TRACK STAR: Boarder collie Maya poses with Cr Gerard O'Connell (L), Dr Romane Cristescu and PhD student Anthony Schultz.
TRACK STAR: Boarder collie Maya poses with Cr Gerard O'Connell (L), Dr Romane Cristescu and PhD student Anthony Schultz. Eliza Wheeler

Who would have thought koala poo could be so important?

WHO would have thought koala poo could be so important.

Ecologists from the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) have started their research into the health, location and population of koalas on the Fraser Coast by using specially trained koala scat tracking dogs to find samples.

Dr Romane Cristescu and PhD student Anthony Schultz took six-year-old boarder collie Maya to Teddington near Maryborough on Monday and Booral near Hervey Bay on Tuesday, to find fresh koala scat for their study.

"To start we only have the one dog, Maya, who will look for any scat to confirm koala presence and distribution," Dr Cristescu said.

Another dog, which is currently in training, will be brought to the area to find live koalas and fresh scat, which PhD student Anthony will be able to use to find out the koala's health.

"From the cells in the fresh poo we can find out the genetic diversity- if there is a lot of inbreeding, if the koala has Chlamydia, if it has a healthy gut and the reproductive hormone levels," Anthony said.

"So basically we can see if it's a healthy or unhealthy koala."

The research has been partly funded by the Fraser Coast Regional Council, who will be providing $30,000 over three years towards the project.

Fraser Coast Mayor Gerard O'Connell said the data would help the council better understand how to sustain the native animal's population in the area.

"The detection dogs will get us data for understanding where the significant koala areas are," Cr O'Connell said.

"That way we can look for balance and sustainability for region growth and the koalas."

But Fraser Coast Koala Care organiser Natalie Richardson said the research itself would not help the "downward spiral" of koala populations in the region.

"This research is great for the koalas but the council needs to understand that it will not save them now," Natalie said.

"It will be three years before the project is done and it doesn't stop land clearing and koala deaths- it's data."

The researchers from USC will also be doing similar studies on koalas around the Sunshine Coast and other parts of South East Queensland.
 



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