Koala genetics study investigations underway

ARTC Inland Rail is partnering with Environmental Resources Management Australia (ERM) and the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) to study koala populations along eight sections of the Inland Rail alignment.

July 15, 2022

Image of a koala sleeping in a tree

Study insights will be used to inform koala management plans for each impacted Inland Rail project and enable our project teams and construction contractors to develop solutions that can protect and support sustainable koala populations during construction.

Our field investigation team of two researchers is looking for sightings and evidence of koalas. The team is assisted by a koala detection dog from USC Detection Dogs for Conservation, that is trained to smell and detect koala scat (faecal matter).

Investigations will occur at road reserves, public bushland and selected private properties (where permission has been granted prior) in eight Inland Rail project areas between Acacia Ridge in Queensland and Narromine in NSW. The study began in June in Queensland and will continue into Northern NSW in mid-July, progressing further south along the alignment to Narromine.

Any fresh (less than two weeks old) scat found and collected is DNA analysed in a laboratory, enabling individual koalas to be identified. The study aims to track and capture data about existing levels of gene flow and health status of koala populations along the alignment.

Alongside the dog detection surveys, our researchers will undertake vegetation surveys to support a broader understanding of koala distribution, diet and habitat along the alignment.

Relatively dry weather is essential for the investigations to take place, as heavy rain dilutes the DNA within the scat and can make the sample unusable for genetic analysis.
“We are excited to study koala populations along the Inland Rail alignment,” said Dr Vanessa Gorecki, Program Environment Advisor for Inland Rail.

“Our investigation findings will establish a baseline for current levels of gene flow and population health among koala populations along the alignment.

“The study’s findings will inform how Inland Rail’s construction may impact koala populations and help us identify management initiatives to minimise these impacts.

“This study will help ARTC Inland Rail make a positive contribution to koala conservation and population recovery plans throughout the lifetime of the project,” Vanessa said.

If you have any questions about the Koala Study and the planned site investigations, please contact our Stakeholder Engagement Teams on 1800 732 761.
Koala detection dog and handler

July 15, 2022