Master of Biological Science student Debs Bayliss has won BirdLife Australia’s 2020 Australasian Seabird Group student prize.
Deb, who surveyed Western Australian breeding populations of little penguins and great-winged petrels as part of her postgraduate thesis, said her research would help inform conservation plans for these important species.
Focusing on populations on a small island off the coast of Albany, Deb surveyed the burrows of both species throughout the winter breeding season.
“Until now, the only breeding data for great-winged petrels in WA was collected over 50 years ago, while little penguin populations were last studied on the island 30 years ago,” she said.
"WA provides important breeding grounds for both species. I hope my work will establish a significant baseline against which ongoing monitoring and future changes in the populations can be assessed, aiding in the development, planning and implementation of conservation actions required to maintain healthy colonies on the island."Debs Bayliss, Master of Biological Science student
As both species are nocturnal breeders, Debs set up motion detection cameras and a bioacoustic audio recorder (which provides a soundscape of the island) to capture the night-time activity of the two species.
She also used a ‘Burrowscope’ – a camera attached to the end of a hose that is inserted into the burrow – to determine the presence of eggs and chicks and count the population on the island for the first time.
Debs’s project adds critical knowledge to a national register of important seabird habitats. Her research will inform future ecological monitoring programs and conservation actions in south-west WA.
After she graduates, Debs hopes to continue her research into little penguins and great-winged petrels through an internship or PhD.