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.

As a PhD student with the University of Melbourne and Museum Victoria, my research focuses 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).

I’m looking into the factors that govern their distributions and the causes of decline, so that we can better protect and manage remaining populations. I’m also working on optimising survey designs to locate populations and detect shifts in occupancy and abundance, and testing the precision of species distribution models on the ground.

By assessing the genetic relationships among extinct and extant New Holland Mouse populations, I am investigating historical patterns of connectivity and the timing of declines. As well as checking what genetic diversity we may have lost, and what we should focus on conserving.

– Phoebe A. Burns

Phoebe and a New Holland Mouse
Phoebe Burns with a New Holland Mouse

During my Masters research, I explored the response of Smoky Mice to the 2013 Victoria Valley bushfire in the Grampians-Gariwerd National Park, western Victoria. 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 through my PhD, I’m looking at the factors influencing short-term smoky mouse population fluctuations in the Grampians.


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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