Maija Marsh

Project: Transmission and effectiveness of RHDV infection in rabbit populations at different spatial scales.

The economic and environmental impacts of rabbits have been reduced in recent years by the arrival of RHDV (rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus), but they remain very significant, and the management of rabbits presents an ongoing problem. Myxomatosis, while still important as a control method, is not so effective as it was in maintaining rabbit populations at a low level. RHDV has been extremely effective in some areas, but is less effective in others. Large-scale differences in the effectiveness of RHDV seem to be linked to climate, but there are also more local-scale variations in effectiveness, and the mechanisms behind these differences in effectiveness at different scales are not fully understood.

My PhD project builds on previous work to examine the importance of different factors in determining the effectiveness of RHDV at different scales. Variations at the landscape scale have been examined by analysis of archival data from sites across Australia to try and separate out the impacts of systematic and stochastic heterogeneity in the environment, habitat and management actions. Variations at the local scale have been addressed by fieldwork directed at establishing the social organisation (ie. relative numbers of warren-dwelling and surface-dwelling individuals) and contact patterns of rabbits in geographically matched locations exhibiting differing levels of effectiveness of RHDV.


Masters through Research (MRes) degree in Ecology and Environmental Management (University of York).

I moved to York, UK, from my home country of Finland 9 years ago, to study for a BSc degree in Biology with a year in France.  After my undergraduate degree (and a gap year in Peru working on a project on bird diversity and conservation), I did my Masters. I got to know Dr Piran White through one of my MRes projects, which studied the ecology and management of roe deer in North Yorkshire. Piran’s collaboration with the Vertebrate Pest Research Unit at NSW DPI and AI CRC gave me the opportunity to work towards this PhD.


Project details

CRC Program:
Terrestrial Products and Strategies

University of York, UK
NSW DPI, Orange.

Professor Piran White (UYork)
Steve McLeod (NSW DPI)
Mike Hutchings (Qld DPI)

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