Issue 19
Monday, 06 November 2017
Charles Darwin University
E-news
PhD candidate Simon Votto inspects a Central Australian riverbed. Image: Charles Davis
PhD candidate Simon Votto inspects a Central Australian riverbed. Image: Charles Davis

PhD candidate hopes for scorching summer

By Patrick Nelson

An environmental science student says a hot and dry Central Australian summer will give him the perfect conditions to get his PhD research project off to a flying start.

Simon Votto, who is based in Canberra, is preparing for eight weeks of field work early next year during which he will monitor bird behaviour at several permanent waterholes in the Red Centre.

“I’ll be setting up motion-sensing infrared cameras at springs, waterholes and rock holes in the West MacDonnell, Finke Gorge and Watarrka national parks,” Simon said. 

“I’m investigating to what degree bush birds, birds of prey and parrots rely on waterholes when the surrounding landscape dries out.”

He said answers to questions about patterns and processes affecting bird communities associated with permanent water would become more critical as Central Australia became hotter, as predicted, and potentially drier.

“We know many of these species rely on wetlands to drink, bathe, feed, rest and find shelter. Results from my Honours thesis suggest their daily visitation rates to these waterholes increase once the temperature exceeds 35C, but do avian assemblages differ among waterhole type?”

Simon said that sampling would take place at nine survey sites over consecutive summers and also during the winter for the next two years.