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

 

Flora fun

Pretty Digital - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Arid Recovery is not just about the animals. In fact, if it wasn’t for our plants we wouldn’t have our cute bettongs and all the other animals. For this reason, it’s vital that we monitor the health of the vegetation inside the Reserve.

Flora monitoring at Arid Recovery was established right from the start, in 1997, with a range of techniques used to enable us to collect long-term data on vegetation condition, cover and species diversity inside and outside the Reserve. Now, with over 15 years of data, it gives us a great opportunity to begin analysing this data to see if we can determine trends in relation to the effects of our introduced and reintroduced herbivores, and to determine the strongest indicator species for monitoring grazing by herbivores to help trigger management actions when overgrazing occurs.

Recent analysis of this data showed that, while we have an excellent dataset, there are modifications to our monitoring that we can employ in order to get even more out of the data we collect. Over the past few months, Arid Recovery’s Ecologist, Cat Lynch, has been working with our Research Scientist and Craig Baulderstone, who previously worked at South Australia’s Pastoral Board, to further develop Arid Recovery’s flora monitoring program.

It was determined that a number of small quadrats should be set up at each of our sites to provide data on cover of flora species; data which was generally not being picked up through other methods. Craig was recently kind enough to visit Arid Recovery for a week to assist Cat with setting up the new quadrats and collecting data. With his two kids, Mick and Tom, in tow, Craig very enthusiastically trudged the dunes and swales in very hot weather to measure all the saltbush, blue bush, ruby saltbush and other weird and wonderful flora that makes Arid Recovery and the arid zone so unique.

The monitoring event was very successful, with a range of data collected that will assist us with determining the effect that our reintroduced herbivores (i.e. bettongs and stick-nest rats) have on vegetation inside the reserve, as well as the effect that introduced herbivores (i.e. rabbits) have on vegetation outside the Reserve.

We thank Craig very much for volunteering his time to assist Arid Recovery with our flora monitoring program.

 

Craig Baulderstone working on the vegetation quadrat

 


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