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A Report on the Mammals of Your District


A Report on the Mammals of Your District

    Eastern Grey Kangaroo

    Photo and © Peter Robertson

  1. What Mammals have been recorded in Your District?
  2. Name and Classification
  3. Diet and Reproduction
  4. Conservation Status
  5. Threatened Species and Victoria's Parks
  6. Distribution Maps
  7. Monthly Observation Data
  8. Observation Data Over Decades
  9. Images
  10. Viewing Specimens of Your Mammal
  11. Your Report
  12. How unique are the Mammals of Your District?

Use the information in the Victorian Mammals data base to prepare a report on the mammals that live in your district at present, and the mammals that have lived in your district in the past. This should be possible even if you live in a very urbanised area - the database allows the selection of quite large 'districts' and includes both native mammals and introduced mammals living in the wild. In addition, the information used to assemble the database includes recorded sightings from 1840, when most urbanised areas were bushland.

The Report on the Mammals of Your District could be an individual student project, but is probably best done as a class project, with each student researching one mammal. The final report could be presented as a poster or a talk to the class, written up as an article for the school magazine, or be a major feature in the local newspaper. Whatever the format chosen, the report will be a useful addition to the environmental knowledge and awareness of the school community.

1. What Mammals have been recorded in Your District?

This part of the database will provide you with a list of the mammals that have been recorded in the district you live in. Locate your district on a map of Victoria that is divided into 30 minute x 30 minute grid squares (approximately 45 km x 55 km).

If you live in the Greater Melbourne Area, you also have the option of locating your suburb or district on a map that is divided into 10 minute x 10 minute grid squares (approximately 15 km x 18 km).

Select one of the grid squares to obtain a lengthy list of mammal sightings. Make a list of mammals to provide one (or more) species for each class member to research. Each grid square is quite large, but if you don't obtain enough species from your first selection, select again, adding an adjoining grid square to obtain a longer list.

Allocate one (or more) mammal species to each class member, and you are ready to proceed to the next step. From this point, each student does their own research on the mammal(s) they have been allocated-either working alone, or with teacher guidance as appropriate.

2. Name and Classification

(a) Note the common and scientific names of your mammal. This information can be obtained from your initial listing (Step 1 above).

(b) How do scientists classify the mammal you are researching? Note and discuss the 'Parental Lineage' or 'Family Tree' for the mammal you are researching.

(c) Does the mammal you are researching have any close relatives? Note the Family and Order it belongs to from the 'Family Tree' above.

Now click on the link below and scroll down until you find the menu entitled 'Order, Family & Generic Names'.

Enter the Family name of your mammal to obtain a list of Victorian mammals that are closely related to the one you are researching. (Do any of these mammals have the same generic name as your mammal? If they do, they are very close relatives of your mammal.)

(d) You may wish to see if your mammal has any more distant relatives in Victoria, particularly if you have discovered that there are no other mammals in its Genus or Family in Victoria. Enter the name of the Order to which your mammal belongs and note the names of the mammals in the list you obtain.

(e) Find out what the scientific name (Genus and Species) of your mammal means. Click on the link below, scroll down to the bottom menu ('Genus & Species Name') and enter the scientific name of your mammal.

3. Diet and Reproduction

What does your mammal eat, and how does it reproduce? Scroll down to the bottom menu ('Genus & Species Name') and enter the name of your mammal.

4. Conservation Status

Many native mammals in Victoria are endangered. What is the conservation status of the mammal you are researching? Click on the link below, scroll down to the Genus & Species menu and enter the name of your mammal. What is its conservation status? Is it extinct in Victoria? (Does an 'E" appear alongside its name?)

>Teachers: When producing the final report on the mammals of your district, you may wish to note whether there have been any local recordings of additional mammals that are now very rare or extinct in Victoria. There could be just one or two sightings recorded, and so they may not be included among the mammals that your students are researching. Click on the links below, select your district or suburb and check for rare and extinct species:

A full list of the 23 mammals that have become extinct in Victoria since European settlement is available via the link below:

5. Threatened Species and Victoria's Parks

If your mammal is threatened, is it protected in one of Victoria's parks? Click on the link below and enter the name of your mammal under the Genus & Species Name menu to find out.

Teachers: When producing your final report, you may wish to include a list of threatened species that occur in local parks. These species may be additional to those that your students are researching. Click below and enter the name of each park that is in your district to obtain a list of the threatened species they contain.

6. Distribution Maps

Where does your mammal occur in Victoria? Enter its name via the link below to obtain a map showing its distribution in Victoria. Select and study additional maps showing the mammal's distribution according to vegetation types, rainfall, rivers, altitude and zoogeographic zones. After studying each map, try to describe what you have learned about the type of habitat favoured by your mammal. Locate your district on the maps. Is the favoured habitat of your mammal common in your district?

7. Monthly Observation Data

In which month has your mammal been seen most frequently/least frequently across Victoria? Enter the name of your mammal using the link below and find out.

Can you explain the monthly observation pattern? Does your mammal wander about more frequently at certain times of the year? (Or have the scientists carried out more field trips at certain times of the year?)

8. Observation Data Over Decades

During which decades has your mammal been seen most frequently/least frequently across Victoria? Is there a pattern of increasing/decreasing sightings? Enter the name of your mammal via the link below to find out.

Can you explain the pattern of observations? Has the population of your mammal in Victoria increased or decreased over the decades? (Or have scientists carried out more field trips during certain decades?)

9. Images

To obtain one or several images of your chosen mammal, enter the name of the mammal via the link below. Click on the single thumbnail image that is returned to gain access to all available images. These images can then be enlarged by clicking on them.

For many mammals, there will be several images of live animals, images of the skull and jaws, images of feet, and perhaps an image of a John Gould print (published in 1863). Look closely at the images of your mammal (including teeth and jaws) and try to relate its physiology to its diet and habitat.

10. Viewing Specimens of Your Mammal

It is a good idea to try to view some actual specimens of the mammal you are researching. You may be able to join a field trip at one of Victoria's parks, which could enable you to see your animal in the wild. As many of our mammals are nocturnal, this could be a spotlighting expedition, after dark. You may also be able to see live specimens at Melbourne Zoo or at a wildlife park, such as the one at Healesville. In addition, preserved specimens may be on display at Melbourne Museum.

11. Your Report

You may decide to supplement the data you have obtained with information from the Internet or from reference books in your library. Once you feel you have enough material, you are ready to write a report on your mammal. This could be a printed document, a poster or a PowerPoint presentation.

Once the individual reports are ready, a comprehensive report on the mammals of your district can be put together. This report could be presented in a variety of ways, including

  • a series of posters
  • a talk to your class or to other classes
  • a presentation on the local radio station
  • an article for the school magazine or local paper

You will probably find that the information is of interest to many people in your local area, so the project could be a good opportunity to publicise the school as well as making both students and the local community more environmentally aware.

12. How unique are the Mammals of Your District?

As a concluding exercise, compare the list of mammals for your district with a similar list for another part of Victoria. For the second district, choose somewhere in Victoria that is very different from your own district (coastal cf. inland, high rainfall cf. low rainfall, plains cf. alpine, urban cf. rural). Click on the link below and select your district and one other district to obtain two different lists of mammals.

If you live in the Greater Melbourne Area, you are also able to compare the list of mammals observed in your suburb with a similar list for another suburb. For the second suburb, choose a part of Melbourne that is very different from your own (eg. coastal cf. basalt plains, western suburbs cf. Dandenongs).

Which mammals are common to both lists? Which mammals are found in one district but not in the other? Which district has the greater mammal diversity? From what you know of the characteristics of the two districts, can you suggest some hypotheses to account for the variation in mammal lists?

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