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Building ‘hotels’ for Tasmania’s unique species

First year Architecture and Design students. First year Architecture and Design students.

Architecture and Design students from the University of Tasmania have developed a chain of ‘species hotels’, purpose built, sculptural structures that provide habitat for birds and small mammals, including bats.

The project is a part of Tasmania, Island Ark, a Greening Australia initiative to relink 6,000ha of habitat in two wildlife corridors across the Tasmanian midlands for several of Australia’s endangered animals.

The woodlands and grass-covered plains of the midlands are home to a range of unique species who have disappeared from the mainland, including Tasmanian Devils, Eastern-tailed quolls, Eastern Barred Bandicoots and Tasmanian Bettongs.

One of the species hotels built by students. One of the species hotels built by students.

More than 200 years of farming however, have carved up the vital habitat into small fragments which sit in a sea of agricultural production. These remaining patches are vulnerable to further loss of habitat, invasion by weeds and feral animals, and are more susceptible to the impacts of climate change.

Island Ark is working with researchers, local landholders, businesses and government to manage these threats, improve habitat and relink the land by creating wildlife corridors to connect the Eastern Tiers to the Central Highlands.

Architecture and Design lecturer Louise Wallis said the work explored how public art could contribute to habitat restoration.

Students Luis Quintas da Fonseca, Malcolm Liehr, May Thet Khine and Isaac Alford in front of their species hotel. Students Luis Quintas da Fonseca, Malcolm Liehr, May Thet Khine and Isaac Alford in front of their species hotel.

“The design and building process involved over 100 people over an intensive six-week period including artists, scientists and school children,” Ms Wallis said.

“While these hotels may be more sculptural than actual habitat, they communicate the intent of the Island Ark Project to the community and visitors to the area.

“These hotels represent what native wildlife need in order to live and thrive in what should be a rich and diverse area – they provide shelter and access to food. Indeed, the hotels are designed in a way to encourage insects to nest, acting as a form of room service.”

Student Malcolm Liehr being interviewed by the media Student Malcolm Liehr being interviewed by the media

The hotels are being featured in an exhibition that opened on Thursday 20 October at the Tasmanian Academy Gallery in Inveresk, Launceston. Early next year, the structures – complete with self-stocking room service facilities – will be installed on the banks of the Macquarie River at Ross where 280,000 trees have already been planted as part of Island Ark.

The project is a collaboration between Greening Australia and the University’s School of Architecture and Design, the School of Land and Food, the Tasmanian College of the Arts and the ARC Centre for Forest Value, with funding from the Ian Potter Foundation.

One thousand hectares of native habitat have already been planted as part of Tasmania Island Ark, with a further five thousand hectares to be planted.