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Hanging out with the reptiles


Fiona Jancey

Today I was assigned to the Herpetology team. This group of scientists study reptiles and amphibians. We left base camp at 7.00am and I was taken out to Wilinggin Country with Dr Mark Hutchinson from the South Australian Museum in a dual cab Landcruiser ute provided by the Department of Parks and Wildlife for Bush Blitz expeditions.

Mark had set out traps to catch snakes, lizards and frogs last week and he checks them every morning and early evening. He showed us how to check the traps very carefully and watch for anything super small that might be hiding in the mesh of the net.

In the first trap I picked up I found small Fat Toadlet frog. In the second trap there was a beautiful Northern Spiney Gecko. In other traps there were interesting bugs and spiders which Mark collected in specimen jars to take back to the other scientists in case they wanted to add them to their collections.

With an early field start, we were back at base camp for lunch. I was hanging out in the lab trying my luck to connect to the internet when there was much excitement. The other members of the Herpetology team had arrived back to camp by helicopter after staying out at a remote site overnight.

In their catch bags they revealed they had found a Rough-scaled Python which is the rarest python in all of Australia. They are very excited to be able to do further documentation of this species and research its habitat to be able to understand it better and protect it.

I am enjoying the night-time hanging out in the, ‘lab,’ which is the only place at base camp with full power and internet access. The five teachers have a table and a set, ‘desk,’ where we sit and share our day and then write and upload our blogs. Each research team has their own table, and they unpack their findings and work on how they are going to preserve their finds for further research. Most of the items collected on a Bush Blitz trip are for research collections in museums or universities.

Each night I have been going to bed later, and later as there are so many interesting finds that come back into the lab. The scientists love that teachers are here and they all love sharing their knowledge. They show off their collection boxes, their equipment and their stories of their field work. These are people with extensive study in very specific areas of science, so they are extremely passionate about what they do. Among the many people I have met I have spoken with experts in aquatic snails smaller than a finger-nail, bugs that only live on one sort of plant, spiders that only move in one manner and a scientist that looks for only parasitic wasps.
I wonder who I will be with tomorrow…

day 4 fiona jancey geographe primary school 2

day 4 fiona jancey geographe primary school 3