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Busy, Busy, Busy


Ian Dudley

Today began with a quick drive around with vertebrate ecologist Dave and a few of the other teachers & BHP workers to check his pitfall traps. Because of ethical issues (welfare & treatment of living things, and what is ‘right’ when it comes to working with higher animals), any traps aimed at reptiles and mammals need to be checked twice a day. Because of the cold weather we weren’t expecting much, but there were a couple of Western Pygmy Possums in one site and a few South Coast Stone Geckoes in another, as well as a bunch of spiders, ants & beetles. We also stopped at Cheetima Beach again and miraculously found the exact same lizard, a Beach Slider, that I posted about yesterday. Zac was stoked!

On the way back we explored an old shed in the Conservation Park and Zac (again!) managed to catch a massive male Wishbone Spider. I found some skinks and geckoes, but they were commonly captured species, so we didn’t need to sample them. Talking to Dave was also interesting as he used to be the Ranger at Venus Bay Conservation Park, so he knows a lot about the landscape and the environment around our part of the world.

After arriving back, it was time to help set up for the community day. Penong School came along (Yalata school were also planning to as well, but unfortunately Covid restrictions kicked back in a few days ago). The Penong grommets were excited, and the scientists did a great job of communicating their work, their methods, their discoveries, and the bigger ideas behind what they do. As a teacher it was valuable learning for me simply sitting back and watching how people went about sharing their knowledge and how enthusiastic the kids were. If a Bushblitz (or something similar) ever happens anywhere near where you are, I 1000% recommend going down and checking out what they are up to. Nothing at all was uninteresting; even the stuff I would find a bit ‘dry’ to teach - like soil structure and microscopic algae – was presented with passion and detail. Out of everything though the Flinders Uni dive team, with their kitted-out boat and BRUVS rig (kind of like a cray pot with a Go-Pro attached to it, that gets baited up and left for a six hours at a time to film what comes in to smell the bait) seemed to capture the Penong kids’ attention the most.

After lunch (and the FWCAC lads were right; the pizzas here are top level!!!) it was time to start filming some interviews with the scientists. Now I could literally talk to each and every one of them for hours, but I had to narrow it down a bit and try and find people who can answer the kind of questions you guys have all emailed me. Unfortunately our ICT capabilities here are a bit limited, Which has made teaching ‘live’ via Teams or Zoom was impossible, but Hannah & Andrea reckon I will be able to film, edit and upload stuff to Earthwatch’s Youtube channel for later access.

In between interviews I went for a quick look around the salt lakes at the back of the town. Apart from a family of Kangaroos and some tiny flowering Wahlenbergia (‘native bluebells’) plants, I didn’t see much, but it was nice to get out. The sun’s out today, so even though the wind is still cold, a lot of the scientists are excited. Hopefully for their sake the weather will improve over the next few days and the rest of the expedition will deliver the conditions that they need to best sample what the Far West has to offer. It’s hard to believe that my time on the ‘Blitz’ is almost up. It has been a pleasure to be involved with; learning new things, generating plenty of ideas for school lessons, checking out cool bits of tech we could use in class, and general professional networking.