Geez, that was hot. I knelt-down on my left knee to open my first camera trap at Eurardy Reserve in early February, and immediately let out a word I can’t write here. My knee was on fire. I felt like I had knelt onto a hot stove.
But I can’t really complain, because the intense heat that we receive in this part of the country was one of the main reasons that I was out on Eurardy on a hot day in the first place: I’m researching how some of the reserve’s plants and animals are responding to heat-waves, and the hotter and drier conditions that we’re experiencing through climate change.
I pulled a laser thermometer out of my field satchel and took a reading of the bare ground where my singed knee had been just a few seconds before.
Quite incredibly, the temperature reading was 73.5 degrees Celsius! I made a mental note to myself, squat down, instead of kneeling, for the rest of my scheduled camera stops.
I quickly changed the data cards on all of my cameras, and got out of those debilitatingly intense conditions as fast as I could. Even so, by the time I got back to the four-wheel-drive , I looked like I’d been caught in a thunderstorm rather than having been out in the dry sunshine under bakingly-hot conditions. My shirt was soaked. In sweat. It wasn’t a pretty sight.
Refuge from the heat
But that’s enough about me and my ‘burnt’ knee (it wasn’t that bad). One of my cameras (positioned in the open sun) recorded a temperature of 52°C in one instance. It’s a wonder that anything would be moving around (or living in) the bush at those temperatures.
In broad terms, that’s what I’m trying to find-out with my research: whether particular trees (three hemiparasitic plant species in the Santalaceae family – Sandalwood, Quandong and Ballart) – provide special microclimatic conditions during hot weather.
And whether birds and other fauna selectively seek-out these hemiparasitic plants for refuge during heat wave conditions.
It’s still early days in my research, so I don’t have any results to share as yet, but I will be back with a ‘Bushie Blog’ as soon as I do. In the meantime, it’s a real treat to be a regular visitor to Eurardy, and Charles Darwin and Hamelin Station Reserves, and to spend some time with all of the fabulous reserve staff.
I couldn’t do my research without them, so a big thanks to Ben and Tina at Eurardy, Ken and Michelle at Hamelin, and Jessica and Dean at Charles Darwin.
You can read more about my #SantalaceaeScience project here.
Richard is a Bush Heritage volunteer (and member of our Volunteer Advisory Committee). He's undertaking his PhD at the Institute for Land, Water & Society at Charles Sturt University. You can follow Richard on Twitter: @RichardMcLellan