In late September, four dedicated students from The University of Queensland made the long (900km!) trip from their home base in Brisbane out to Carnarvon Station Reserve in the Brigalow Belt region of central Queensland. These students are part of UQ’s iROOS (Idalia Recovery Organisation of Students) who now volunteer for numerous environmental projects across Queensland and beyond.
Ben, Jenny and two Caitlins provided invaluable assistance to me in preparing 59 soil plots across much of the reserve; hot dusty work in challenging terrain. Each soil plot, 1km from the previous, was checked for animal tracks daily for four days before being reset with brooms, rakes and sieves. Soil plots can yield rich data on the activity and distribution of large vertebrates such as macropods and dingoes, and require minimal resources to collect such information. Additionally, there's no interference to the animals’ normal behaviour; unlike trapping, which is often necessary to monitor smaller species.
On two of the nights during the survey, we conducted spotlighting along driven transects, counting the odd predator such as cats, but also some of the more exciting native species. We were well rewarded for our efforts in spotting a Greater Glider and two pairs of Koalas on both nights! Koala populations have nearly halved in the last few decades and the species is found in low densities across central Queensland, making sightings such as these a rarity.
In addition to our ecological surveys, the iROOS enjoyed chatting to Healthy Landscape Manager Chris Wilson about his work in areas such as fire, weed and infrastructure management. We also spent an afternoon tidying up the historic cattle yards near the homestead, which are preserved as a tribute to one aspect of Carnarvon’s rich cultural heritage.
Overall, it was a very productive week as the students gained more hands-on experience in ecological monitoring and land management while absorbing the majesty of the Carnarvon ranges, grassy valleys and open woodlands.