Reducing the impact of artificial light on animals

La Trobe researchers are working to minimise the negative impacts that artificial light can have on animals

Artificial light at night is one of the most common and fastest growing types of environmental pollution, increasing at 9.6% per year globally.

Research from Dr Kylie Robert, Associate Professor of Zoology at La Trobe, aims to minimise the negative impacts that artificial light can have on animals.

“Most of Australia's terrestrial mammals exhibit either nocturnal or twilight activity patterns, guided by circadian and seasonal cues from alternating light and dark cycles."

Artificial light at night disrupts these cues and can negatively affect behaviours fundamental to survival such as finding food, reproduction, habitat abandonment and increased vulnerability to predation.

Dr Robert is working on identifying the effects of artificial light on mammals, and ways to mitigate any negative impacts.

“We can minimise the harm of artificial lighting by developing lights that are less obtrusive for mammals, adjusting the duration and timing of lighting, reducing light intensity, shifting the spectral composition, or removing the detrimental short blue wavelengths,” she explains.

Robert’s research is cited in Australia’s National Light Pollution Guidelines for Wildlife 2023 and in policy documents and environmental impact reports in Germany and the United States.

“I have also consulted with local government to change council planning in Australia, with a number of councils adopting low intensity or motion sensitive lighting, which is a great outcome for many nocturnal and crepuscular animals.”