Impact of arsenic contamination on wildlife populations


Application for Scientific Permit – Available for Public Comment


Public comment on the following application for a Scientific Research (Fauna) Permit is open until 20 February, 2018

Applicant: School of Chemistry, Monash University

Species/Taxon
: Various

Location
: Statewide Tasmania

Title of research
: Impact of arsenic contamination on wildlife populations

Aim of project
: To investigate whether elevated environmental arsenic deposits, caused by historical mining and agricultural practise, can mobilise into biological systems with adverse effects on health. We are investigating the concentration of As in hair samples taken from archival specimens held in museums compared to contemporary populations. 
Justification: In 2018, research students undertaking the BSc(Adv)-Global Challenges honours program at Monash University will be investigating the potential impact of arsenic (As) contamination on wildlife populations in Tasmania and mainland Victoria. 

This project will examine if increases in environmental arsenic, corresponding to mining activity and the wider use of As in agricultural products from the mid to late 1800s, can be linked to significant increases in As mobilisation in biological systems. The role of As in a series of diseases found in wildlife and humans is becoming better understood and more topical in the scientific and medical literature. 

Our research program will examine As concentration in hair samples across museum specimens and present day populations. We are particularly interested in accessing archived specimens of large marsupial carnivores and insectivores (e.g. quoll, Tasmanian devil, thylacine and numbat) and introduced species (e.g. rabbit and fox) in order to obtain some insight into relative changes in As concentrations prior to the 1850s and through to the present day. Access to specimens of species that are extinct nationally (e.g. Thylacine) or regionally (e.g. eastern quoll and numbat in Victoria) is also of interest as circumstantial evidence suggests that xenobiotic compounds may have a more significant and currently overlooked role in processes with compromise the health of wildlife populations.

As part of our intended study we wish to obtain a permit to allow the research team to retrieve specimens of hair (typically < 10 guard hairs) from a range of species sourced from road-killed wildlife found on public roads in Tasmania. Importantly, no living animal, or its habitat, will be disturbed by the intended research program.

The role of As in a series of diseases found in wildlife and humans is becoming better understood and more topical in the scientific and medical literature. We believe that this research program will attract considerable public interest and be advantageous to conservation efforts around Australia.

Maximum likely numbers of individuals involved: 500; Subject to roadkill and collection.
Activities undertaken and methods: Procedures will require the removal of typically 5-10 hairs and in a small number of occasion a biopsy of skin, fat and muscle tissue taken with a 3-5 mm biopsy punch. All animals will be left in situ. 
Fate of animals: No living animal, or its habitat, will be disturbed by the intended research program.
Likely impact on species involved (including any by-catch): Minimal, no trapping involved.

Contact
Oberon Carter
134 Macquarie Street
HOBART TAS 7000
Phone: 03 6165 4390
Email: Oberon.Carter@dpipwe.tas.gov.au


Contact

Threatened Species Section - Enquiries
GPO Box 44
HOBART TAS 7000
Phone: 03 6165 4396
Email: ThreatenedSpecies.Enquiries@dpipwe.tas.gov.au

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