Importance of Uluru’s waterholes

A knob-tail gecko with its original tail - above

Knob-tail gecko with regrown tail

PhD student, Drew Dittmer is back in the park to continue his studies into the park’s amphibians and reptiles. Drew is using pitfall traps at 26 sites around the base of Uluru to find out what types of animals are using the waterholes.

Our concerns grew from unexplained frog deaths in some waterholes – and the discovery of unusually high levels of bacteria in water samples taken by junior rangers.

With the assistance of Professor Joe Bidwell at the University of Newcastle, we invited Drew to help us understand what is affecting the waterholes. Drew is looking at which areas reptiles prefer to live in, and the effects of  buffel grass, feral animals and human activity on these areas. With a better understanding of the different waterholes we’ll know which ones need particular attention when we are caring for the park - and we’ll also have more knowledge of the quality of water in our waterholes. The earlier we are able to identify risks the better.

During this stage of his studies Drew is accompanied by Honours student Brenton, who is looking at the nocturnal characteristics of the smooth and pale knob-tail geckos. We know that some nocturnal lizards can operate at lower then optimum temperatures compared with diurnal (daytime-active) lizards - Brenton is seeing whether knob tail geckos also have this capacity and their preferred temperature range for physiological function. His work will determine if the reptile’s habitat preferences are based on temperature.

Kerrie, UIuru -Kata Tjuta National Park