02 Sep 2021
For RPS environmental scientists Natalie May, Liam Honey, and Monique Palmer, their work in the Atherton Tablelands region of North Queensland is in many ways writing the prologue for Ctenotus monticola.
A species of native skink only known to science since 1981, very little is understood about this tropical reptile endemic to northern Queensland.
Since the skinks were found in an area near Mareeba designated for quarrying a few years ago, our local team has been supporting the site’s owner to understand and manage impacts through a program of regular field monitoring for this vulnerable species.
Heading to the Tablelands for a five-day monitoring trip every quarter, our team isn’t just contributing to the ecological body of knowledge about Ctenotus monticola, they are creating it.
Using a combination of observation and trapping techniques, RPS ecologists spend a full eight hours per day recording skink sightings throughout the study area and carefully capturing the animals to take their measurements.
Recording all of their observations including other animal sightings, these intrepid scientists are establishing a baseline of understanding about Ctenotus monticola populations in the area, their activity, and presence across different seasons.
“When we capture skinks in the traps, we put an eco-friendly marking on them so we know if they are recaptured later. Over the last three years of studies, we’ve seen recaptures pretty infrequently. It’s like they learn their lesson and avoid the traps.
“Ctenotus monticola are ground dwellers and we see them in dry open woodlands and on the sandplains. While we observe them traversing at ground level and burying themselves in the sand, we’ve also seen them jumping and climbing to avoid our capture setups!
“Snakes and birds are key predators for skinks and we encounter black whip snakes (demansia vestigiata) pretty regularly on our field trips. In fact, we have to keep a close eye on the traps to ensure snakes aren’t getting in and making a meal out of the skinks we capture.
"Despite the large number of potential predators, our studies so far indicate that the population is very healthy,” said Natalie.
“Here in North Queensland we have such incredibly complex eco-systems, and there is so much more to learn about how different species interact and behave.
“Regular monitoring studies are so important not just for learning about individual species but understanding habitats as a whole. When it comes to Ctenotus monticola, we’re not just learning about the character of the skink, we’re learning about role this species plays in the broader story of Atherton Tablelands eco-system.”
Your contact information:
All fields are mandatory *
Your message has been submitted successfully.
We aim to respond to all enquiries within 48 hours.
If your enquiry is urgent - please contact your local office.
An error occurred. Please refresh the page and try again.