Dr Diana Kuchinke

Completed associate student
Dr Diana Kuchinke

Dr Diana Kuchinke’s PhD, completed in 2018, investigated bird responses to fire in the Heathy Dry Forests of Victoria, against variables of time-since-fire and fire frequency.  Bird responses were modelled in terms of: community, foraging guilds and individual species.  As a community, birds showed a resilience to both time since fire and fire frequency.  Responses by foraging guilds and individual species highlighted some different responses.  The common species from each foraging guild showed responses that broadly represent their guild.  This thesis highlighted that an effective tool in adaptive management is to predict the trends of our common forest birds, as surrogates for entire bird communities, not just for fire responses, but for a broader reflection on the health of the landscape. The modelling of one species, the Laughing Kookaburra, showed a response to both time since fire and fire frequency, with a reduced abundance in post-fire new-growth vegetation.  As this species is noted as being in decline down the east coast of Australia, it is flagged in this thesis as a species of concern.  Further, this thesis investigated alpha and beta responses by the forest birds to prescribed burns of different severities.  Results suggest that forest birds show little response to small prescribed burns in the landscape, regardless of severity.  This may be a result of Heathy Dry Forests’ rapid regeneration post-fire.  However, one species that exhibits site fidelity, the White-throated Treecreeper, left areas impacted by high severity prescribed burns.  The White-throated Treecreeper’s response flagged the importance of tree hollows being maintained in the landscape, essential for the species that require hollows for roosting and nesting.

Diana lectures at Federation University and is the Director of the Kuchinke Management Group.

Student project

This project will monitor birds at 84 sites across central Victoria's Heathy Dry Forests and will determine the common species driving assemblage patterns on sites of differing fire ages and fire histories. The research will also investigate impacts on birds from differing prescribed burn severity, using generalised linear mixed models based on a before-after control-impact design.

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