Getting hands-on at Science Alive!

Admin Aridrecovery - Wednesday, August 26, 2015

With national science week wrapping up for another year, what better time to look back on the fun that was Science Alive! 


Bigger and better than ever, 2015 marked the event’s tenth anniversary, with a bustling crowd of 26,000 science enthusiasts over a massive three days. Hosting over 50 science-related organisations, you can’t help but be entranced by some of Australia’s hottest science and technology. Keen to get in on the action, Arid Recovery was surely never going to miss the chance to enviro-talk their way through the masses.

Watched over by Wodger the wedge-tailed eagle and bobby the burrowing bettong, the cosy stall was our most interactive yet. With few Australians (and even fewer children!) getting the chance to experience our vast arid interior, we brought the red sands and their stories down with us. Do you think you could guess what animals we share our lives with at Arid Recovery from just one touch? That is exactly what thousands of intrigued minds had the chance to try as they got hands-on with our fury friends. Hidden inside six boxes where the furs of an echidna, rabbit, greater stick-nest rat, cat, kangaroo, and dingo. With a few hints, many brave young scientists guessed correctly and learnt about some of the animals we help protect.  

Not to be outdone by some of the other innovative stalls at the expo, our digital 3D landscape gave everyone the chance to explore the home of our reintroduced burrowing bettongs. By clicking on the screen, visitors could try to find the warrens (burrows) of the native rabbit-sized kangaroo. This computer reconstruction of the arid landscape is part of new research into the ecology of Arid Recovery, but also helps us engage the public with their environment. So if you just can’t get enough of science, make sure to take your family to Science Alive 2016, or even better visit us for a tour

Written by Matt Bowie, Arid Recovery volunteer & University of Adelaide Honours student

Flocking pigeons

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Over the past few months a group of volunteers have been watching the amazing site of thousands of Flock Bronzewings swarming across the arid landscape north of the Arid Recovery Reserve.

AR's resident cinematography, Travis Hague, has put together some footage of the phenomena.

Flock Bronzewing from LonelyOakfilms on Vimeo.

For more information about Flock Bronzewings, become a member of Arid Recovery and receive the new edition of the AR newsletter, with a feature story on these amazing birds.

Summertime Snake Awareness

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

This Tuesday saw Roxby Downs’ first Community Snake Awareness Session and we were amazed at the turnout. Over 65 people attended the talk by Living with Wildlife principal Geoff Coombe and were even privileged enough to meet and greet some of his scaly companions. Of note; the Red-bellied Black Snake, a Tiger Snake, and the Western Brown fondly named Psycho.

Throughout the presentation we learned about not only the types of snakes we would find in Roxby and surrounds (the Mulga, Woma and Western Brown) but also how to avoid attracting them, what to wear in situations in which you might find one, and what to do if you get bitten.

Roxby's introduction to Living with Wildlife

For those of you who were unable to attend, these are a few of the most important things to remember when it comes to snakes and when dealing with them:

  1. It’s true that snakes are more scared of you then you are of them! Respect them and you shouldn’t have a problem!
  2. Stand still when you get too close, as Geoff mentioned, snakes don’t go around biting what they think are trees!
  3. Don’t give them places to hide where you don’t want them going. e.g. large bushes or garbage piles close to the house (they are only trying to hide and get out of the sun!)
  4. Wear appropriate clothing when out bushwalking etc. (long pants and closed in shoes) and;
  5. If you DO get bitten, apply appropriate first aid and get help immediately, don’t clean the wound (the venom on your skin can help identify the snake that bit you) and try not to move (you don’t want the venom to spread!).


A native Woma Python meeting the crowd

A big thankyou to Geoff, and his assistant Greg, and everyone who came to support this initiative, we hope that you came away with some valuable information and can feel a little more confident if faced by a snake. We sure learnt a lot!!

And if you want to know more feel free to visit Geoff Coombe’s Living with Wildlife website at  

Getting up close and personal to a Woma Python

Hands on education excites and enlightens

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Biodiversity is essential for human existence, providing many goods and services to create a healthy environment, such as clean air and fresh water. It is vital that we all do our bit to help the environment, however sometimes we need a little reminder.

Arid Recovery takes great pride in educating school groups on the importance of biodiversity and conservation. The educational work that we do at AR is a step towards securing environmental awareness for generations to come.

This week we had students from Port Lincoln High School visit the Arid Recovery Reserve. The group of five students arrived late Monday afternoon, just in time to set some cage traps as the sun was going down. It was then time for dinner and bed before the early morning start at 4:30am to check the cage traps. The students were delighted as they had successfully trapped bettongs, Stick-nest Rats and bandicoots!

During the day students participated in various hands-on workshops to give them an idea of the monitoring, maintenance and research work that the team at Arid Recovery undertake on a daily basis. These workshops compliment the students’ studies towards a Certificate I in Conservation Land Management. Participating in track identification on the sand dunes, navigating their way around using a map and a GPS, and joining Ecologist Cat Lynch on a walk to discuss the common plants of the region were just some of the activities that kept the kids busy.

Education and Community Officer Anni Walsh demonstrates Elliott trapping 

“Educational visits like this are incredibly beneficial for students. Not only do they get to experience what it is like to be an ecologist working in the arid zone by learning tracks and flora, they also get to experience a variety of different species using various trapping methods,” explains Education and Community Officer Anni Walsh. “It’s a real thrill for the kids to hold a small dragon, or see a Western Barred Bandicoot with joeys in her pouch, and gives a further appreciation of the unique natural wonders of the arid zone.”

The satisfaction of completing 100m of fencing in the hot sun, and not getting lost during the GPS scavenger hunt where up there with some of the memorable moments of the trip.  However, the students all agreed that despite the early start, the cage trapping was easily the highlight of their trip. Our cute and furry threatened species have again captured the hearts of those fortunate to work with them!

Winter Bettong Trapping at Arid Recovery

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Scott Elliott writes about his experience during the largest bettong trapping event Arid Recovery (and possibly the world!) has ever seen.

Standing at the top of a sand dune with a full moon hanging over my head, the task at hand seemed simple enough.

“Just place the bag over the end of the trap, lift the door and it should run in,” explained Arid Recovery’s ecologist, Cat Lynch.

Molly, one of AR's volunteers, looks after a small baby bettong during the winter bettong trapping at Arid Recovery
Photo by: Catherine Lynch

“It” was a feisty bettong and my job was to ensure that this furry critter made its way safely into a bag for processing back at camp.

Since the introduction of bettongs onto the Arid Recovery reserve in 1999 their numbers have exploded. In response to this, Arid Recovery is undertaking a large-scale translocation program to keep the bettong population at sustainable levels.

Back on the sand dune, my hands stubbornly refused to manipulate the trap door open, a condition of the near-freezing temperatures which engulf the reserve during winter.

With one eye on the capture bag I managed to gently coax the cantankerous bettong out of the trap and into the awaiting bag.

This operation was repeated throughout the evening in an all-night ritual of trapping, processing, resetting traps and selecting new capture sites. The bait of choice for this assignment was the trusty peanut butter sandwich however these delicacies also proved alluring to the resident populations of bilbies and western barred bandicoots.
All animals were returned to the central camp building, affectionately known as “The Atco”. Here they are weighed, measured and tagged pending their release onto Stuart Creek Station – about 20 kms north from the main Arid Recovery reserve.

An average night was delivering around 40 bettongs and large numbers of bilbies, bandicoots and the occasional stick-nest rat.

Students and volunteers from Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Roxby Downs all made the trip out to the reserve to assist with the trapping program, braving the winter chill.

Few things can prepare you for the brisk arrival of nightfall during wintertime at Arid Recovery. However this winter has delivered unseasonable rains to the reserve providing a rich blanket of annual flowering plants – dotting tones of yellow and white across the landscape.

At the end of a busy week, I leave the reserve with a sense of accomplishment and look forward to future work with Arid Recovery.

See more images of our volunteers and bettongs on our Facebook page:

Supporting Our Supporters

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

On World Environment Day we say thank you to the many wonderful people and organisations that support the work that we do in arid zone restoration.

Alistair Pillow, Peter Cahalan, Anita DeZilva, Nick Jones. Photo by Millie Thomas

On World Environment Day, June 5, Arid Recovery hosted a Supporter’s Night to say thank you to all the businesses and organisations that support the work of Arid Recovery. Recent rain prevented the event from being held at the Arid Recovery Reserve, so the Olympic Dam Football Club kindly donated their clubrooms for the night.

The outdoor entertaining area was transformed to create an ‘Arid Recovery experience’, with a temporary floppy-top fence bought in, skins, furs, maps and posters on show. Our resident bilby ‘Charlie’ as well as his taxidermy friends the stick nest rat, bettong and a bearded dragon were gathered from their usual home at the local Visitor Information Centre and proudly put on display to show some of the threatened and local fauna that have established populations inside the Reserve.

“Arid Recovery relies heavily on donations from individuals, groups, businesses and corporations, with every kind of donation, be it money, equipment, materials or labour all highly appreciated” explains Community and Education Assistant Sam Secker. “By hosting the Supporter’s Night we had the opportunity to show our gratitude and give a little bit back to the generous people and businesses that support our work.”

About 45 guests braved the wintry conditions to come along to the event.  As the spots of rain eased, guests gathered under the stars to be entertained by local musicians ‘Who’s on First’ and to meet with other locals and businesses. Hungry bellies were satisfied and wintry blues warmed with homemade pumpkin soup, gourmet kangaroo sausage and rocket rolls, and lamb cutlets with native herbs and spices, impressing all that attended. Guests came from far and wide, including local businesses from down the road, and some special guests in from as far as Adelaide for the night. Arid Recovery board members Garry Winter and Professor Bob Hill, the new AR Board representative from the University of Adelaide, also made the trip to Roxby Downs to show their appreciation for the support that we receive. 

Photo by Millie Thomas

“It was great to have all our supporters in one place and give us the opportunity to mingle with one another,” grinned Sam. “I would especially like to say thanks to the people that made the night possible, Greyhound, Roxby Motor Inn, Alliance Airlines, ‘Who’s On First’, Woolworths, the Olympic Dam Football Club and of course the fabulous Arid Recovery staff.”

We need your help to stop Buffel Grass

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

From the ocean to the outback – a visit from Port Lincoln High School

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Arid Recovery was abuzz with excitement as a group of students from Port Lincoln High School ventured from the sea-side fishing town to the outback to experience first-hand the wonders of the Reserve. Spending three nights camping at the field station, the seven students gained some hands on experience to complement the current studies they are undertaking in a Certificate II in Conservation and Land Management. The students participated in a range of monitoring activities including a native tracks workshop, where the students identified tracks of reintroduced species and then drew them in the sand, and a nocturnal spotlight walk through the sand dunes to catch a glimpse of some of the cute and furry critters.

Arid Recovery staff where fortunate enough to have the students assist with maintaining the predator proof fence, finishing 100m of footnetting in record time under the desert sun. The students were extremely proud of their efforts.

An opportunity to see some of the animals up close required the students to start super early with alarms set for 4:00am! The students learnt about trapping, processing and animal handling techniques, and successfully trapped 43 bettongs and one Western Barred Bandicoot. The animals were then released down warrens just as the sun was coming up to paint a beautiful desert sky.

A visit by Muso Magic topped off the week. They filmed the fencing efforts and interviewed the students for their upcoming TV show ‘Outback Tracks’ capturing the enthusiasm of the kids as they proudly discussed what they had learnt about conservation and the Arid zone. 

Farewell to Arid Recovery

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I was thrown in the deep end (as is the case with most new AR staff members!) when I started at Arid Recovery, and I’ll admit I was pretty daunted when they told me I was in charge of the kids club for what was probably our biggest open day ever. Pretty exhausted by my first day of work (which involved copious amounts of poo making with numerous small children) I was pretty pleased to realise I would be working with such a dedicated team of staff and volunteers.

My first “real” job out of university, and I have to admit it wasn’t what I had ever expected it to be. When you find yourself completing tasks that range from bleary eyed winter mornings for trapping, opening up a cat for dissection on a warm summers day through to wrestling a giant bilby or explaining to a child how a simple fence protects our threatened animals, you realise you don’t have a normal job. I’ve had some amazing experiences with Arid Recovery, learning things you can’t read in books about the plants and critters of the outback, from people who have such an intricate knowledge of the arid zone.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with our volunteers, and probably one of the best parts of the job is some of the people I have been able to meet. Whilst the days can be long and tiring, hearing some of the different stories about the unique places people come from is always interesting. Sometimes I think we get a bit caught up in the Reserve. A fresh pair of eyes to appreciate AR, and a comment along the lines of how important the work is that we do, always gives you a bit of motivation to try harder again tomorrow.

Now it is on to the next chapter for me, and while I’m sad to be leaving Arid Recovery, I’m keen to tackle something new. I’m sure I’ll be back at some stage. If there is one thing I have learnt since starting here, most AR staff and vols can’t help but come back to visit the beautiful red sand dunes of Arid Recovery. That, and bettongs are bloody good diggers, I probably won’t miss repairing the holes they dig under our fence!

Arid Recovery volunteer and community officer Hannah Spronk during the Roxby Downs Christmas Pageant.

Gearing up for annual trapping

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

From Monday February 11 until Friday February 15, the Arid Recovery annual trapping event will be taking place, filling the week with small mammals and reptiles of the arid zone.

Once again staff and volunteers are gearing up for the big week, with preparations well underway to ensure it runs smoothly. 2013 will see the 16th year this unique event has run, the longest running program of its kind in Australia. Data collated from this annual event clearly shows the impact that feral predators such as cats and foxes have on our native small mammal and reptile populations. Over the years small mammal numbers have increased, now capturing 6 times more small mammals inside the Reserve than outside.

Not only has data shown that cats and foxes have a devastating impact, but also that the Reserve plays an important role as a refuge for many small mammal species. The Plains Rat (Pseudomys australis) was once found across the arid and semi-arid areas of Western Australia, across to central Queensland and to the mouth of the Murray River. Now classed as vulnerable by the IUCN, they are restricted to the gibber plains of the Lake Eyre Basin.

The trapping week ran for a number of years before the first Plains Rat was captured for the first time inside the Reserve. It was an exciting moment for all involved, with the species not trapped in the area for the previous 10 years. Protected areas such as the Arid Recovery Reserve are integral in providing a refuge for these small animals and protecting habitat that may otherwise see their species go extinct.

Ecological surveys such as those undertaken at Arid Recovery and across the nation by other organisations provide us with important information. “Trapping programs such as the Arid Recovery small mammal and reptile trapping help to establish important data on habitat preference and population distribution, integral in the protection of the small critters we are trying to protect,” said Arid Recovery Ecologist Catherine Lynch. “The vegetation has dried significantly since our last trapping event, it will be interesting to see how the animals are responding to this and if numbers have fluctuated.”

A display will once again be up in the Roxby Downs Visitor Information Centre, updated each day with photos of the week from how trapping sites are set up, through to the cute critters caught. The laboratory on the corner of Charlton Road and Olympic Way will be opened up to interested members of the public on Thursday 14th from 3-5pm. Anyone interested in seeing how small reptiles and mammals are processed, and finding out which species call the desert home are invited to call the Arid Recovery office and register their interest for the afternoon.

For further information on taking part in the week, or to find out how the week went last year, please visit the Arid Recovery website .


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Arid recovery is a conservation initiative supported by:
adelaide university