Natarsha Babic

PhD Candidate 

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After completing her honours research on Australian native tadpole ecophysiology with Richard Reina in 2017, Natarsha worked for two years as a wildlife educator before relocating to Europe. Always having a soft spot for carnivore species due to the often misinformed, negative perceptions held against them, she began her PhD journey by volunteering for large carnivore research in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Natarsha’s PhD aims to investigate the influence of habitat quality and differential hunting regulations on brown bear ecophysiology in the Dinaric Mountains (including Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro). More specifically, she will be use bears as a model species to investigate environmentally induced long-term stress in free-living vertebrates. As human modified landscapes are known to increase chronic stress levels experienced by wildlife, Natarsha will assess habitat quality and degree of fragmentation in the aforementioned regions. She will then ascertain and utilize regenerative anaemia and relative telomere length as indices of chronic stress and explore related physiological consequences. Additionally, she will investigate whether differential hunting protocols between countries contributes to chronic stress in bears and if hibernation helps to mitigate some of the negative consequences. Through this research, Natarsha aims to contribute to understanding how human mediated environmental disturbance can influence free-living vertebrates through mechanisms of stress and to fill critical knowledge gaps in brown bear research.

Co-supervised by Dr Chris Johnstone, Monash University and Emeritus Professor Djuro Huber, Zagreb University