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Making it count at Naree

Published 20 Mar 2013 

Jim Radford checks a pitfall trapDr Jim Radford checks a pitfall trap during a similar survey at Boolcoomatta Reserve, SA, in 2010. Photo: Peter Morris

By Kelly Irving

"It's a funny name for an ecological survey," says Bush Heritage's Science and Monitoring Manager, Dr Jim Radford, about the ‘bio-blitz' that's taking place at Naree Station Reserve in mid-April. "But essentially, it means that we try to get as much information about our new reserve as we can, in a really short amount of time."

Over nine days on the 14,400-hectare property, a team of up to 25 dedicated conservationists, comprising Bush Heritage staff, volunteers, consultants and traditional landowners, will rise at the crack of dawn every day to carefully check traps for mammals and reptiles, survey birds and map vegetation.

Hopefully, in five or ten years, we’ll be able to say, ‘wow, look at the difference all of us have made.

This crucial inventory - Naree's first - will help determine how the reserve will be managed and monitored over time.

"For example, if we find areas where threatened marsupials like the kultarr live then that will influence our fire management," says Jim, one of the leaders of the blitz. "We might not burn that area or we'll exclude it from grazing."

Wetland at Naree StationWetland at Naree Station. Photo: Peter Morris

Power to the people

It takes a particular type of person to be involved in the planning and production of a bio-blitz.

"I jumped at the chance to work with Bush Heritage," says Martin Denny, a consultant who'll be documenting land-dwelling fauna like reptiles, frogs and small mammals during the blitz. "It's a magnificent feeling to have that open, clear land to look at. I feel freedom out in that sort of country." 

"Attention to detail and a willingness to do the tedious work are paramount to our success," says Jim. "Monitoring the first site has to be done to the same exacting standards as the last. We can't rush it. Consistency is important so that any future comparisons we make are valid."

Dr Jim Darford with Dusky Hopping MouseJim with a Dusky hopping mouse found at Boolcoomatta Reserve. Photo: Peter Morris

A day in the life

Early each day, the team will drive off from the homestead in designated groups of two and three, ready to work on projects related to their skills and experience. Some will sit patiently and wait in the long grass for wetland birds that are difficult to spot, like crakes and rails.

Others, like Bush Heritage's Aquatic Ecologist Adam Kerezsy, will carefully clear nets of fish while others, like Martin, will check pit-fall traps for creatures like stripe-faced dunnarts, a task that, according to ethics standards, must be done within two hours of sunrise to minimise stress to captured animals.

Later, they'll return to the homestead for a home-cooked meal prepared by volunteer camp cooks, before some evening spotlighting and then settling in to their tents for the night.

In it for the long term

“We all see this as a long-term investment,” says Martin. “We’re motivated because we know we’re building a baseline for Naree’s future.”

“Hopefully, in five or ten years, we’ll be able to prove there’s been an increase in species. We’ll say, ‘wow, look at the difference all of us – Bush Heritage volunteers, staff, partners and our supporters – have made’,” Jim adds.

The bio-blitz also plays a valuable role in bringing together all the people who have the interests of Naree at heart. “Traditional owners, for example, will be able to give us advice on what sorts of things we should be looking for and where we might be best placed to look for them,” says Jim. “It’s a process of building trust.”

“This might be the first survey, but it certainly won’t be the last,” he adds. This is thanks to all our supporters who have made the purchase of Naree possible.

Thank you to Chris and Gina Grubb and family for their generous support for the purchase of Naree Station reserve.

Dunnart in a Pitfall trapAnimals like this stripe-faced dunnart fall into pitfall traps overnight and rest there until scientists measure and release them in the morning. Photo: Peter Morris

Tips, tricks and traps

Dr Jim Radford explains how to catch and record elusive animals like the small and rare kultarr.

  1. Elliot traps 
    “A small box-trap with a spring door. It’s baited with peanut butter and oats – an odd bait for small carnivorous marsupials but it seems to work.”

  2. Spotlighting 
    “Active searching on foot using a spotlight. Good to supplement with other methods to increase our chances of spotting animals.”

  3. Camera traps
    "Motion-triggered infrared cameras to try and catch the kultarr on camera."

  4. Spotlighting
    "Active searching on foot using a spotlight. Good to supplement with other methods to increase our chances of spotting animals."

Thanks to so many of you who have supported both the purchase of Naree Station, and the Naree ‘bio-blitz’. If you’d still like to donate to support Jim and his team as they uncover Naree’s ecological secrets, you still have time.