Internship at Arid Recovery

I’m hoping to start on some posts for this blog in the near future, but in the meantime I would love to share some photos and experiences from my internship at Arid Recovery in the first half of 2017.

Arid Recovery is an independent, not-for-profit conservation initiative which has been working just outside Roxby Downs since 1997. The reserve incorporates 123 km² of fenced reserve with about half being feral-free (i.e. free of cats, foxes, and rabbits). The reserve has successfully reintroduced populations of the Burrowing Bettong, Greater Stick-nest rat, Western Barred Bandicoot, and Greater Bilby. Plains mice and Spinifex Hopping Mice have also reintroduced themselves (!) reaching astounding numbers.

BeFunky Collage.jpg

The Big 4 at Arid Recovery: (L-R) the Greater Stick-nest Rat, Burrowing Bettong, Greater Bilby, and Western Barred Bandicoot, shown through camera trap images. Photos: Arid Recovery

My fellow intern Nathan Beerkens (now Field Ecologist & Community Coordinator!), wrote a stellar post describing A Day in the Life of an Arid Recovery intern, which will give you a good idea of what kind of work we were doing day-to-day. Basically lots of camera trap checks, community engagement, and work on individual projects, which for me involved even more camera trap footage and staking out some rabbit warrens outside the reserve fence.

We were also lucky enough to help out during the annual pitfall trapping, which was a massive highlight for me, as a reptile-lover with little hands-on experience until that point. I wrote a post on that incredible week on Arid Recovery’s blog which you can find here.

23874427_1694890747195951_1213902663_o

Some seriously charismatic reptile species on the Arid Recovery reserve: (L-R) Bearded Dragon, Sand Goanna, Fat-tailed Gecko)

Many late nights were spent spotlighting both within and outside the reserve, often with the wonderful Hugh McGregor. This occasionally included playing around with a thermal camera I became increasingly obsessed with. Another particularly valuable experience for me was running group tours to the reserve, which incorporated such taxing work as watching sunsets, drawing attention to exciting tracks and nests, and spotlighting for the Big 4 (as pictured in the camera traps above).

My obsession with the arid environment was fully cemented by the tracks in the sand.  What appears to be a relatively desolate landscape suddenly seems near to bursting when you realise the ground is covered by signs of life. The excitement that comes from identifying tracks cannot be understated, and it was particularly thrilling to come across bilby tracks! (Although I also find sleepy / stumpy-tail / shingleback lizard tracks to be pretty spectacular).

tracks.jpg

Tracks within the landscape at Arid Recovery: (L-R) Burrowing Bettong tracks, Shingleback/Sleepy/Stumpy-tail Lizard tracks, mess of tracks including Plains and Hopping Mice

Nearing the end of the internship, my semi-severe peanut allergy unfortunately counted me out of annual bettong trapping (but see a blog and video about it here). However, the extraordinarily awesome silver lining was that I ended up catching bilbies instead! It was so incredible to see these marvellous creatures up close, and a wonderful experience to bring the internship to a close.

Since leaving I’ve already returned to volunteer on some vegetation surveys, and I plan to return for pitfall trapping this year if I can. It goes without saying that I recommend you take a visit to catch a glimpse of the “Big 4” (stickies, bettongs, bilbies, and bandicoots). I also suggest, if possible, that you take a careful look both inside and outside the fence to see for yourself the striking difference in the animal (in the tracks) and plant communities, resulting from feral predator exclusion.

I would like to thank all the staff at Arid Recovery, particularly Kath, Kim, John, Hugh, and Nathan for such a wonderful experience and a great time!