Cassie Thompson

Cassie Thompson

Abstract | Reducing barrier effects for Eastern Pygmy Possums in the peri-urban environment

Urbanisation has been identified as a new selective force that is changing the composition of animal communities. Native generalists and introduced species tend to dominate in the urban matrix as they can move through and live within these areas. While urban-sensitive species, generally habitat and dietary specialists, are unable to persist or are restricted to isolated, remnant native vegetation that occurs.

This results in fragmented populations that are at a higher risk of local extinction. Connectivity has been widely identified as important for the long term viability of populations, particularly for threatened species, in fragmented landscapes. However, knowledge gaps in the study of ecological connectivity in urban areas remain.

In these environments there are many obstacles to the movement of urban-sensitive small mammals between habitat areas.

In my study area in peri-urban Northern Sydney, the extensive road network may be creating a barrier between occupied habitat patches, particularly as small mammals have been shown to have road crossing inhibitions. My research aims to determine if barrier effects are currently influencing the movement and viability of urban-sensitive small mammal populations, focusing on the threatened Eastern Pygmy Possum.

In doing this, I will identify potential mechanisms to increase the permeability of the landscape. This includes providing evidence-based input to the design and installation of purpose-built crossing structures in my study area, to maximise their use by urban-sensitive small mammals and improve the long-term viability of the local Eastern Pygmy Possum population.

My poster will present my research plan and early results of my study, including the distribution and genetic analysis of the Eastern Pygmy Possum population in relation to roads and urbanisation in Northern Sydney.

Bio | Cassie Thompson

Cassie is passionate about Australia’s biodiversity and achieving ecologically sustainable outcomes for infrastructure projects. She works as a biodiversity specialist at NSW Roads and Maritime Services focusing on providing robust and practical solutions to challenging ecological problems. Cassie is currently completing a PhD in the Banks Lab at Sydney University titled Reducing fragmentation and barrier effects for Eastern Pygmy Possums and other small mammals in the peri-urban environment.