In July, 12 keen students from the University of NSW descended on Avocet Nature Refuge for a field ecology course that incorporated the annual mark-recapture survey of Bridled Nailtail Wallabies. This allowed them to further their studies in a real-world conservation project with scientists actively working on one of Australia’s most threatened mammals, and better prepared them for the practical and financial challenges they may one day face in careers in environmental management.
Feral predators are a key threat to Bridled Nailtail Wallabies, and one of the group’s tasks was to prepare and analyse a network of sand plots on the roadways through the property. This was taken on with commitment and enthusiasm (the latter told by the energetic singing in the vehicle!), and the group proved proficient at the challenge of identifying tracks left in varying states of clarity. When not involved in the sand plots, the remainder of the students were on guided walks doing their best to absorb information about the trees and birds of the Brigalow, an extension on last year’s program to give them a more holistic appreciation of this threatened bioregion.
After completion of the sand plot work, the group began trapping and processing the wallabies. This involved twice-nightly checking of the 116 traps and measuring and weighing the animals caught, with any first-timers having eartags and microchips inserted and DNA taken. Such procedures are no simple task for the inexperienced, but as a whole the group managed the process calmly and professionally, ensuring minimal disturbance to the animals. By the end, a total of 16 individuals were recorded, with six of them being first-time captures, suggesting that the population on the reserve is stable.
Overall, the students enjoyed a rewarding experience in beautiful Queensland winter weather before travelling home to write up their reports. This project is a great example of a mutually beneficial partnership that provides substantial rewards for all parties involved. We were lucky enough to have a video crew with us on the project and they have put together a video of the project. So check it out!!!