Possum Cam

Persistence pays as a striped possum with baby moves into a nesting box five years after collaborative monitoring infrastructure was installed at the Daintree Rainforest Observatory.

A long-tongued striped possum (Dactylopsila trivirgata) with baby has been caught on camera nesting in one of TERN’s nest-boxes at the James Cook University Daintree Rainforest Observatory (JCU-DRO), part of the Daintree Node of TERN’s FNQ Rainforest SuperSite.

The striped possum is a rainforest species found across the island of New Guinea, on nearby islands in the Arafura Sea and down into northern Queensland. It’s noted for its long finger that helps it hook beetle larvae out of holes in rotting wood—much like a Madagascan Aye-aye.

The nesting boxes were installed by TERN’s Australian SuperSite Network back in 2011 and the monitoring cameras a year later thanks to funding from the Commonwealth Government’s Education Investment Fund. Since then, JCU-DRO and TERN have kept the wheels turning on the long-term environmental data monitoring infrastructure at the site.

Possum Cam Yawning – TERN FNQ SuperSite from TERN Australia on Vimeo.

Dean of Research at James Cook University, Professor Andrew Krockenberger, is pleased that the joint investment and collaborative efforts have finally paid off.

“It took a little longer than we’d hoped, but now we are getting some lovely glimpses of striped possum life”, commented Andrew. “We should be able to tell the individual over time because they have quite distinct black and white patterns, so if she stays long, or makes this box one of her regular nests, it will be very interesting to watch the youngster grow up.  It will make a good complement to our “osprey cam”, which has successfully allowed researchers to closely monitor the birds without disturbing them.”

Associate Professor Mike Liddell, the Director of our Australian SuperSite Network and Principal Investigator of the FNQ Rainforest SuperSite, is quick to point out that five years may seen like a long time, but it’s a drop in the ocean for long-term ecological monitoring.

“Yep, that’s the thing about long term monitoring you need to have the persistence to be in there for the long haul,” says Mike.  “Five years is just a small part of our decades-long research presence in the Daintree. We need to monitor the environment over long time scales to understand the change processes—both natural and human caused—that occur in these ecosystems at multiple scales.”

Long-term monitoring plays a crucial part in managing Australia’s natural environment because time is a key factor underpinning changes in ecosystems. It is critical to measure key attributes of ecosystems—and the human and natural process affecting them—over long time scales so that we can track the trajectory of change over time. This will facilitate informed choices about how to manage ecological changes, including interventions where they are required, and promote better understanding of how particular ecosystems have been shaped over time.

Possum Cam Scratching – TERN FNQ SuperSite from TERN Australia on Vimeo.

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