Research and Discovery

Mourachan has been a hub for wildlife research; we’ve had a number of researchers studying the wildlife that inhabits the property.

Melissa Bruton from the University of Queensland studied the woma python, a non-venomous species of snake endemic to Australia. Australia Zoo veterinarians implanted radio transmitters into twelve pythons, which Melissa then tracked as a part of her PhD study into the habitat and movement of these rare nocturnal pythons.

“The Brigalow Belt is a well-known reptile diversity hotspot and there are a large number of species present, including some that are endemic to the region,” Melissa said. “The main goal of my project is to work out how different habitats affect reptile diversity and abundance out here and why some species have declined while others have increased in altered habitats.”

“It is important to understand how different ecosystem types at different stages of recovery (i.e. cleared, regrowth, uncleared) influence the reptile communities, so recovery efforts and future clearing legislation can be guided by accurate information,” she said.

“The second aim of my project is to work out how often and how far woma pythons move and the habitats they use. To do this, I will be implanting radio-transmitters into the body cavity of several larger pythons and radio-tracking them for one year each.”

In August 2014, Steve McAlpin from the University of Armidale began a field project based at Mourachan. Steve is currently studying the distribution and natural history of the Near Threatened yakka skink, a large burrowing lizard.

“The yakka skink is a large, colonial species that appears to live in family groups. It is a listed threatened species, as ‘Vulnerable’ under both Queensland and Federal legislation. Most people have heard of the yakka skink but very little is known of its biology and ecology and nothing has been published on its habitat requirements, social structure or mating system. Currently any management decisions are being made in a knowledge vacuum so this study will provide very important information in order for the yakka skink to have informed and relevant management,” Steve said.

There are a number of studies being conducted into the regrowth of vegetation, as well as the effects of cattle on native species. Future studies are currently being coordinated to understand the effects of invasive cane toads, which are not yet present on the property.