Application for Scientific Permit – Available for Public Comment
Public comment closes on the following application for a Scientific Research (Fauna) Permit
Permit is open until 2 December
Applicant: Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania
Species/Taxon: short-tailed shearwater, Ardenna tenuirostris
Location: Fisher Island, Furneaux Island Group
Title of research: Refining seabird disease and demographic monitoring technologies: microbiome and DNA ageing of short-tailed shearwaters on Fisher Island
Aim of project:
This project aims to:
1) Aid in development of new technologies to monitor seabird demography.
2) Establish baselines for short-tailed shearwater hematology on Fisher Island
3) Understand avian viruses/diseases present on Fisher Island, a long-term monitored colony.
Aim 1: To refine the epigenetic ageing methodology short-tailed shearwaters using a newly developed technique.
2019 saw the publication of the very first genomic method for determining the age of short-tailed shearwaters using DNA, an IMAS collaborative research project, requiring just a drop of collected blood to estimate age (De Paoli‐Iseppi et al., 2019). This cutting-edge genetic technique takes advantage of the “epigenetic clock” in the DNA of some long-lived animals, a biochemical test that can be used to measure age, based on DNA methylation levels. Having only been performed for the first time in 2019, the epigenetic clock method for estimating the age of short-tailed shearwaters requires refinement. Recently, a new technique which will yield more accurate ageing with a smaller error has been developed (unpublished). We expect this technique, replacing years of high investment-low-return field banding, with an epigenetic DNA test, will generate enormous interest among bird researchers, consultancies and land managers worldwide.
Aim 2: To establish a “baseline” for short-tailed shearwater blood chemistry on Fisher Island
The usefulness of haematology and plasma biochemistry as veterinary tools for the diagnosis of disease and the monitoring of the condition of birds is widely recognized. As we are monitoring viruses and microbiomes, we aim to investigate potential correlations between blood chemistry and the presence of viruses or disease.
Aim 3: To establish a “baseline” for short-tailed shearwater microbiomes on Fisher Island, and determine whether microbiome community is correlated with shearwater age or blood chemistry
Individual microbiomes are determined by a variety of environmental and physiological factors (e.g. age and diet). The structure of microbiome determines the function of the digestive system, but despite its critical role in wildlife health, the microbiome of wild animals is understudied, particular for wild birds (Grond et al., 2018). This has the potential to add value to any fieldwork in remote locations allowing for rapid, real-time DNA sequencing and builds on limited knowledge of microbiome structure and function in seabirds. This has implications for detecting disease in remote seabird populations, exploring genomics and taxonomy of remote island species.
Maximum likely numbers of individuals involved: 30 individuals
Activities undertaken and methods:
1) Bird is removed from the burrow during annual short-tailed shearwater monitoring
2) While being handled, a blood sample from brachial vein and buccal/cloacal swab is taken (approximately 2-3 minutes handling)
3) Bird is released back to burrow
Fate of animals: Birds are released back to their burrows after samples are taken
Likely impact on species involved (including any by-catch): Short-term stress during handling and procedure (approximately 2-3 minutes)