A Victoria University research team, led by environmental scientist Dr Christine Connelly, is working with Bass Coast Shire Council to minimise the alarming number of wildlife killed on a Phillip Island road by the installation and trial of a virtual fence.

Dr Connelly said a series of devices have been attached to guide posts along the side of a section of Cowes-Rhyll Road as part of the trial, and they will remain in place for at least twelve months.

"When headlights from an approaching vehicle hit the device (from up to 300 metres away), an audible alarm and flashing LED lights are triggered," Dr Connelly said.

"This combination of noise and light is aimed at deterring wildlife from the road, before the vehicle gets close enough to harm them.

"Through our research we’ll be able to see whether virtual fencing is a good way to mitigate wildlife-vehicle collisions on Phillip Island and potentially other roads in the shire and across Australia."

The project began in April 2019, and is a collaboration between Victoria University, Bass Coast Shire Council, Phillip Island Nature Parks and local Citizen Scientist, Ron Day.

Mr Day has worked closely with Victoria University to conduct surveys and to establish a baseline of how many and which species of wildlife are being struck and killed in this area.

"In a period of eight months, we counted 210 road kills on a 3.6km stretch of road," said Mr Day.

Dr Connelly said the research project was also a great example of how impactful community-led citizen science projects can be.

"By working closely with the local community, Victoria University has been able to establish a long-term project, in a reasonably short amount of time," she said.

"Citizen Scientists like Ron Day, are capturing crucial information and are an invaluable part of making longer term projects successful."

Wildlife surveys will continue for the next 12 months, now the virtual fence has been installed. Once the trial is complete, the significant amount of data gathered will enable the researchers to accurately determine the effectiveness of virtual fencing.

Dr Christine Connelly is available to talk about the following points:

  • What counting roadkill can tell us about our roads.
  • Which animals tend to get hit and why?
  • The importance of Citizen Science in the community.
  • How virtual fencing could help communities and saves lives.
  • Why virtual fences need to be in place long-term.

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Frances Atkinson
External media
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