New USC Fraser Coast Animal Ecology graduate Zerra Egerton with Senior Lecturer in Animal Ecology Dr Kathy Townsend researching one of the world's most elusive seabirds, the Red-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon rubricauda) as part of a USC Honours research project focused on a breeding colony on Lady Elliot Island.
New USC Fraser Coast Animal Ecology graduate Zerra Egerton with Senior Lecturer in Animal Ecology Dr Kathy Townsend researching one of the world's most elusive seabirds, the Red-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon rubricauda) as part of a USC Honours research project focused on a breeding colony on Lady Elliot Island.

Tracking one of world's most elusive seabirds

TRACKING one of the world's most elusive seabirds to a picturesque island on the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef is Zerra Egerton's unique mission.

The Fraser Coast USC animal ecology graduate will carry out her honours research on Lady Elliot Island, studying the red-tailed tropicbird.

The striking white and red bird struggles to walk or stand on the ground so spends most of its life at sea.

The fact that it rarely ventures near land has not deterred Ms Egerton.

"This vulnerable species breeds on only two islands in the Great Barrier Reef, Raine Island in the north and Lady Elliot Island, the reef's southernmost island," she said.

"It's crucial that we investigate as many aspects of the Lady Elliot Island colony's terrestrial and marine ecology as possible so that we can sustain the species in the region."

Encouraged by senior lecturer in animal ecology Dr Kathy Townsend, a world-renowned marine biologist, Ms Egerton decided to advance her academic qualifications after completing the undergraduate degree.

"I was excited to be afforded the opportunity to complete an honours project and would like to continue with a PhD on the genetics of the red-tailed tropicbird," she said.

Ms Egerton's current project involves working alongside supervisor Dr Townsend to trap and tag the birds with GPS transmitters in order to track their offshore activities


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