Rats and mice have been evolving in Australia for around 4 million years. And no, I’m not talking about ‘marsupial mice’, I mean proper rodents – no pouches. Australia used to be home to ~65 amazingly diverse and bizarre species of native rodent, but in the past 200 years we’ve accidentally wiped out 15 of those species. Of the remaining 50 or so rodent species we have, 24 are currently threatened with extinction.
Recently, I completed my PhD at the University of Melbourne and Museums Victoria. During postgraduate studies and as an independent ecological consultant, my research has focused on two of our threatened Aussie rodent species that have both declined drastically in the past 40 years – New Holland Mice (Pseudomys novaehollandiae) and Smoky Mice (Pseudomys fumeus).
Dr Phoebe A. Burns
For my Masters project, I explored the response of Smoky Mice to the 2013 Victoria Valley bushfire in the Grampians-Gariwerd National Park. I assessed the species long- and short-term persistence in the Victoria Range using data from across a patchy 40 year survey history, and my own extensive surveying in 2013. Continuing this work, I’ve recently been looking at the factors influencing short-term Smoky Mouse population fluctuations in the Grampians.
During my PhD, I investigated the status of New Holland Mice in Victoria, assessed historical survey efforts and refined optimal survey methods, tested the precision of species distribution models, evaluated the species’ relationship with fire, and resurveyed much of the state. I found that New Holland Mice have been lost from seven of twelve historically occupied regions, and that urgent action is required to halt declines. 
Working with Emily Roycroft, we are assessing the genetic relationships among extinct and extant New Holland Mouse populations, investigating historical patterns of connectivity and the timing of declines. Checking what genetic diversity we have lost will help us to figure out what we should focus on conserving.

Thank you to the following organisations for providing research funding:

  • Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment
  • Parks Victoria
  • Zoos Victoria
  • Paddy Pallin Science Grant
  • Friends of Grampians-Gariwerd
  • The Linnaen Society of NSW – Joyce W. Vickery Scientific Research Fund
  • Royal Zoological Society of NSW – Ethel Mary Read Grant
  • Museum Victoria 1854 Student Scholarship
  • The FNCV Environment Fund

All views published on this site are my own.

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