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Funding stream for high-tech platypus study

News Article Date: 
Wednesday, 29 August 2018

In a project that wouldn’t be out of place in a Jurassic Park film, Warrnambool City Council and MAD for the Merri will begin collecting platypus DNA in order to better understand the habits of these mysterious monotremes.

Using the latest scientific methods, water samples will be taken from the upper Merri River at Grasmere to detect if platypuses have been present in the environment.

This is done by searching for Environmental DNA (eDNA), which can be found in the cells shed by platypuses in the water.

This work, along with revegetation, fencing and willow removal will be funded by a $13,420 grant from Landcare Victoria.

Warrnambool and District Landcare Network Facilitator Matt King said that this research aimed to show the range of Merri River platypuses.

“This really is cutting edge technology and we are very excited to be able to implement it in Warrnambool,” he said.

“While platypuses are spotted from time to time in the lower Merri, we don’t know how far up-river they can be found.

“Platypus eDNA can remain in the water for weeks after being shed.

“As we continue our conservation efforts along the Merri, being able to chart the platypus population will be an excellent way to measure our success.

“It will also help with future funding applications to expand our land care program further along the Merri.”

Platypuses are currently listed as “near threatened” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, which means it is “likely to become endangered in the near future”.

Warrnambool Coastcare Landcare, MAD for the Merri and Warrnambool City Council have successfully applied for $66,470 in external funding for conservation projects over the past year.

Projects include:
• A biodiversity grant for Maam Reserve for flora and fauna surveys, revegetation and weed control
• A collaborative project with Eastern Maar at Thunder Point for erosion control and cultural awareness programs
• The revegetation of the Merri River banks between the Wollaston and Cassidys bridges


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