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Spiders, Schweeping and Schwimming


Lynette Hillier

The morning began with a few of the teachers crossing live to their classes, or in Teacher Kerry’s case – the whole school! I was fortunate enough to be able to watch them in their elements chatting to their students while interviewing various scientists. It was awesome to see passionate teachers with passionate scientists all creating fantastic learning opportunities for their students. Unfortunately, my timetable doesn’t work with the time slots to cross to my students but I cannot wait to share my adventure, knowledge and experience.

Our expedition for the day was then to join the Arachnologist Mark Harvey and Jeremy Wilson and parasitoid wasp (Microhymenotera) specialist Erin Fagan-Jeffereies in the field to collect spiders and wasps. In addition to the scientists, our team included all 5 teachers, 2 members of the Bush Blitz team, Sarah from BHP and 2 field ecologists from the Australian Wildlife Conservancy – such a large group needed a name and we quickly settled on Swarm. We began at Plain Creek, searching the sides of the dried walls of the river bed for trap door spiders, or more specifically their burrows. As it was midday their doors were closed. I then ventured off with Erin to learn how to catch insects using nets. The technique is to swish the net backwards and forwards and then fold it back on itself to prevent the contents flying away. Erin sang “schweep – schweep” as she swung the net and it soon became the groups catch phrase. Inspecting the net, any insects caught were placed into a vial of ethanol. Whilst Erin was interested in wasps, any unique bugs caught were handed to the entomologists back at camp.

The second place to sample was the spectacular Grevillia Gorge. We descended down the gorge and began looking for spiders in crevices. I continued the “Schweep – Schweep” and Erin used the extension on the net to extend it to 8 meters long. At the bottom of the Gorge was a waterhole and after hot work in the sun, a swim was definitely in order. The climb down was phenomenal, the surroundings breathtaking, and the water, also breathtaking…. breathtakingly cold! Nevertheless we weren’t about to venture this far into the Kimberleys without having a swim. This was a great finish to another amazing day in the field and we headed back to base camp before dusk. There was some late night processing in the Lab in the evening before we retired to the campfire.