UNH Konnects with Koalas

UNH Konnects with Koalas

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Galina Kinsella ’15 is a biomedical science: medical and veterinary science major who just happens to know a thing or two about koalas. Galina received a SURF Abroad Grant from the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research to conduct her own research. Her research is based on koala behavior and the frequency and intensity of their responses to human disturbances, and how this in turn affects their survival as a species.

She is conducting this research in the land down under, Australia. Here is what we learned of her journey so far:

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Where in Australia exactly are you conducting research? 

I had one research site in the outback of southeast Queensland, called Mount Byron (where the radio receiver picture was taken), and my other site was out at St. Bee’s Island, where the beach pictures were taken. Mount Byron is an area that is fairly populated and has traffic, while St. Bee’s has no human population. These two sites served to show the differences, if any, in koala behavior in populated versus non-populated environments. The koala is an iconic animal of Australia and is progressively becoming more endangered, and behavioral studies such as these can offer insight as to why the population is declining.

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What is the instrument in your hand when you’re out in the field measuring?

The antenna I’m using is a radio receiver. In order to find koalas to observe, I had to use radio-tracking equipment to locate koalas that had been previously radio-collared. Each koala transmits on a single frequency, so I was able to assign those frequencies to individual channels on the receiver. I could then search through the channels, and find and identify specific animals. The red/black device that I was holding while sitting takes weather readings

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We noticed some other animals featured in your pictures, are you studying other animals as well? 

I’m studying koalas! The other animals are just ones I’ve encountered. I live on the residential college at Central Queensland University and there are kangaroos on campus! I’ve been trying to experience other wildlife out here and I certainly have! While on fieldwork I’ve seen wallabies, kangaroos, emus, snakes (including the second most deadly in the world, the Eastern Brown Snake), spiders, parrots, whales, stingrays, sharks, and more. I will be going scuba diving (I got certified at UNH last year) next week before I leave!

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How long are you in Australia?

I have been here since mid-May but I am actually heading back to the states August 20th so I can be back in time to start my senior year at UNH!