Powerlink partners with university to boost koala population in Brisbane

A koala research project aimed at enhancing habitat values and monitoring koala health is being conducted in the Brisbane Valley by the University of Queensland (UQ) in partnership with the state’s high-voltage electricity transmission service provider, Powerlink Queensland.

UQ’s Sustainable Minerals Institute research fellow Dr Bill Ellis said the project involved acquiring information on the location and genetic identity of the local koala population, establishing the impact of disease and undertaking revegetation trials.

“We’re conducting our research primarily on Powerlink-owned land, including 20ha set aside for koala habitat restoration, with support from Somerset Regional Council and local landowners,” he said.

“For the past 18 months, we’ve been following 30 koalas, having fitted some with radio collars with GPS capabilities and proximity loggers, to better understand their habitat use and social behaviour.

“Our team is also examining their health – in particular, testing for chlamydial infection, looking for clinical signs of disease and monitoring reproduction in the local population.”

Powerlink chief executive Merryn York said the research project gave Powerlink an opportunity to work with Queensland’s leading koala researchers to gain best-practice advice on building and maintaining transmission infrastructure near koala habitats.

“The research will also give us a better understanding of koala populations in the Brisbane Valley area and help strengthen our environmental management processes at other Powerlink sites across the state,” Ms York said.

Through population studies, the research team is trying to ascertain the genetic distinctiveness of the koala group, determine what challenges they face and plan to improve the population’s health.

The research team is also conducting revegetation trials to determine the most appropriate koala food and shelter trees to plant in a cost-effective manner.