How I help BHA

Bush Heritage Australia have featured me and my other student comrades in their newsletter this month.

I’m eternally indebted to BHA for letting me work on Edgbaston.  They have recently expanded their science focus, particularly in supporting and attracting student and University research collaborations.  This is an exciting chapter for us students and for managers – conservation reserves need to make informed decisions but lack the funding to research their options so RHD students provide a perfect opportunity to address issues of concern.  In return, we know our research is being applied, we have on-ground access to managers that know their country and care about conserving it and we get to spend all our time on some of the most amazing pieces of country in Australia.  See below for some of the things my project is contributing to the management of Edgbaston.

* Putting Edgbaston in context

As part of our broader springs research myself, Adam Kerezsy, Mark Kennard, Rod Fensham and the rest of our team are piecing together an image of the diversity values of springs ACROSS THE WHOLE CONTINENT (the project is called LEBSA, you can access it here).  And what we are finding is that Edgbaston is just as special as we always thought.  This work will help highlight the areas of springs that are the most diverse, those that are in dire need of help and those species or groups of species that we really need to know more about.  An overview of the whole project can be seen here, and I will post updates on the database as they are completed.

* The first full survey of the diversity of the 9 species of snails that are only found on Edgbaston.  

So far we have found that many of these snails are just as spatially rare as the amazing and more famous Red-finned Blue-eye – for example a still un-described species of Glyptophysa is only found in 7 springs.  Soon I will be publishing some work on what factors we think are important for these species, why some springs are more diverse than others and how Edgbaston differs from other springs complexes like Hermit Hill in South Australia.

* Knowing how best to monitor springs in the future

Sampling animals and plants can be hard work, especially when you have over 100 springs to visit and often small amounts of time.  That’s why one of the first things I did was work out what the most efficient and accurate way of sampling the invertebrates of Edgbaston is.  In the future, this means managers of the station can ensure they make accurate assessments of diversity whilst not wasting time with overly finicky methods.  It also means that we can combine our data with that of other springs researchers and know that, even though we might sample different ways, our results are free of biases.

* Painting a better picture of the adaptations of each species living in springs

Each of the nine species of snails on Edgbaston deals with their environment in a different way – some are hyper tolerant and stick out all those dry, salty and hot times, others are a bit more sensitive which means they can only live in those places that are always stable.

* Monitoring conservation interventions

We are still unsure of why springs are so special, and if springs species could happily live in other artesian fed waterways if they found their way there.  Recent discoveries of the Edgbaston Goby in local agricultural bores suggest that maybe we can rehabilitate existing bores into a man-made springs that will expand the available habitat for threatened springs species.  The first man-made spring has just been completed at Edgbaston and we will start monitoring how closely it resembles the real deal this year.

* Giving undergrads hands on experience on BHA reserves

By partnering up with the iROOS (a student run UQ student conservation volunteer group) we are not only benefitting from the many hands that make light work, we are also showing these students of Ecology and Environmental Management what it is really like in the real world.

Photo Ian Rossini

Photo Ian Rossini

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