Short-tailed shearwater (Ardenna tenuirostris)

​Applic​ation for Scientific Permit – Available for Public Comment

Public comment on ​​the following application for a Scientific Research (Fauna) Permit is open until 25 March 2021.

Applicant: Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, Centre for Marine Socioecology; University of Tasmania

Species/Taxon: Short-tailed Shearwater

Location: Great Dog Island/ Babel Island, Furneaux Group, Tasmania

Title of research: Muttonbirding for Management 

Aim of​​ project
In collaboration with the local muttonbirding groups, this research aims to test a variety of animal health analyses and tools, beyond body condition indices, to detect the impacts of plastic ingestion across shearwater species. This work would take place over 2 – 3 weeks in March/April during the shearwater harvest season. Using the below listed methods, we hope to address the following research questions.

Histopathology analysis 
2.1. What are the cellular level impacts of plastics on seabird tissues, determined through histopathological analysis?
Metagenomic analysis
3.1. What is the function and structure of seabird microbiomes, does this differ between islands/species?
3.2. Does the seabird microbiome change with the amount of plastic ingested are birds exposed to plastic distinctly different to those which haven’t?
Blood chemistry analysis
4.1. Can we use a multiple tool approach to assess seabird health?
4.2. Which are the most robust and reliable metrics to determine plastics impact on seabirds (e.g., blood chemistry, body condition indices, histology)?

Short-tailed Shearwaters consistently eat and fed their chicks large quantities of plastics. The physiological impacts of this is still largely unknown. Using shearwaters as a case study provides insights into wildlife health which is applicable to a range of marine fauna which interact with plastics. 

By working with muttonbirding groups we are able to sample a healthy, same-age population of birds. This is unique as it allows for the collection of time sensitive samples, such as tissues for histopathology, un-coagulated blood, and microbiome, which if this study was performed on dead, beach-cast birds, would be impossible. 

The methods we wish to employ allow us to conduct analysis in real-time, in the field and allows us to establish operating procedures for this work in remote field settings. We are incredible privileged to be involved in the co-production of knowledge with the Tasmanian Aboriginal muttonbirding community.

Maximum likely numbe​​rs of individuals involved: We will not be limiting the number of birds used but estimate a minimum of about 100 birds to be used. This will be dependent on the success of the muttonbirding activities.

Activities undertaken and methods​​​
Birds will be fully necropsied; blood will be collected from the heart using a needle and syringe. 95uL of blood will be inserted into a portable blood analysis machine. Remaining blood will be smeared on a microscope slide for blood parasite and white blood cell counts. A drop of blood will be placed on an FTA card for DNA analysis. 

Soft tissues will be removed and stored in a fixative for histopathology analysis. Some soft tissue and feathers may be frozen and later used for chemical pollutant analysis.

The mouth, stomach and cloaca will be swabbed to collect microbiome DNA and the stomach contents removed and categorised.

We may collect parasites and other samples of interest which are indicative of individual animal health. 

Fate of animals: A sub-set of harvested (dead) animals will be provided to us for sampling. 

Likely impact on species involved (including a​​​ny by-catch)


Scientific Research Permits
Natural and Cultural Heritage
Level 5, 134 Macquarie Street
Hobart TAS 7000

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