Darwinian motion (and other mixed scientific theories)

on 22 Oct 2013 
Bill james busily scribing

In many ways, Charles Darwin Reserve was the ‘birthplace’ of the ‘Ecological Outcomes Monitoring’ protocol that involves establishing monitoring sites in representative habitats, with Sandy Gilmore and former WA Ecologist Hugh Pringle first rolling out the approach at CDR back in 2005. Matt Appleby took up the reins after Hugh left, and after a hiatus of two years, we were determined to monitor as many sites as possible in 2013 in preparation for the 5-year report. So, we compiled a crack 7-person monitoring team by enticing EOMaestro Angela Sanders up from Albany, who brought along her top monitoring volunteers Bill James and Tarna Osborne, to join Matt and myself, and the new WA Ecologist, Vanessa Westcott, who came over for an invaluable on-reserve hand-over from Matt. Long-term CDR volunteer Len Warren rounded out the team.

After a windy start, we were blessed with excellent weather, which allowed us to get a mountain of monitoring completed.  Bird surveys were completed at 58 sites, with highlights being regular records of Regent Parrot, Southern Scrub Robin and Shy Hylacola (any time you can work ‘Hylacola’ into an article is a highlight!). Vegetation and soil monitoring was completed at 52 sites, which is a phenomenal effort, highlighted by Matt’s laser-like 50m-tape roll-outs (with somersault and double-twist in a pike position), Len’s immaculate data sheets and Ange’s pure joy at differentiating a shedding patch from a conserving one.

In all seriousness, we were able to conduct repeat surveys at many sites which will enable comparisons over time: there are now 66 sites that have been surveyed for birds four times or more since 2005 and 56 sites that have multiple vegetation-intercept and soil-surface condition transects. A key focus of this year’s monitoring was also to obtain data from as many sites as possible in the same year to enable comparisons in different parts of the reserve in the same year. This data will be used to inform the 5-year ecological performance report scheduled for the first quarter of 2014.

It is a great way to see nearly every corner of Charles Darwin Reserve and really get an appreciation for the diversity of vegetation types that exists on this keystone reserve. While we were a couple of weeks late for peak wildflower season, there were still some spectacular displays around the granites. Thanks to all involved, particularly Bill, Tarna and Len for their tireless efforts, and to Luke and family for hosting our visit.

Bill james busily scribing