Students’ artistry helping to save endangered bird

Monday 22 April 2013
Forty-spotted Pardalote (Pardalotus quadragintus) (c)JJ Harrison (jjharrison89@facebook.com) Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

One of Australia’s rarest birds has a new home due to the craftsmanship of students from the School of Art.

The 2012 first year students from the Furniture Workshop have designed nesting boxes especially for the endangered Forty-spotted Pardalote found only in the southeast corner of Tasmania.

Amanda Edworthy, a PhD candidate from the Langmore Lab at the Research School of Biology, approached the Furniture Workshop about creating the nesting boxes as part of her research project which is looking at why Forty-spotted Pardalote’s numbers are declining.

“There are only about 1500 left. There has been a 60 percent decline in their numbers in the last 20 years.”

The birds are threatened with extinction partly due to a decline in their nesting places. “They need tree hollows to nest in but very few hollows remain in their natural habitat,” says Amanda.

Technical Officer PhD student in Furniture, Nik Rubenis, says the end result is a combination of the best aspects of prototypes created by three students.

“We are getting our students to work on real life problems and in this case responding to an actual need that exists in the environment.”

Head of Furniture, Ashley Eriksmoen, adds: “Visual artists and designers are highly observant and creative, and thus able to resolve all types of problems with innovative solutions. 

“Students of Furniture are used to considering the functional needs of individuals as they interact with their environment. Designing for a specific bird’s morphology and habits requires the same approach.”

The nesting boxes, which are of a tapered pentagonal shape like tree hollows, will be hung from trees about six metres in the air.

Amanda, who has prior experience with woodworking, has been able to work alongside Nik in the workshop to make the first production run of 20 boxes.

The nesting boxes are built out of grade one timber suitable for coastal areas and designed to fit together without a need for screws and bolts that are prone to rusting. They have a shield and narrow entry pipe to prevent known predators such as marsupial mice, snakes, and larger birds from accessing the birds.

Amanda headed to Tasmania to install the first batch of 20 boxes at the weekend. More boxes are expected to be constructed by the Furniture Workshop later in the year.

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