WomSAT and TurtleSAT. Peter has played a key role in establishing WomSAT online, and manages the background technology that WomSAT relies upon.

 

Former WomSAT Team members

Chandni

Chandni Sengupta has recently completed her Master of Philosophy (Animal Science) from Western Sydney University. Her study focused on the causal relationship between stress and sarcoptic mange incidence. Her study confirmed that maladaptive physiological stress such as habitat destruction and starvation can increase the chances of developing sarcoptic mange in bare-nosed wombats. This study validated two non-invasive physiological stress monitoring tools that can be successfully used by future researchers to monitor physiological stress in bare-nosed wombats. She has presented her results at the Australian Wildlife Management Society (5-7 December, 2017) and Asia and Oceania Society for Comparative Endocrinology Intercongress (8-12 July, 2018). She has recently presented her completed research at the National Mange Symposium (30th August -1st September 2019).

Candice

Candice Bartlett completed her Bachelor of Natural Science (Animal Science) at the end of 2014. During the last year of her undergraduate degree she studied one of her favourite animals, the Tasmanian Devil, investigating how captive group size affects feeding and social behaviour. Candice decided to continue her studies in 2015 through the honours program at WSU. Her interests include animal welfare and wildlife education. Wombats are one of Candice’s other favourite animals. Through her honours program she helped launch WomSAT into the Australian community. Candice worked with community groups to promote WomSAT. She went on to work at ACIAR and is now working at the Invasive Animal Council.

Eden

Eden Hermsen recently graduated the Bachelor of Natural Science (Advanced) (Animal Science). During her undergraduate degree Eden was fortunate enough to work on a wide variety of research projects including marsupial immunology, mollusc genetics, macropod behaviour and ringtail possum diets. Eden’s interest in wombats arose during a small project she conducted in 2014 which involved studying wombats suffering from sarcoptic mange. She enjoyed the project so much she decided to take the study further for her Honours project in 2015. Eden assessed the severity of sarcoptic mange in wombat populations in the Wolgan Valley and Mudgee area of NSW, using genetics. Eden used WomSAT during her Honours year to log wombat and burrow sightings. The data collected assisted Eden’s Honours project by providing distribution information on sarcoptic mange. Eden is now studying veterinary medicine in London.

 

 

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