Bilby INFO hunt

Pretty Digital - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

So Easter weekend is finally upon us!! As any Arid Recovery member or follower should know this time of year is very important to support the Easter Bilby. Bilbies not Bunnies remember!

To help you support the wonderful Easter Bilby, here at AR we wanted to should share some Bilby facts and information with you. This way to can do your own research and start educating your friends and family as to why they should support the Easter Bilby for years to come.

Native species recovery at AR

Learn about the Arid Recovery Big Four; Greater Bilby, Burrowing Bettong, Great Stick Nest Rat and the Western Barred Bandicoot here. Such as, Bilby reintroductions into Arid Recovery represents the first time bilbies have been present in the South Australian arid zone since their local extinction in the 1930s.

Bilby fact sheet

Did you know? The Greater Bilby is a large, burrowing, nocturnal bandicoot. It digs extensively for the seeds, bulbs and invertebrates that constitute its diet. Find out more great facts on the Bilby factsheet here.

Bilby Trapping

Generally Bilbies are rather trap shy, and don’t often go for the peanut butter bait balls set in cage traps that are more appropriated for the eager and social Bettongs. On this previous blog you can learn about the effort and skill that goes into trapping the very clever Greater Bilby. Usually it includes traipsed through sand dunes on the hunt for Bilby burrows, keeping a keen eye for signs of Bilby tracks and diggings.

Bilby Plush Toy and adoptions

A great gift option is our Bilby Plush toy, a bit of Australian for a friend is always appreciated. You can also adopt a Bilby for someone you love, on your certificate you will even get info as the where, when and the sex of the Bilby you adopted! You can also adopt the rest of Arid Recovery’s Big Four here.

The Bilby and global warming

We already know well that rabbits have wreaked havoc on the Australian landscape, eating up our native plants and kicking some of our native mammals out of their homes. And those little holes that they dig all over the place that you might be unlucky enough to roll your ankle in aren’t too good for our environment either! Whilst our bilbies and bettongs dig similar holes, it has been shown they are much more beneficial for the environment.

Have a happy and safe Easter everyone. 


kiARa

Pretty Digital - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

We at Arid Recovery have been lucky enough to host Kiara on her week of Work Experience below is her experience of Monday and Wednesday to share with you.  Enjoy

Hi my name is Kiara and I am Arid Recovery’s work experience student this week. This blog is an exert of my daily diary I have written about my experience. 

Monday: Today I felt confident walking into the AR office; Perri introduced me to everyone which helped calm my nerves. Everyone was welcoming and all smiles, on a Monday morning? Really?

First up I got to visit The Reserve with the lovely Bec. She taught me about the history of Arid Recovery including the Main Exclosure, the 1st Expansion, 2nd Expansion, Red Lake and Dingo Pen also about some of the past and current projects at The Reserve.  All the while she was teaching me about footprints and baits.

When returning to the office as the rain that was coming, it was hard to determine if anyone could get back out to the reserve so I stayed in and helped with calculations, filing and even finding Feral Cat Facts for a memory maker that is in the process of being made for feral cat month in May.

I learnt about the communication procedures, or Call-in procedures.

The best thing about today was learning how the Arid Recovery group works and finding out that we all have a similar sense of humour.


Wednesday: Today I went straight into town with Hayley to help out with the kindy kids and Macca the bilby.


We had two groups come in and both were amazing. We had two awesome stories and the look on their faces when Macca walked out was priceless! Afterward we had an Easter Puzzle Hunt and both groups seemed to love it.

When I got back I had to do an interview for my school assignment which Kylie helped a lot with and then the fun began!

After lunch I got to help Zac with dissecting some of the cat and foxes for stomach content. While dissecting we found a hopping mouse with three babies in one of the cats! I enjoyed it so much, except maybe the smell, and I couldn’t be more proud of the work Zac and I did.

After we came inside the all-knowing Zac taught me about how to tell what species a snake is by the number of scale it had.

Then came the scariest moment of my life. Kylie and Perri decided that I would be great at calling people about their expired bilby adoptions. I called everyone with a phone number to see if they would like to renew it. I have to admit I didn’t do too badly, with only a couple of stumbles, mispronounced words and awkward silences.

In the end I got a couple of successful readoptions.

In conclusion I just want to say thank you SO much to the team at Arid Recovery for having me here! I have greatly enjoyed myself and I can’t wait to come back!


An exciting return to AR

Pretty Digital - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

After over two years absence Perri Carter rejoins the Arid Recovery team as our Education and Community Officer.

After leaving Arid Recovery in 2011 I have finally decide it was time to return to the beloved desert, stepping back into the Education and Community role at AR.

I’m excited to be back at such a busy time, next week I will be out and about each day talking about why you should expect the Easter Bilby at your door over Easter. Bilbies not Bunnies remember! I will even get to see my old friend Macca the Bilby who will be joining me at some events.

Also with tour season fast approaching I am looking forward to spending many nights out at the Reserve, showing travellers the wonders of Arid Recovery. Tours are always a favourite part of my job showing new people around the Reserve is a great reminder of the special work we do.

Many Australians don’t get to see bettongs playing, bilbies scampering off into the night and numbers of hopping mice running amongst their feet. It is a wonderful experience watching people reactions to the playfulness of the bettongs and squeals of excitement as a Western Barred Bandicoot sneaks out onto the track.

Along with school groups and tours I also look forward to getting out and about helping in the Reserve whether it is early morning track transects or even helping lay new foot netting. Anyone that knows me is aware I am not a morning person, but that all changes working at Arid Recovery. I find it easier to get up heading off to check animal tracks and traps, there is always new sights and new experiences.

I look forward to seeing you around the Reserve and keeping you up to date on all upcoming Arid Recovery activities

Arid zone adaptations with Woomera

Pretty Digital - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Students from Woomera Area School visited Arid Recovery last Thursday. The students had been given an assignment on adaptations to the environment, and came to the Reserve to obtain some further information and partake in some fun hands-on learning. 

A group of 9 students, aged from 8 to 17 years old arrived at 10am on a beautiful autumn day. The students were given a safety induction, and topped up their sunscreen and water bottles before setting off on a tour along the nature trail. Stopping at each sign post, the students asked intelligent and thoughtful questions, in order to give them as much background information before they started on their assignment.

It was then back to the ATCO for recess, before getting started on a tracks and scats workshop in the sand dunes. The students identified the tracks of our reintroduced species and other common animals of the Reserve by comparing tracks in the sand to photos on a handout. They also learnt how to identify the scat of various animals, including herbivores, reptiles and carnivores. The workshop concluded with a track drawing session in the sand.

Students identifying tracks in the sand with Education and Community Officer, Anni Walsh

A flora ID workshop was next, with the students learning the difference between grasses, shrubs and trees.  Some common plants of the region were pointed out, and the students learned which plants the animals prefer, and the various adaptations that have enabled the plants to survive in harsh conditions.

The smell of a sausage sizzle bought the kids back to the ATCO for a delicious bbq lunch, and then it was time to learn about trapping and tracking animals at Arid Recovery.  The students learnt about the different traps that target different animals, before setting a cage trap and an Elliott trap and then had a go at radio tracking.

“The Woomera kids were brilliant,” exclaims Education and Community Officer Anni Walsh. “They were extremely well behaved, and were really in-tune with what we do at Arid Recovery.”

“I’m sure that they will go back to school with a greater understanding of arid zone adaptations, and I hope that they had a great time while they were visiting the Reserve.”

 Students drawing tracks in the sand to help with their identification skills

If you are interested in visiting Arid Recovery with your school, please email education@aridrecovery.org.au

 

Mulga Snake caught in mesh

Pretty Digital - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Arid Recovery Field Officer, Craig Wyatt and volunteer Zac Richardson got a surprise today when they saw a 1.7m long Mulga Snake (Pseudechis australis) caught in the Arid Recovery feral-proof fence.

“We were driving along checking cat traps as we do every morning, when I noticed a long dark shape at the bottom of the fence,” Craig explains. “As I went to have a closer look I noticed it was a Mulga Snake. The poor bugger was caught in the fence and had recently carked it.”



Craig believes that the Mulga Snake must have been on its last legs. “It was covered in ticks, and I think the struggle to get through the small gap in the mesh must have worn it out,” Craig said.

Craig brought the Mulga Snake back to the Arid Recovery office for the staff to do a closer inspection. A stomach content analysis showed that the Mulga Snake’s gut was full of worms and an entire juvenile sleepy lizard (Tiliqua rugosa)!



Although it is sad that the snake passed away, it is a natural part of life, particularly in the arid zone at the end of summer, where food and water is scarce.

If you would like to find out more about snakes in the arid zone check out our snake awareness blog.

Annual Trapping done and dusted

Pretty Digital - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Annual trapping 2014 has been and gone for another year, with a whirlwind of excitement, animals and extreme weather conditions.

The lids are securely closed on pitfall traps, equipment is packed away, and the volunteers have all returned home. Arid Recovery internship student and database queen, Bianca, has plugged in the data from Arid Recovery’s 17th year of annual small mammal and reptile trapping.

This year’s field work was challenging, thanks to our unpredictable arid zone climate. The temperature throughout the week was in the low to mid 40s, with thunderstorms threatening on the final days of trapping. Even the wet weather and stormy conditions couldn’t put a dampener on the enthusiasm of volunteers, with some embracing the change in weather conditions with an elaborate rain dance!

A total of 110 mammals were captured in 2014, with all native mammal species caught inside the Reserve. The Spinifex Hopping Mouse (Notomys alexis) was the most abundant mammal species. However, the introduced House Mouse (Mus musculus) was trapped inside the Reserve and at sites beyond the fence, and was found in traps more often than other native species, the Plains Rat (Pseudomys australis) and Bolam's Mouse (Pseudomys bolami bolami).

Bec West concentrates carefully whilst processing a Lerista (Lerista labialis)

The Leristas (Lerista labialis) were by far the largest number of reptiles captured, with 143 of these slippery suckers pulled out of pits. Other common cold-blooded captures include the Royal Skink (Ctenotus regius) and the fine-looking Ford’s Dragon (Ctenophorus fordi).

In total 18 different reptile species were captured and brought back to the lab for processing. To the volunteers' delight some rarer reptile species also made an appearance, with the distinctly stripy Desert Banded Snake (Simoselaps bertholdi) and the cute Crowned Gecko (Lucasium stenodactylum) keeping the crowds smiling!

 

A small Spinifex Hopping Mouse (Notomys alexis) found in a pitfall trap

Arid Recovery’s Ecologist, Cat Lynch, was impressed with this year’s trapping efforts. “Mammal captures appeared relatively low, however comparisons with 2013 trapping data shows that we caught a few more critters this year!” remarks Cat. “A wide variety of reptile species were trapped, giving all staff and volunteers an opportunity to appreciate the unique fauna of the Roxby Downs region.”

The success of Arid Recovery’s annual trapping relies on the help of volunteers.  Arid Recovery would also like to thank all of the people that kindly donated their goods and services to the annual trapping program. This includes Sodexo, Roxby Leisure Centre, Woolworths, Transpacific, RoxFM and the generous people of Roxby Downs that donated jars of peanut butter.

Astonishing Arid Plant Adaptations

Pretty Digital - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

AR intern and passionate plant lover, Bianca Amato, shares some of the amazing adaptations that have enabled plants to survive in harsh environments, such as the arid zone.

In the summer months you may notice the plants around Roxby Downs looking a little shrivelled and worse for wear. However, similarly to desert dwelling animals, arid plants have adapted to survive in the heat. Below are some of the strategies different plants use to thrive in the arid lands.

Conserving water: Plants lose water via evapotranspiration, which is the movement of water through the plant into the atmosphere. Plants with greater surface areas transpire faster and lose a greater amount of water. Arid plants need to hold on to as much water as they can. Many arid plants have miniature leaves or spines which reduces surface area. Not only do spines reduce water loss, they discourage animals from eating plants for water. Sclerolaena are prickly chenopods that possibly use this strategy to conserve water.

Protection from the heat: Plants with green leaves absorb heat. In the desert that is the last thing a plant wants to do. Arid plants have adapted to have blue-grey-green coloured leaves to reduce heat absorption. Low Bluebush (Maireana astrotricha) is a common chenopod around Roxby Down that reduces heat absorption from its blue-grey leaves. 

Reproduction: When it is simply too hot people escape the heat by staying inside. This is also what a number of annual plant species do. Annuals complete their short life cycles during the wet season. They grow, produce seeds and die. The seeds remain dormant and survive in the dry environment. When conditions are favourable the seeds germinate and the plants exploit the wet conditions.


After a rain event the wild flower Fleshy Groundsel (Othonna gregorii) covers the landscape at Arid Recovery. Photo by Cat Lynch, Arid Recovery Ecologist.

Drought tolerance: During the summer months or extended dry periods drought-tolerant plants tend to look dead. They will look like a bundle of sticks with a lack of leaves and foliage, yet these plants are anything but dead, and are in a dormant state as they wait for the rain.

Photosynthesis: Photosynthesis is the conversion of carbon dioxide, water and energy from the sun into sugar and oxygen. Photosynthesis creates chemical energy which fuels the plant to grow and reproduce. Plants absorb carbon dioxide via their stomata (a pore that controls gas and water exchange) during the Calvin cycle. When it is hot the stomata swell so water cannot evaporate, thus reducing water loss. The Calvin cycle is optimal in cooler climates when the stomata rarely has to close, but how will a plant in the desert absorb carbon dioxide when they are trying to reduce water loss? The answer is C4 pathways. C4 plants have different structure within their cells that allow them to fix carbon dioxide at lower concentrations during drought and high temperatures. The stomata of C4 plants can stay closed for longer, reducing water loss. Grasses and saltbushes such as Bladder Saltbush (Atriplex vesicaria) survive so well in the arid lands because they are C4 plants.

Next time you are at your local garden shop, think about growing some locally-native arid plants. They do not need much water and tolerate hot temperatures and poor soil conditions.

Check out our blog for more information on how animals survive in the heat, or visit the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden website for information on buying arid plants.

Arid Recovery Strategic Planning

Pretty Digital - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The following post was written by Mark Priadko, Acting Chair of the Arid Recovery Bard.

For more information on the Arid Recovery Board and strategic planning see the 2013 Annual Report.

The 2013 strategic planning day with AR staff and board at the Reserve.


In November 2013, the Arid Recovery Board met in Roxby Downs and Olympic Dam for a board meeting and for its annual strategic planning meeting.  Being in the area for a day and half gives us a chance to spend time with staff and time on the Reserve.  The time spent in the region seems only like yesterday, but here we are already in the middle of January.

Arid Recovery is a world-class science precinct for arid zone recovery.  The AR Board is very proud of this and acknowledges the work and commitment of staff and of the local community in making Arid Recovery what it is. 

In the strategy session the Board reflected where Arid Recovery has come from and where to next.  Sessions over the past few years have seen our planning largely revolve around opportunities from BHP Billiton’s expansion or otherwise at Olympic Dam.  In our 2013 session we focussed on where we want Arid Recovery to head in its own right.

We want to build on the successes in the Reserve by looking more broadly.  Success for Arid Recovery means more than re-introducing and sustaining species inside the Reserve.  Success means sustainability across arid zones that are subject to a range of uses including conservation, pastoral, community and mining.  It is our view that sustainable conservation should complement rather than displace multiple land-uses. 

Our vision is for Arid Recovery to become the global leader in sustainable restoration of multi-use arid ecosystems. 

The Reserve is very much part of this vision.  So to are the ongoing partnerships we have with BHP Billiton, DEWNR, the University of Adelaide and the local community.  Each of these is foundational to the Arid Recovery vision. 

We have set ourselves to focus on four objectives to achieve this vision:

  • Leading research and application in and around the Arid Recovery Reserve
  • Developing and applying a multi-use business model on lands across the arid zone
  • Building our brand and reputation in the global community
  • Running a robust business from the Arid Recovery Office at Olympic Dam

As a not-for-profit organisation, we will continue to face the ongoing challenges of weighing up ambition with resourcing.  To create the capacity to achieve this vision a critical part is to diversify our revenue streams.

For our current staff, members and volunteers, the direction of our strategy should be seen as one that aims to build from the strong foundation formed over past 16 years.  We will need to sustain that foundation while embarking on selected ventures that will demand some of our time and attention be directed outside the Reserve. 


Annual Small Vertebrate Trapping 2014

Pretty Digital - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Arid Recovery’s annual trapping program is the longest running trapping event of its kind in Australia, and you have the opportunity to take part in the monitoring for 2014! 

Develop your skills in ecology, learn about the mammals and reptiles of the unique arid zone and meet other people that share the same passion for the environment and conservation. 

Participation in Arid Recovery’s annual trapping will give you skills in:

  • Pitfall trapping
  • Elliott trapping
  • Animal ID
  • Laboratory processing
  • Animal husbandry
  • General field skills
  • Reserve maintenance tasks

Come and join Arid Recovery’s annual trapping for 2014 

  • When: Arrive Sunday 9th February and depart on Saturday 15th of February
  • Where: Arid Recovery, Roxby Downs, Outback South Australia
  • Cost: $375 includes a 1 year membership to Arid Recovery, and accommodation and food for the duration of the event 

There is only a limited number of positions, so register your interest quickly to secure a place. 

Email volunteer@aridrecovery.org.au

Arid Recovery volunteer Paula enjoying participating in the pitfall trapping.

2013. The year of the Bettong

Pretty Digital - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

2013. Arid Recovery’s 16th year of operation. Full of school visits and success, flora and fauna, and bettongs, lots of bettongs!

We kicked off 2013 with annual trapping, which is always one of the highlights of the year for Arid Recovery staff and volunteers. One of the longest running trapping events of its kind in Australia, 2013 did not disappoint, with an abundance of arid zone animals captured in our pitfall and Elliott traps. The swale sites produced common critters such as the Royal Ctenotus skink (Ctenotus regius) and Spinifex Hopping Mouse (Notomys alexis) as well as rarer finds including Bynoe’s Gecko (Heteronotia binoei) and Bolam’s Mouse (Pseudomys bolami).

Feral cat month rolled around in May, with Arid Recovery emphasising the devastating impacts that feral cats have on our precious native animals. We looked at the Roxby Downs cat by-laws and investigated the increase in feral cats seen at nearby Andamooka. Arid zone ecologist, John Read also jumped on the bandwagon, providing us with more evidence against those hungry felines with the results of gut content samples that he had analysed from the APY lands.

Our education programs were in full swing throughout the year, with numerous schools visiting the Reserve and AR education staff attending events in Adelaide and Port Augusta. Memorable moments include Port Lincoln students experiencing firsthand what it is like to work in the field of conservation, whilst Muso Magic filmed the visit and later aired the footage on Imparja TV for their show Outback Tracks!

The dingo transects, which had been monitored for five years as part of the dingo research project, were wrapped up in November. After many kilometres clocked up on foot counting tracks in the sand, the staff involved where extremely happy to complete this monitoring project. The latest results have been included alongside the five year data set, and trends in predator activity and prey abundance will be closely analysed to determine the role that dingoes play in our arid zone ecosystems.

However, whilst the above recollections have been impressive, all Arid Recovery staff and volunteers have to agree that 2013 has been all about bettongs. With nearly 1500 bettongs trapped, processed and transported from the Reserve to a release site north of Arid Recovery, it is safe to say that we have bettongs on the brain! Working throughout the night, the hardworking efforts of AR staff and vollies to combat bettong overpopulation issues inside the Reserve have not gone un-noticed.

Above is just a snapshot of our highlights and achievements for the past year. It is hard to fit a year’s worth of accomplishments into a short blog, so please trawl through our blog archive to find out more about what else we got up to at Arid Recovery during 2013.

The team at Arid Recovery would like to say a huge thank you to all of our dedicated volunteers that helped make 2013 such a successful year. We couldn’t have done it without you, and we look forward to another year of achievements at Arid Recovery.

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Arid recovery is a conservation initiative supported by:
bhp
adelaide university