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Koala research on the line.



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2CN AM Koala research on the line

02/12/2008

TONY EASTLEY: Scientists in Queensland are using mobile phone technology to learn more about the breeding habits of koalas.

The animals on St Bees Island off Mackay have been fitted with GPS tracking devices.

And the noises they make are being recorded by solar powered, remote, mobile phones.

Jayne Margetts reports.

(Bellows of a Koala)

JAYNE MARGETTS: It may not sound very appealing to the human ear, but scientists say this is the noise the male koala makes to attract a mate.

The so-called "koala bellows" are the focus of a new research project based on St Bees Island off Mackay.

BILL ELLIS: We hope to be able to decipher the sort of koala code.

JAYNE MARGETTS: Dr Bill Ellis from the University of Queensland and his team have fitted several koalas with GPS collars which keep track of their whereabouts.

Listening stations have been strategically placed around the island so that the scientists can eavesdrop on the noises they make.

Professor Paul Roe from the Queensland University of Technology says mobile phones are being used to record and transmit the sound.

PAUL ROE: They work by themselves. We can remotely control the phones so that Bill Ellis, the koala ecologist, can determine when he wants the phones to record the high fidelity sound, which will capture the koala calls, and that sound will then be uploaded to servers at QUT where it can be analysed.

JAYNE MARGETTS: Researchers have discovered that females tend to travel to look for a mate.

Dr Bill Ellis explains.

BILL ELLIS: Each female goes through a period where she has really exaggerated movement. Her average distance travelled during the day increases significantly, but this doesn't seem to happen for the males so it does seem to us as though the females go looking for males, so maybe the bellows genuinely are the males advertising to the females.

JAYNE MARGETTS: Professor Roe says the project is an example of how internet technology is transforming scientific research.

PAUL ROE: Research which previously just couldn't be done without the use of modern technologies, and enabling sort of 24/7 monitoring of the environmental heartbeat.

JAYNE MARGETTS: Scientists say the results of the research may be used in koala breeding projects in the future.

TONY EASTLEY: Jayne Margetts reporting.

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