Monday, March 31, 2014

Heartfelt Goodbyes and Biodiversity

March 15 – 17, 2014

By John M. Gallalee

Saturday, the fifteenth, was our last official day in Brisbane. It was also a scheduled
“free day.” Most of us spent this last day with our gracious host families. For me, it was a bittersweet day. I packed, took one last swim in my host family’s pool, and enjoyed a family outing to a commercial port turned market for dinner and another glimpse of Australian culture. I am unable to fully express the gratitude that I feel toward the family that took me in. They gave me a room of my own, fed me delicious meal after delicious meal, and taught me a great deal about Australia. I truly appreciate the effort and kindness of each of them and feel lucky to have made new friends. Hopefully, I will be able to repay their kindness someday.

On Sunday, March sixteenth, we took a bus up to the rainforest area known as Lamington Plateau, our home for the next week. We were fortunate enough to be joined for the first chunk of the week by two biologists and a zoologist, named David, Stephen, and Peter, respectively. That afternoon after setting up camp, our group split in two. One half went with Stephen to set up mist nets used to ensnare birds. The rest of us went with Peter to set up various non-lethal traps to catch small mammals.

To humanely catch a small mammal, one needs four things: a small metal trap, bait, some fluff for the animal to nest in once captured, and a plastic bag to keep out the rain. After setting up thirty odd traps we hiked back to our camp for a well deserved meal.

That night, Peter led a hike back into the rainforest to spotlight some nocturnal critters. This involves shining one’s flashlight through the trees to try and see the reflection of animals’ eyes. We also brought along a device used to detect high frequency sounds in order to record bat calls. It was a grand old time.

After this, the mammal-catching group went to check on the traps. We caught an abundance of small Australian mammals including antechinus and bush rats. We were very pleased with the fruits of our labor.

The following day, Monday the seventeenth, the birding group went to clear their mist nets at 5:30 am. They reconvened with the mammal trappers for breakfast at 8:00. They caught four different species of birds and were pleased with themselves as well. That day, our two groups split up again. One group went to study the forest structure of eucalyptus forests and the other to study the structure of the rainforest.

After taking detailed notes concerning soil type, foliage cover, number of plants present, ground cover, and evidence of fauna in the two forests, we headed back to our base camp. Each group then prepared a presentation to facilitate a discussion concerning the various similarities and differences between sclerophyll forests and rainforests.

At this point, the group that had caught birds that very morning went out to prepare traps for mammals. We who had once been mammal trappers went out to prepare mist nets for birds. That night we all went to bed with full bellies and hopes for full traps the following day.

Group Photo at Base Camp

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