During National Science Week, 10-year-old Macey Hales (from Yourka Reserve) tells us about her science project at school in the Tablelands town of Malanda.
For the last 8 years my family and I have shared our time between two beautiful and diverse locations – the grassy woodlands of Yourka Reserve and the lush rainforest of Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland. On weekdays I attend Malanda Primary School with about 300 students, many from local dairy farms and on the weekends and holidays I attend a 100,000+ acre open air classroom with Dad and Mum and a range of scientists, naturalists, volunteers and visitors from all around the country.
Growing up, fauna surveys have been an everday part of my life. Spotlighting, pitfalls, Elliots, cages and trailcams are all ways that I’ve been able to learn about the local wildlife in and out of town. Not everyone is as lucky as me.
When I was in grade one, a Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo hopped through our playground at Malanda Primary School. To my surprise, lots of kids did not know what it was! It made me and my family realise that not everyone has the same interest or opportunity to learn about native species so, when I was asked to design a school-based science and sustainability project at the beginning of this year I decided to set up Malanda Wildlife Watch.
My project has two main aims. Firstly, I am hoping to help my fellow students learn more about our local native fauna and how important it is to protect it and its habitat. Secondly, I’d like to inspire and enable the local community to learn more about our unique native wildlife by setting up a Critter Camera library which lets them borrow trail cameras to see what's living in their own back yards.
My motto is if you don’t know it, you can’t love and if you don’t love it, you won’t protect it. I am hoping that increased awareness will lead to increased conservation actions to protect the valuable habitat on the Atherton Tablelands.
At the beginning of my project I conducted a survey to see which common rainforest species students were most familiar with. I surveyed 80 students from across the school. Most students were able to recognise a few species like turkeys, tree roos and cassowaries but we still have a lot to learn about the other animals that commonly occur in the forests all around us.
Part of the reason why people don’t know some of our local species is because they are quite secretive and we don’t often see them. So I asked Dad if I could borrow some of the Bush Heritage trail cameras to collect images and show where the different animals occur (thanks Bush Heritage!).
Trail cameras are a great way to survey animals without impacting on them and the students also find them really interesting and sometimes funny (like the one where the Giant White-tailed Rat had climbed up the front of the camera and was chewing on it).
At school I have been conducting monthly competitions to get students involved and more interested in learning about the different species. I’ve also been sharing interesting and funny facts about the different species on school parades (assembly) and been running a lunchtime Critter Club where I show images from the remote cameras and talk more about the animals that were captured on them.
At the end of the year I will be repeating my original survey to see whether I’ve made much of a difference in wildlife education. I have also been working with the committee members of the local Tree Kangaroo and Mammal Group (TKMG) to set up the Critter Camera Library which I will be launching for them in October this year. The Critter Camera Library is an ongoing initiative that my family and I are going to manage for TKMG so that the families of Malanda and the Atherton Tablelands never stop learning about the wildlife that makes our region so special.
It’s been a lot of work but a lot of fun too. And it’s great to be able to share some of the benefits of being a Bush Heritage kid (like access to spy cameras!) with my school friends in town.