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Cambridge PhD student researches heath goannas on YP

The latest update from Cambridge PhD student Tom Jameson about heath goannas on Yorke Peninsula

Posted on: 13th December 2022

Counting blowfly maggots. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for Cambridge PhD student Tom Jameson, it’s an important part of data collection for his research into the role that reptiles play in rewilding projects, like Marna Banggara. Tom has spent 2 stints on Yorke Peninsula researching heath goannas, and how they remove carcasses, support nutrient cycling and reduce the transmission of disease to native species, livestock, and humans.

With little known about Yorke Peninsula’s heath goannas, Tom set about collecting baseline data. He also visited Kangaroo Island during his latest visit, where there is a larger population. He’s now back in the United Kingdom to crunch the numbers and uncover key findings from his research.

But in the meantime, what do blowfly maggots have to do with goanna research? Scavengers like heath goannas may provide a very important role in limiting fly strike and other diseases by eating animal carcasses that blowflies breed inside, removing them from the landscape. To investigate this, Tom set up 180 baits and later, he and his volunteers counted 32,777 blowfly maggots. They found that heath goannas removed 45% of available carcasses on Kangaroo Island, significantly reducing blowfly production (maggots).

Tom says this result suggests that increasing the goanna population on Yorke Peninsula could increase the provision of scavenging services and reduce harmful blowfly populations. Food for thought!

Read blog written by Tom Jameson