Tag Archives: ecologist

Communicating species loss…by gardening?

This week Heather and I have been installing a ‘garden’as part of the MIFGUS event, Carlton Gardens, Melbourne. I am using this opportunity to introduce the subject of loss of mammal species to a large audience. Here’s some photos of our week’s work. The rock outcrop is in fact made of recycled cardboard, so lets hope it doesn’t rain!

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A blank canvas, the builders had finished their support stucture and gone.
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Placing the stones and ‘outcrop’
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So far so good, we have to finish by Tuesday
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You can always tell who’s boss.
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Eri, Rob’s Japanese girlfriend helps out.

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By Saturday 3pm, the garden instal is starting to gel, but we are all gardened out!

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This flier will be handed out and kids encouraged encouraged to find a Warru.

120,000 people attend this event.

FOUR DAYS LATER….the installation is finished. Here’s how it looks for opening day (Wednesday 16th March)

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Thanks for all the likes and comments..Peter

 

Sniffing out Warru (black flanked rock wallaby) poo, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands

I’m on my way home from Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara or ‘APY’ Lands in northern South Australia after spending a week working with Dr John Read counting warru cuna (scats). John’s ongoing research is the fine thread securing isolated populations of this threatened South Australian species. 

I first had to learn how to identify warru from euro scat, then learn to climb the rocky summits with a heavy lensed camera in one hand. EJohn and Delek

Dr John Read records scats with Delek. 

The Musgrave Range appears as a series of rock outcrops studded into an enormous plain, the sense of timelessness is overwhelming. We were climbing the ancient bones of an even more ancient mountain range.

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I was glad I wasn’t there by myself. Climb one peak and there’s another the same behind and another in the distance. Get lost here and whiteboy is cactus.

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But to the people who live here it’s their backyard. Climb into the Toyota they’ll take you around any of the Musgrave features. Our last scat count took us to the West Australian border and spitting distance to the Northern Territory.

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Try gowing your veges in this….

 

 

Ewurra habitat

Prime Warru habitat

Warru live in rock crevices away from plains predators such as cats. Try climbing this on a cool 36 degree day!  Understanding and documenting Petrogale lateralis is not for the faint hearted.

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Me with daypack & enthusiasm, but not much breath

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John and Matthew exchanging notes…I’ve no idea what about

 

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Jacob takes a picture with West Australia as a background.

Thanks to the people of APY who kindly allowed me to see their country first hand, also to John Read my host. Helen, Jacob and Matthew at Kalka I will definitely not forget, and a special thanks.

 

 

Big spiders and big snakes in the Big Desert

I’ve just returned from a field trip to the Big Desert National Park with research scientist Tim Doherty(Deakin University, Melbourne) surveying small mammals in long unburnt Mallee vegetation. Seven days without a shower! My job was to grab a handful of very smelly fish, carry them 100 meters into the bush and bury them near our infra-red night video cameras. Hot days, copious flies and rotting fish is not a fun combination. Now add, no shower…. I was walking blowfly nirvana!

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The trip enabled me to see much of the park which though named “Big Desert” was semi-arid bushland, very much burned and now fire scarred in most places. Finding areas which were not burned for many years took much of our precious time.

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Working from sand tracks near the South Australian border.

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Recently burned mallee

Brown Snake Big Desert

A large brown snake with no manners

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a billy buttons, probably an asteraceae

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A bit too friendly arachnid near my open tent door after dark, probably a brush-footed trapdoor Idiommata blackwalli?

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Common bronzewings lining up to drink at Big Billy Bore soak

lasiopetalum behrii

lasiopetalum behrii

 

white-eared honeyeater

white-eared honeyeater, common but beautiful.

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Dr Tim checks out the vegetation, note the soft sand.

Increasing our understanding of small mammal vegetation preference aids  our scientists’ efforts in limiting extinction. This study is related to what you can see here:

‘Departure Lounge’ to be shown at Ecological Society Conference Adelaide Nov 2015

I was recently requested to submit some images from ‘Departure Lounge” 3D artwork (see Sculpture page on this site)  for screening at the Ecological Society of Australia Annual Conference, which begins Nov 29th. worpressl Phascogale

Here’s the blurb I wrote for the event:

“The sculpture project “Departure lounge” attempts to spotlight marsupial species threatened with extinction due to introduced predator impact and habitat loss, but also references the inherent threat human ‘requirements’ pose to their continued existence. Cardboard packaging used for consumables is employed as my medium, a material sourced from living trees, the home of many species and lungs of our planet”

It’s all still in the planning stage, but if all goes well this will be the first time I have participated in a science event….an artist in a room full of scientists, scary.

 

Bee trapeze artist

WATCH A BEE SWING BY ITS TEETH

Honeybee numbers have crashed in Europe and America and we do not really know why. Australia’s bees are still ok, probably because we still have a broad range of wild nectar producing plants. Farmers the world over are using herbicides to kill “weeds” which means there are less roadside/cropside meadow-lands. If bees are stressed they die young which stimulate younger bees to forage before they are ready, seehttp://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/australian-scientists-may-have-solved-the-mystery-of-bee-colony-collapse-20150209-13a6ss   Bees are a main human food crop fertilizing species , and below is a list which rely on bee pollination. If bees go, these go.

Apples
Mangos
Rambutan
Kiwi Fruit
Plums
Peaches
Nectarines
Guava
Rose Hips
Pomegranates
Pears
Black and Red Currants
Alfalfa
Okra
Strawberries
Onions
Cashews
Cactus
Prickly Pear
Apricots
Allspice
Avocados
Passion Fruit
Lima Beans
Kidney Beans
Adzuki Beans
Green Beans
Orchid Plants Custard Apples
Cherries
Celery
Coffee
Walnut
Cotton
Lychee
Flax
Acerola – used in Vitamin C supplements
Macadamia Nuts
Sunflower Oil
Goa beans
Lemons
Buckwheat
Figs
Fennel
Limes
Quince
Carrots
Persimmons
Palm Oil
Loquat
Durian
Cucumber
Hazelnut
Cantaloupe
Tangelos
Coriander
Caraway
Chestnut
Watermelon
Star Apples
Coconut
Tangerines
Boysenberries
Starfruit
Brazil Nuts
Beets
Mustard Seed
Rapeseed
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Cabbage
Brussels Sprouts
Bok Choy (Chinese Cabbage)
Turnips
Congo Beans
Sword beans
Chili peppers,red peppers, bell peppers, green peppers
Papaya
Safflower
Sesame
Eggplant
Raspberries
Elderberries
Blackberries
Clover
Tamarind
Cocoa
Black Eyed Peas
Vanilla
Cranberries
Tomatoes
Grapes

 

 

Resilience, or the new (not pristine) ecosystem?

This winter I have been busily shooting this video…which is really a question I cannot answer. Why do these birds persist occupying this fragment of polluted creek estuary, only 10km from Melbournes’s CBD? Are they attracted in some way to urban space? Is winter warmer in the city? How do they withstand the relentless noise and noxious odours eminating from the refinery, the continual train passage, car traffic and heavy metals in the water, the dogs? Or is this a last refuge for them, a place where they can find food and shelter of sorts? Is there no place else to  go?

I spent a couple of hours today with my camera in the hope of shooting something extra, but the gagging fumes dove me away and I can still taste acrid refinery fumes.

Why is it some native species move to cities with people, rats and sparrows (possums, bats, parakeets and now even powerful owls)? Are our rural landscapes now so unfriendly to wild species? Is”biodiversity” moving to the world of people, or is this just an abboration?

 

 

Pink ears

Pink-eared duck Malacorhynchus membranaceus an endemic bird, can be found in anyplace in Australia especially after rain, but they are over-wintering in  Melbourne. Question is why? The small wetland was fenced-off from dogs/humans etc but was full of pacific black ducks and hard-heads. Guesstimate; 1000

How can so many birds find enough forage in such a small an area, is it because things are even more difficult inland? Is this species over-abundant outside the city. Or are city environments attractive in some way?

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“Re-wilding” in Melbourne’s West

I live near Kororoit Creek Altona which was possibly the most polluted stream entering Port Phillip Bay. It was until recently refered to as Kororoit “drain” by the City of Hobsons Bay Council. This stream is bordered by heavy industry, waste “tips”, chemical plants and oil refineries. Over the years the original stream escarpment has been obliterated by in-filling, buildings, roads and weeds. Until very recently the valley has been used as an industrial waste depositary.  An ecologist would call it totally fragmented system.

Call it “re-wilding” or just plain crazy, but some years ago a band of ‘locals’ got together to make a change . Our intrepid leader is Geoff Mitchelmore, now in his seventies. He has driven Council and nearby car makers, oil refineries and factories to fund “Friends of Lower Kororoit Creek, FOLKC, see  http://www.folkc.com.au/

Clearing rubbish, weeding (and I mean enormous boxthorn) planting mulching and watering etc has now proceeded to a stage where first plantings are becoming mature. Trees are flowering and birds have arrived. We are creating a corridor for wild species which cuts through the western suburbs’ industrial minefield.

My photos show species now resident in industrial Melbourne due to efforts of people like Geoff.

KMalurus cyaneus Superb fairy wren
Superb Blue Wren         Malurus cyaneus            winter plumage

KGolden-headed Cisticola 1st view

Golden-headed Cisticola Cisticola exilis

K(spotted) Pardalotus punctatus

Spotted Pardalote Pardalotus punctatus

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Darter             Anhinga ruf
Knew holland
New Holland Honeyeater Phylidonyris novaehollandiaeKRed-necked Avocet 2

Red-necked Avocet Recurvirostra novaehollandiae

KRoyal Spoonbill
Royal Spoonbill          Platalea regia
KWhite Fronted Chat Male
White Fronted Chat Male Ephthianura albifrons
Ksilver eye
Silver eye  Zosterops lateralis
Red Kneed Dotterel Charadrius cinctus
Red Kneed Dotterel Charadrius cinctus

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How the “creek”looked….

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Kororoit creek in 2003

 

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Tree planting 2015 National Tree Day

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How early plantings now look

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It’s people who care who make a difference.

 

 

Dry County Species

In November 2014 I again travelled to AWC Scotia to help with pitfall surveying,  (a scientific recording of species occurrence/change). Monitoring which species actually still exist in this country is done effectively by Australian Wildlife Conservancy. Here’s a couple of little friends who live in arid western NSW. ningaui holdingThis is a Ningaui, a bit stunned by the morning sun, one of our smallest marsupials.

 

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And this is a velvet gecko.

 

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And here’s where they live, burnt out, no water and searingly hot. Amazingly the plants and animals still thrive.