Using poo to protect endangered echidnas

3 Sep 2020

PhD candidate Kate Dutton-Regester from the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences was the recipient of the People’s Choice Award in the Faculty of Science Three Minute Thesis (3MT) finals held last month.

She presented her research on A poo’s purpose: understanding the reproduction of echidnas in last week's UQ 3MT Wildcard Showcase.

Kate conducts her research at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on the Gold Coast. She spends her day collecting and analysing echidna poo samples to deepen our scientific knowledge of the unique breeding and reproductive biology of echidnas.

“Echidnas are the only mammal that produces milk to feed their young, yet lays eggs like a reptile!” she said.

“Despite the echidna’s fascinating biology, scientists have made limited progress characterising their reproductive profile over the past 128 years.”

Kate says that without more advanced knowledge, we are grossly unprepared to ensure the long-term survival of echidnas.

“Not only does my research have the potential to develop more reliable methods of breeding short-beaked echidnas in captivity, but I hope that my findings can also be used to develop new conservation strategies that can save the critically endangered long-beaked echidna species in Papua New Guinea from extinction,” she said.  

Kate has always had a deep love for animals and over the years has become increasingly concerned for the future of not only Australian wildlife, but all wildlife around the globe.

“Our planet’s wildlife face so many challenges from habitat loss to emerging diseases which is having a catastrophic effect on their future,” she said.

Kate has also channeled her passion for wildlife into establishing a fundraising initiative called For the Wildlife where she creates and sells Australian themed goods to raise funds for Australian wildlife charities.

“From this initiative, I have been able to donate more than $4500 to The Australian Wildlife Society, Wildlife Queensland and wildlife carers caring for wildlife affected by the recent bushfires,” she said.

“However, my long-term plan will be using this initiative to also contribute funds to vital wildlife research.”