Olivia Kimber

Beach Foxes

I’m an avid hiker (an innocuous trait) and an equally avid supporter of the All Blacks rugby team (a not quite so innocuous affection here on the bigger island called Australia….). I am also a keen traveller, seeking out remote and pristine areas to explore. One such flooded, earthquake ridden, and stormy expedition to the South Island of New Zealand drew my attention to the unique animals thriving in such remote areas. Finding that these ‘untouched’ areas also harbour introduced predators that threaten the existence of such species spurred my ambition to study the complex relationships between introduced predators and their environment. I’ve since completed a Bachelor in Animal Ecology, am currently completing my Honours project, and plan to continue with introduced predator research into the future.

My Research
Technically, Australia remains a colony of Great Britain (albeit with fewer convicts), and hence it may seem sound and proper that ‘our people in the colonies’ can enjoy a spot of fox hunting or two. This was the (noble?) rationale for introducing the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) to Australia in the mid-1800s. Rather unfortunately, foxes have outfoxed their original purpose and masters, causing massive and widespread environmental harm in Australia, mainly by killing many species of smaller native wildlife. The widespread culling of dingos (a natural enemy of foxes) may also contribute to more foxes in more locations. All of those ‘fox impacts’ means that government is investing heavily in ‘fox controls’ (aka fox killing…). My research aims to bring some sound ecological thinking to fox research. We have documented that foxes are now squarely part of Australian food webs (often they are the top carnivore) and are surprisingly abundant on beaches and in dunes. This raises the question of what truly determines the distribution and abundance of foxes and what their role is in coastal food webs. Better understanding what characteristics of the coastal landscape are important for foxes, can also make for more effective and efficient fox control – ‘Tally-ho the fox’ on beaches and beyond.

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