student profile: Mrs Laura Pulscher


Thesis work

Thesis title: Investigating the Role of Infectious, Nutritional and Toxicological Disease in the Decline of the Endangered Christmas Island Flying-Fox

Supervisors: David PHALEN

Thesis abstract:

The Christmas Island Flying Fox (Pteropus melanotus natalis) (CIFF) remains the last endemic mammal on Christmas Island (CI) and is classified as critically endangered by the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. In last 30 years, the CIFF population has declined from 6,000 individuals to fewer than 2,500. As a pollinator and seed disperser, the loss of this keystone species would prove catastrophic to the CI ecosystem. The cause of the contraction of the CIFF population is not understood. A working group sponsored by the National Environmental Research Program identified multiple key threatening processes including disease that could be contributing to CIFF decline. Potential diseases include intoxication with heavy metals released by phosphate mining on CI, nutritional diseases resulting from phosphate dust exposure and preferential feeding on introduced plants, and diseases caused by infectious agents. The aim of this research is to further understand how the threats listed above could impact the decline of the CIFF. Furthermore, this research will inform best practice management policies for conserving the CIFF and will inform other insular flying-foxes facing similar threats.

Selected grants


  • Are Nutritional Diseases Contributing to the decline of the Endangered Christmas Island Flying-Fox; Phalen D, Pulscher L; Australasian Bats Society/Research Grant.
  • Assessing the Nutritional Content and Stable Isotope Ratios of Native and Non-native Food Sources Used by the Endangered Christmas Island Flying Fox.; Phalen D, Pulscher L; Bat Conservation Trust/The Kate Barlow Award.

Note: This profile is for a student at the University of Sydney. Views presented here are not necessarily those of the University.