Bush Blitz news and media releases can be accessed from the below links:

Olkola Bush Blitz – 800,000Ha of undiscovered potential

First impressions

Australian National Botanic Gardens staff member Sally Ingham has joined the Bush Blitz team on their latest expedition to Olkola, Cape York, Queensland. Sally shares her thoughts from the field with us.

As I drove to meet the team of scientists it struck me, not for the first time, that I was about to depart on a trip of a lifetime. I was heading on my first Bush Blitz expedition into Olkola Country, located in southern central Cape York, Queensland.

The Olkola Aboriginal Corporation work to look after country and culture on Olkola traditional lands. These include part of the Great Dividing Range from the Coleman River in the North to the King River in the South and overlap with the western Mitchell Plains and the eastern Laura Plains.

As I drove to Olkola country with John ‘The Snail Whisperer’ Stanisic I heard his stories from the field; vast and varied filled with adventure and intrigue told by a man who loves what he does and does what he loves.

As I listened to John I became increasingly enthusiastic to meet the rest of the team of scientists and the Olkola people who all share the same levels of knowledge and passion. I was blown away when I learned that John had discovered over 900 new species of Australian land snail. Throughout his career he has completely changed what we know about this unassuming gastropod. I learned a tonne of fantastic facts, that - A lot of the species are only a few millimetres across, that snails can store water inside their bodies in their lung cavity while they go into hibernation (aestivation). But my favourite was the great snail love story; a snail longingly looks for a mate by moving through the landscape emitting pheromones and hoping to run over another snail’s mucus trails that it can follow until it finally comes across its lucky partner to be.

  • Sally Ingham
    Bush Blitz – Olkola, Cape York, Queensland

Bush Blitz is an innovative partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities and Earthwatch Australia. For more go to our website

Aerial image of Olkola Reserve

The amazing Olkola Reserve, © Qld Museum
800,000Ha of undiscovered potential – little snails where are you…

An amazing first day

Australian National Botanic Gardens staff member Sally Ingham has joined the Bush Blitz team on their latest expedition to Olkola, Cape York, Queensland. Sally shares her thoughts from the field with us.

It was breakfast time on my first full day at camp when Bush Blitz team member Mim Jambrecina told me I would be heading out in the field. I joined two of the scientists, John ‘The Snail Whisperer’ Stanisic from the University of Queensland and Darren Crayn from the Australian Tropical Herbarium.

We headed in to explore and collect samples from an area that had some damp valleys and plateaus with a variety of vegetation types.

The vastness of the area was amazing, it seemed like it went on forever, there was savannah woodlands as far as the eye could see, a few waterholes and a variety of tracks were scattered over the land.

We set off on foot to explore and it didn’t take us long before we came to a valley and a completely different environment. The landscape changed from dry savannah to damp gallery forest, we traversed over the large boulders and up the gully. We looked in awe at the large sandstone cliffs and rocks and then headed in different directions to look at the flora and snail diversity.

I first headed out with John to collect snails near the sandstone cliffs, we looked through the leaf litter, peered into cavernous sandstone shelves, and worked our way up and down the gully’s edges. I learned about how fire effects snail habitat and how snail shells differ.

  • Sally Ingham
    Bush Blitz – Olkola, Cape York, Queensland

Bush Blitz is an innovative partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities and Earthwatch Australia. For more go to our website

Aerial image of Olkola Reserve

Here snail, snail, snail… © Sally Ingham

From snails to plants

Australian National Botanic Gardens staff member Sally Ingham has joined the Bush Blitz team on their latest expedition to Olkola, Cape York, Queensland. Sally shares her thoughts from the field with us.

Later on my first day, we wandered down through some of the most amazing geological formations I had ever seen and into the damp valley below. I was off with Darren Crayn from the Australian Tropical Herbarium this time to look at some of the plant life. I learned so much as we were walking through the area about how to collect specimens, what to look for, interesting facts about the plants that we were passing and what kind of plants to expect in this environment. Then the land surprised us again with a beautiful waterhole surrounded by some stunning sheer sandstone cliffs.

With my mind sufficiently blown by all the amazingness that I had seen up to this point we realised that over five hours had passed in a second. As I looked at the landscape of Cape York and thought about the day that we had just had, I couldn’t believe that this was only day one.

  • Sally Ingham
    Bush Blitz – Olkola, Cape York, Queensland

Bush Blitz is an innovative partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities and Earthwatch Australia. For more go to our website

Scientists in the bush

National Tropical Herbarium team from James Cook University - collecting plants © Qld Museum

A scientist digging in the sand

Sally Ingham digging a hole… © Sally Ingham

A scientist holding a spider

And look what was in the hole!! © Sally Ingham

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Bush Blitz Kimberley's Video – as seen at the World Parks Congress

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Bush Blitz uncovers rare finds at Carnarvon Station

Download the Central Queensland News article [PDF 336 kb]

Radio National Interviews

Here are some podcasts of the Carnarvon Bush Blitz

Off the Track interview on Radio National

Interview with Jo Harding on Radio National


Among the innumerable species of plants and animals to be found along the SWER line, one of the most elusive is a medium-sized skink (a Carlia?) with a bright red throat. Several times we saw him gliding over the leaves, but each time we got close he shot off like an eel. Once we thought we had him cornered, trapped in a crevice under rocks. But it turned out the crevice had a back door, through which he hurtled and vanished. It was rumoured that Andrew, the expedition herpetologist, had tried and failed to catch one of these skinks, so our chances of securing a specimen were as good as Buckley’s.

Barbara Ellen Jamie and Andrew

Barbara Ellen Jamie and Andrew

I had heard a lot about the SWER line before I got to go there. Christine Lambkin, a fly expert from the Queensland Museum, had gone into raptures about the entirely different, unexpected, mind-blowingly weird species caught there on a previous trip. Everyone who’d been there seemed to agree that it was a terrific place to collect. There was something about the landform, or the weather patterns, or the geology, or something that made the SWER line different from everywhere else on the property.

The SWER line, as we discovered, followed the electricity powerlines (SWER is some sort of acronym relating to electricity supply) from the station boundary to the edge of a low line of sandstone/quartzite cliffs. From the rim-rocks we could see the powerlines plunging into the valley towards Carnarvon Station homestead. The flat-topped cone of Mount Lambert towered beyond. Growing beneath us at the foot of the cliffs was an array of rock-figs and other vine-thicket species, their canopies level with our feet. The vine-thicket looked tremendously interesting, but at that stage we couldn’t see a safe way down the rock-face.

The other members of our group were Barbara (an arachnologist from Brisbane), and Jamie and Ellen from BHP. Our primary aim was catching spiders – but Ellen and I soon became side-tracked by the elusive red-throated skink. We ran him to ground under a large rock. When I lifted up the rock there was no skink, but there was a large, weird-looking spider huddled up as though cold. Into a collecting tube it went. When we showed Barbara, she became excited, saying that the spider was very rare and hinting that that I now had my daily ‘highlight’ to share with my fellow expedition members around the dinner table that night.

Eventually we found a way down around the cliffs, and doubled back to visit the vine-thicket beneath where we had originally stood. The place was like an adventure playground. There were bizarre cracks, caves and crevices in the 20-m high blocks of stone that made up the cliffs. Rock-figs grew in the cracks, their roots like pythons climbing slowly up the yellowish walls. Fat-bodied bottle-trees carpeted the litter with fragrant flowers. For the first time all day we were in shade; I took off my hat and hung it on a branch.

For a while we mostly forgot about searching for spiders, and simply explored. Then over my radio I heard Ellen saying ‘Brian, are you close by? I’ve got one of those skinks cornered.’ I clambered through and over the enormous boulders as fast as I could; I could see Ellen’s pink checked shirt on the slope beneath me. Jamie came hurrying from another direction.

The skink had gone to ground in a natural trap, a rectangular crevice with only one way out. Peering into the darkness, we could see its nose, then tail as it moved around. We tried to poke it with a grass-stem to provoke it into coming out, but it stayed put. Then we began removing the rocks that formed the roof of the trap, until there was only one rock between the skink and us. ‘We have to be absolutely ready to grab it,’ said Ellen, ‘because we’re only going to get one chance.’ The two of us crouched, hands ready, while Jamie removed the final rock.

The skink when it came was almost too fast too see. A brown streak flowed over the rock, past our waiting hands, and was gone. But no, it had made a mistake – it had bunted up against Jamie’s boot. ‘There it is!’ Jamie grabbed at it. Now it came towards me. I lunged at it. It was near Jamie again. Jamie grabbed, and the electrically-swift lizard disappeared over the edge of the boulder we were standing on. Bugger! We had missed the best chance we would ever have of catching one.

But the skink was still somewhere near the base of the boulder. Jamie was down there, calling out as he tried to grab it. I was about to jump over the edge and help when I heard him cry ‘Got it!’ Ellen and I whooped in triumph; we could barely believe it. With trembling hands we helped Jamie secure the lizard in a bag.

At the top of the slope we ran into Andrew, who accepted our catch on behalf of the Queensland Museum, in whose collection the skink will shortly appear.

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Confined to Base

Given the choice, I would rather be out in the bush walking, or even working, but there are certain advantages to hanging around at Base Camp, as I discovered this morning.

Yesterday eight of us climbed Mount Lambert, the most prominent local landmark and, at 1029 m, the second highest peak on Carnarvon Station. The other members were of the party were Bruce from Earthwatch, Jamie and Dom from BHP, and four scientists from the Queensland Museum: Andrew, Heather, Christine and Susan.

Rock Fig

The walk to the top, which was supposed to take an hour, took closer to three. The reason for the delay was that we were collecting the whole way up. That is to say, one or other of us was always chasing something with a butterfly net, or turning over a rock to see what was underneath, or peering through binoculars at something in a tree. Every so often a specimen would be secured and placed into a plastic tube, to somebody’s delight, but to be honest I didn’t pay that much attention to what was being collected – I was too busy listening and searching for birds.

Today, while the rest of the Bush Blitz team went out collecting, it was my turn to hang around the camp monitoring the phones and radios. Over lunch I casually asked Christine, who had remained behind to process specimens, what the most interesting collection from the Mount Lambert walk had been. The story she told me was a memorable one.

The small tableland at the top of the mountain was alive with butterflies and other winged insects. While I was madly scampering around taking photos of the magnificent views, Christine, Susan, Dom and Jamie were busy with their butterfly nets. Among the takings were three Acrocerid flies, captured by Susan: it was these that Christine nominated as the catch of the day.

Acrocerid flies have a weird and horrific life history. The larvae find their way (it is not clear how) into the body cavity of a spider, where they may live for several years, feeding on the internal organs of the still-living (but probably not thriving) arachnid. Finally they transform into winged adults, punching out through the spider’s skin and flying off in search of a mate.

Unlike most other insects, which fly with their bodies parallel to the ground, the weirdly-proportioned Acrocerids fly bolt upright, tilting their tiny heads forward and whirring their disproportionately small, stubby wings. It was three such aeronauts that Susan had captured on the summit of Mount Lambert, among the flowering peas and giant Prickly Pears, plucking them from dreams of love to immortality (of a sort) in the Queensland Museum.

Given that one of the goals of Bush Blitz is to discover new species, I asked Christine whether there was any chance that the Acrocerids captured by Susan might turn out to be new. ‘There’s no way of saying,’ said Christine. ‘The world expert on Acrocerids has got Alzheimer’s and will probably never work again. They’re what’s known as an orphan taxon: there’s nobody currently studying them and these specimens may never be identified to species level.’

So the Acrocerids captured by Susan must remain non-descript, waiting in a museum cabinet until an entomologist, perhaps yet unborn, untangles their taxonomy and bestows them with names.

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The first fall of rain woke me. The fat drops quickly developed into a heavy pounding. It was just after midnight; I hadn’t been asleep for long. I heard footsteps on the veranda and went out: Bruce and Mim were up too. The sky was flashing; the rain cascaded down.

Tent city with Mt Lambert in background

Tent city with Mt Lambert in background

It was hard to think what to do first. We raced down the stairs, getting drenched in the few metres between our sleeping quarters and the cottage that housed the Bush Blitz HQ. Whipped by the wind, spray was swirling under the eaves. We turned off all the powerpoints and carried the computers and electronic gear from the veranda into the cottage. We carried the maps, chargers and walkie-talkies inside and folded a tarp over what we couldn’t carry. When we had done everything our sleep-befuddled minds could think of, we stood for a few minutes on the verandah and looked out into the blackness of the storm. On the flat below us, where the camp was, a few torches were on, illuminating thin fabric pyramids and domes. Hopefully the tents we had spent hours pitching, in 40-degree heat under cloudless skies, would stay dry.

At dawn I was huddled in my jacket near the tea- and coffee-table. The rain had stopped and there was a patch of blue sky in the west, the weather direction. One by one, the campers came trudging up the hill to tell their stories. The legionnaire-style pyramid tents had stayed mostly dry, the dome tents less so. But everyone seemed in good spirits, even Jamie, the BHP employee whose novel had become a sodden mop overnight. (He later used the botanists’ plant-press to dry it out).

The blacksoil road between the camp and the cottages had turned to muck, and anyone who crossed it soon grew a couple of inches taller courtesy of muddy soles. Chris, the station manager, came down at breakfast to report that 20 mm of rain had fallen, and the roads would not be trafficable until at least lunchtime the next day.

The storm, and the stunning sunny morning that followed, created a kind of holiday mood – it was a Saturday, after all. Following four long, hard days of collecting, most of the scientists seemed energised by the interruption to routine. Some decided to spend the morning at base, processing their specimens; others to set off on foot, surveying the area around the camp or climbing nearby Mount Lambert. But in the back of everyone’s mind was the thought that, with more rain forecast, our stay at Carnarvon might turn out to be longer than planned. Sixty millimetres of rain would be enough to shut down the blacksoil tracks for a week; and we all remembered Chris’s stories of how, after the big rains in 2010, the damage to roads meant that he and his family had been stranded ‘on holidays’, unable to get back to the station for 9 months.

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Bush Blitz in the News at Carnarvon Station Reserve

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Undiscovered species

Undiscovered species

Is 75% of Australia’s Biodiversity really unknown?

Australia may be known for its unique plants and animals, but how many do we actually know about?

ABC News Blog: Fact check: Are 75pc of Australia's living species unknown?

Download the ABC Fact Check document here [PDF322kb]

View the ABC's Report on undiscovered species in Australia below.

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Tuesday, 22nd July 2014

Bush Blitz Media Release

Media release: Bush Blitz steps up search for Australia's 'hidden' species [PDF 31kb]

The world’s first continent-scale nature discovery project, Bush Blitz, is being ramped up to broaden the search for Australia’s least known plant and animal species.

Bush Blitz has been extended until 2017 thanks to $12 million in funding from the Australian Government and BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities, with each contributing $6 million.

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A Partnership of Discovery

Bush Blitz video

Click to watch a You Tube video showing details on the Bush Blitz program and how it benefits Australia

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Bush Blitz promotional video

BHP promotional video

Click to watch the new BHP Billiton You Tube video showing the discovery of new species in the Kimberley, Australia.

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Bush Blitz Explores the Kimberley’s

Saltwater Crocodile

News Stories

The Australian - Miners come to Kimberley party as science hunts for 'new' life [PNG 2.1mb]

The Guardian - Taxonomist shortage means newly discovered animals are unclassified [PDF 1.6mb]

The West - Innovative trip finds new species

The Australian, 3rd June 2014

Article in The Australian, Page 5, 3rd June 2014.


The Kimberley wins some new fans- The Australian experience Bush Blitz first hand.

Welcome to Country- Following traditional customs in the Ungarinyin lands.

Poor Pat- Pat works hard to discover lichen species in the hot terrain.


To find out what 5 different science teachers discovered go to the Bush Blitz Teachlive website.

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Bush Blitz Back in Tasmania

Bush Blitz back in Tassie

Blog updates from Tasmania

The Bush Blitz team is out in the field again - this time in Tasmania’s beautiful central highlands!

Bush Blitz begins - The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery take part

A bountiful Bush Blitz - A huge amount of species discovered!

Bush Blitz back in Tasmania - Collecting in the central highlands

Ice Cream Van Hill - Surveying around the beauty of Icecream Van Hill

‘You can see a lot by looking.’ Yogi Berra (US Baseball legend)

I’ve ventured into the bush in various parts of Australia many times over the years. I’ve always enjoyed the trees, the shrubs and undergrowth, the birds and the occasional reptile and animal that crossed my path. The sound of the wind in the trees or the trickle of a creek completes the scene.

This was the framework that I took into the Bush Blitz that I participated in during February 2014. The setting was the Central Highlands of Tasmania and a group of BHP Billiton employees were joining scientists and other volunteers to investigate this area, under the banner of Bush Blitz.

We spent 10 days exploring, observing and collecting a range of things as we enjoyed the biodiversity of this area. Each day we were assigned to assist with a group focussed on a specific area of the environment we were in. This included observing and collecting spiders, insects, moths, butterflies and snails. We located and collected seed for the Tasmanian Seed Conservation Centre and observed, photographed and collected a range of vascular and non-vascular plants. On one morning we found, collected and documented 38 species of moss and liverwort in one fertile meadow.

Part of the work was collecting scats of the endangered Tasmanian devil and spotted-tail Quoll. The scats provide valuable information on the activity and diet of these carnivores. I didn’t think that a ‘scat-scoop’ could be so interesting and satisfying! Throughout the week my eyes were continually opened to the detail and beauty of all that makes up the Tasmanian highlands. Things that you would easily walk past, – lichen on a branch; an ant-mimicking bug on a tree; a seed-head on a sedge, - all come to life when you stop and look. We were privileged to explore many different areas ranging from marshland surrounding lakes, to woodlands with towering trees, liverwort meadows with gentle trickles of water springing in the hills, sphagnum bogs teaming with life and rain-forest remnants with activity from the canopy to the decaying material on the floor. Wherever we looked, we found. The scientists were generous with their knowledge and sense of wonder with the material before us.

I found exploring, discovering and learning to be energising and fun. The long days in the field marched by quickly as there were always new things to see and more to discover. Bush Blitz has been a great opportunity to explore the Tasmanian Central Highlands and to discover the many layers that make up the biodiversity of our environment. I take home a renewed interest in the bush and an interest and respect for the work that is being done to understand the species that inhabit it and make it the fantastic place that it is.

Andrew Tennent

Andrew is one of eight BHP Billiton volunteers taking part in the Bush Blitz survey in Tasmania’s central highlands. Bush Blitz is an innovative partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities and Earthwatch Australia that is helping fill the gaps in our knowledge of biodiversity within Australia’s national system of conservation reserves.

Andrew with the bug net Tassie landscapes Trecking through the bush

Catching species in the beautiful surrounds of Tasmania's central highlands
Photo credit: Andrew Tennent and Bruce Paton

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Wednesday, 23 May 2013

Bush Blitz Media Release

Media release: New species discovered at Henbury Bush Blitz, NT [DOC 212kb]

Scientists believe they have found a new species of bee, scorpion, plant and some spiders—as well as healthy populations of desert fish. A team of 15 scientists and five teachers have spent the last 12 days and nights scouring Henbury Station, near Alice Springs, for new plant and animal species as part of Australia’s largest biodiversity discovery program—Bush Blitz.

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Monday, 13 May 2013

Bush Blitz Media Release

Media release: 17th Bush Blitz—looking for new species at Henbury Station, NT [DOC 210kb]

Scientists and teachers from across Australia will descend on Henbury Station, near Alice Springs today in a nature discovery ‘Bush Blitz’. For the next 12 days, 15 of Australia’s top scientists from museums, herbaria, universities and botanical gardens throughout Australia will camp out on Henbury Station documenting the many plants and animals protected by this huge reserve.

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Channel 7 News Report on Gawler - South Australian Bush Blitz

View the Channel 7's Report on the South Australian Bush Blitz at the Gawler Rangers.

Bush Blitz Graduate Erin Lake reports from Bush Blitz Hiltaba, South Australia!

Erin Lake

Erin Lake

Erin gives us her exciting account of working on the Gawler Rangers Bush Blitz site

I have been lucky enough to be a part of the 16th Bush Blitz expedition to the Gawler Ranges in South Australia, as part of the Graduate program with the Department of Sustainability and Environment (SEWPaC).

The Hiltaba and Gawler Ranges Bush Blitz is the second for the year, and is being run for two weeks in total. My role was to help organise the field logistics, participant contracts and payments, and to assist as a field officer during the expedition. After months of planning and organisation we finally hit the road, and headed 8 hours north-west of Adelaide to a remote former sheep station in the Gawler Ranges!

Hiltaba station

Hiltaba Station is a 77,000 hectare property in South Australia's Arid Zone

The Bush Blitz crew arrived at the station last Sunday, and have been helping the team of scientists settle into the campsite for two whole weeks of intensive survey work.

Luxury accommodation

Luxury accommodation…the Bush Blitz camp and shearer's quarters

While this property has only recently been converted from a sheep station to a conservation reserve, many of the scientists have commented on the exceptional diversity of unique species and habitats that this majestic property contains within. Peter Lang from the SA Herbarium says that the Bluebush plains here at Hiltaba are a real treasure because they are often converted into cropping or grazing land making it difficult to find large areas in such good condition.

Stay tuned for more fascinating finds as the Bush Blitzers leave no stone unturned and no tree unexamined as they search for creature's great and small!

Blue Bush

Expansive Bluebush Plains in good nick

Creatures Great and Small discovered on Bush Blitz Hiltaba

Hiltaba Station's location adjacent to the Gawler Ranges National Park significantly adds to its ecological value, because it provides another jigsaw piece within the East Meets West NatureLinks wildlife corridor.

Greg Johnston, a leading ecologist with the Nature Foundation of South Australia, says that the Hiltaba Bush Blitz provides a unique opportunity to gain a specialised understanding of the species occurring on the property, which will significantly assist in the management of the unique biodiversity of the area.

Greg has been an amazing host, and has been working alongside the scientists daily to assist them in gathering information that can then be used to feed back into the ongoing management of the property in the future. Here he is with vertebrate expert Dave Stemmer from the SA Museum - looking at the three different species of bat which had been collected that morning.

SA Museum staff

Greg Johnston (left) from the Nature Foundation SA and Dave Stemmer (right) from the SA Museum are very happy to be back in the field


Going batty - Four individuals of three different species in one morning! Not a bad start and really highlights the amount of diversity which occurs in the area - no wonder Greg and Dave have such happy faces!

Mammals are only one part of the Bush Blitz experience however, and John Stanisic will tell you that it is always important to scratch the surface. John is one of Australia's leading land snail experts and is known across the country as the Snail Whisperer. You may have heard of the Steve Irwin snail Crikey steveirwini? Well it was John who named this snail after the late wildlife warrior, and he says that the story of the naming went around the world in 48 hours! That's hot press for the slow moving sluggers!

Steve Irwin's Tree Snail

According to John, Hiltaba station contains a very diverse range of snail species, supporting the full suite of species that occur in the region, and he has already found 10 different species.

While they are not usually recognised as particularly charismatic species, John explains that snails are crucial for local ecosystems and actually have quite interesting ecologies. They predominantly live in sheltered rock piles where there is a long-term stable moisture regime and have a number of strategies to improve their chance of survival. They are able to excrete what is called an 'epiphragm' which is a mucous shield, protecting them in times of drought. Snails are also important indicators of environmental health, and provide play a major role in breaking down organic material in the soil.

Land Snails

10 species of land snails have been found at Hiltaba - representing the full complement of the local fauna

Creepy crawlies are coaxed out of the woodwork at Hiltaba!

One of my less favourite things encountered on my Bush Blitz journey so far has been the spiders! The weather has been particularly good for spider hunting and luckily I had spider expert Barbara Baehr by my side to help me get around my arachnophobia while photographing them! Barbara is an absolute treasure to work with, and came all the way from Germany to study some of Australia's most feared creatures.


Barbara is primarily interested in the Lycosidae family which are the wolf spiders, and Opopaeae - the Goblin spiders. She has even named one after Sir David Attenborough and got to present a framed specimen to him earlier this year!

Barbara has spent many hours at Hiltaba sorting though the leaf litter looking for tiny spiders to observe under the microscope. She has also been probing sticks into giant holes in the ground and 'tickling out' enormous trap door spiders. She is able to catch them quite comfortably and refers to them as 'darlings' - most certainly not the description I would give them…

Spider Species

Under the microscope - spiders are Barbara's specialty

Who said that Fishing was bore-ing?

I was fortunate enough to go out for a day in the field collecting groundwater samples from a number of bores at Hiltaba Station, looking for tiny creatures which live in the groundwater. These 'stygofauna' could be tiny worms, molluscs or crustaceans and are usually blind. Stygofauna experts Remko Leijs and Rachel King showed us how to collect the samples and then we took them back to the lab to see if there were any stygofauna swimming around under the microscope.

Fishing for stygofauna

Fishing is not my strongpoint at the best of times - now I have been really put to the test- fishing for creatures that are millimetres in length!

The Hiltaba Bush Blitz has enabled the first stygofauna to be collected from the region, and so far Remko and Rachel have found worms and molluscs, meaning that the groundwater here is still in great condition.

Remko is also one of Australia's top native bee experts, and was kind enough to show me some of the Hiltaba collections under the microscope.

So far, 26 species of native bees have been surveyed at Hiltaba from just one flowering Eucalypt, I had no idea that there were so many different species!

Remko explained that there is still not a great deal known about Australia's native bees and there are not many people in Australia who are studying them. Bees are a difficult subject to study, as you can imagine it is very hard to count the populations. They are collected by sweeping a net over the flowering parts of trees and shrubs

Lego-Man Bee

This native bee (I call him Lego man bee) has been mounted and will be taken back to the SA Museum

Mounted bee specimens

It is tough being a bee sometimes…

There are 1500 species which have been described, however in the last 30 years there has been a lot of revisions and of the 500 that have been revised, around half have been found to be new species.

To revise a species, you need to first obtain the holotype- which is the specimen that was used to first describe a new species. Many of the holotypes are held by international museums such as the British Museum, so obtaining them adds a further level of complexity to an already complex process.

Remko's favourite bee is the Blue Banded Bee as you can see it is very beautiful, and he has dedicated a lot of research into studying the populations. Remko is also looking into how Australia's horticultural industry can utilise these native bees for pollination, rather than relying on importing foreign honey bees.

Blue Banded Bee

Bee-autiful, the Blue Banded Bee collected from Hiltaba Bush Blitz

A botanical paradise of flowers and fruits

I have been lucky enough to go out surveying with the Botanists from the South Australian Herbarium, doing a big loop around Hiltaba station's north eastern corner. Peter Lang from the Herbarium is exceptionally knowledgeable about the local plants, having worked in the SA's successful Biological Survey program - which set out to collect baseline data on the plant communities right across the state.

Peter Lang

Peter Lang presses specimens for the Herbarium

Hugh Cross is a genetic biologist and is also a lichen and moss expert, and today we managed to collect a number of different species of lichen to be examined back in the lab.

Collecting lichen

Hugh collecting lichen from this Western Myall (Acacia papyrocarpa) tree, which is probably around 200 years old

Lichen specimens

These colourful lichen specimens will go back to the lab for further analysis

Hugh and I also went looking for parasitic plant specimens such as Exocarpus and Santalum (Quandong). We collected a small sample from a number of individual trees in an area, and these samples will be taken back to the lab to test their DNA. Hugh and his associated back at the Herbarium are interested in finding out whether neighbouring parasitic trees are 'clones' and have the exact same DNA, or whether there is any genetic variation amongst the populations. Genetic analysis of plants and other tissues is certainly progressing full steam ahead. Hugh says that "Genetic analysis of the soil has allowed us to discover a wealth of hidden diversity beneath the ground". It is a fascinating ecology that we usually just step over.

Juergen Kellermann also accompanied us on our botanical mission across Hiltaba. Originally from Germany, I was astounded by Juergen's knowledge of Australian flora (not to mention his exceptional navigation skills!). He was very excited to find numerous populations of Stenanthemum arens, which is a member of the Rhamnaceae family of plants (the buckthorns).

The (Sten-an-them-um) is an endemic species and has only been found in areas around Hiltaba station. While it may not be much to look at, it is a very important indicator of the health of Hiltaba's arid vegetation communities, showing us that they are able to provide refuge for a unique and diverse range of species.

Reviewing specimens

Juergen gets a closer look at the Stenanthemum arens

Ptilotus flower

One of my personal favourite botanical finds was this Ptilotus (tie-lotus) species, which is similar to the Foxtails that you would plant in your garden. Such beautiful colours and a very delicate flower.

Bush Blitz is a biodiversity discovery program between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton and Earthwatch Australia which aims to document the plants and animals across Australia's National Reserve System.

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Rainfall transformation at Hiltaba

Bush Blitz Blog

Hiltaba shines as the rains come down

The desert can be harsh, hot and unforgiving, and in this climate the ecological currency is water.

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November 2012

Bush Blitz Media Release

Media Release: Bush Blitz explores the Gawler Ranges for new species [PDF 21kb]

Well it's that time of year again - spring has come to the South Australian Gawler Ranges and a Bush Blitz team of 18 scientists, BHP environmental professionals and Earthwatch volunteers will undertake the first comprehensive survey of the 77,000 Nature Foundation of SA property Hiltaba.

Hiltaba view (c) C. Nichols

Fish River Fish Team

The Fish River property has well and truly been living up to its name, with large numbers and a high diversity of freshwater fish species recorded by the Bush Blitz "Fish Team". The scientists from the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, and a ring in, have been using rapid fish survey techniques to assess the various wetlands, springs, streams and rivers.

The focus has been on areas that have not previously been sampled, so while the main large rivers like the Daly and Fish River proper are home to amazing species like Freshwater Sawfish and Freshwater Whipray, the sampling has been targeted at smaller cryptic species like Rainbowfishes, Swamp Eel and Purple-spotted Gudgeon.

So far the species fish tally stands at 23, with more sites to come, and work to be done back in the lab on assessing the status of local species as similar or different to those in other catchments. A variety of other plants and animals have also been documented ranging from bright green water plants, dragonflies to freshwater crabs and river prawns.

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Follow our blog

Bush Blitz Blog

Blog updates from Fish River in the Northern Territory.

Fish River - Bush Blitz reaches new heights in the NT.

Don't forget the snails - The sleeping beauties of Fish River.

Don't be fooled by first appearances - A treasure trove of life on Fish River Station.

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ABC 7.30 Report on Fish River - Northern Territory Bush Blitz

View the ABC 7.30 Report's recent segment on the Northern Territory Bush Blitz at Fish River.

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April 2012

Bush Blitz Media Release

Media Release: Hunting for the Territory's unusual and bizarre at Fish River Station. [PDF 130kb]

The property's extensive range of habitats including long stretches of the Daly River - one of the Territory's few permanent streams - billabongs fringed by savanna woodland and pockets of rainforest rising to spectacular ranges make it a collection haven for biodiversity scientists.

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ABC 7.30 Report on Skullbone Plains - Tasmanian Bush Blitz

View the ABC 7.30 Report's recent segment on the Tasmanian Bush Blitz at Skullbone Plains.

New photos

Lace Monitor Lizard

Photos of the Mallee Bioregion in Victoria are now available.

Visit our new gallery showing the variety of diverse species found in the Victorian Mallee.

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New photos

Desert Flower

Photos of the Goldfields Bioregion in Western Australia are now available.

Visit our new gallery showing the variety of diverse species found on the Goldfields.

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Follow our blog

Bush Blitz Blog

Read Blogs from Skullbone Plains in Tasmania.

Going Botanical - A Skullbone Plains experience in nation's capital.

Skullbone Plains - Worth protecting.

Spider hunting - Find out how you hunt down spiders with only a 4WD.

The serenity - Spend the day with Botanists.

What's out there? - Find out a little more about the newest reserve to be blitzed.

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February 2012

Bush Blitz Media Release

Media Release: What's out there? Looking for creatures on Tasmania's ancient Skullbone Plains. [PDF 241kb]

A team of about 20 Bush Blitz scientists will conduct the most comprehensive biodiversity survey yet of a spectacular 1,650 hectare property in Tasmania's central highlands which has been recently added to Australia's National Reserve System.

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A new discovery!

Black-seeded daisy

New daisy record at Neds Corner Station

Read more about how the Bush Blitz botanical team found a new plant record for Victoria, discovering a black-seed daisy.

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New photos

Jewel spider

Photos of Volcanic Plains Bioregion in Victoria

Visit our new gallery showing the variety of diverse species found on the Volcanic Plains.

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An inside scoop

Kehan and AJ with TRIN

Bushblitz in Ned's Corner (VIC) with TRIN

Gaia Resources test their mobile biological data recording system down at Neds Corner.

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New species possibly found

Dr Lebel with truffles

New species of truffle found at Neds Corner Station

Dr Teresa Lebel may have discovered a new species of truffle - although these sort are not for eating!

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Tiny snails


Read all about the Pupasnail

Dr John Stanisic, self proclaimed snail whisperer, writes up about the snails found at Neds Corner Station.

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New photos

Forrest's Feather Flower

Photos of Cane River in Western Australia

Visit our new gallery showing the beauties of Cane River reserve in Western Australia.

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Open day at Neds Corner

Bush Blitz Media Release

Open day showcases amazing biodiversity on Neds Corner Station

Read all about what has been found during week two at the blitz at Neds Corner station!

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November 2011

Bush Blitz Media Release

Media Release: Stunning array of species found on Neds Corner Station. [PDF 319kb]

Pobblebonk frogs and puffball mushrooms are just some of the species that are emerging in response to rains in the desert country of northwest Victoria where a team of Bush Blitz scientists are surveying Neds Corner Station in search of new species.

Current Bush Blitz blogs links to Parks Australia can be found here

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Follow our blog

Bush Blitz Blog

Read Blogs from Neds Corner Station

Behind the Bush Blitz lens - Want to find out more on how our creatures are photographed?

Blitzing birds at Neds Corner Station - Discover the array of birds found on our newest survey site.

Reptile central - The tally of reptiles is impressive at Neds Corner.

The desert comes alive! - The desert country is awakening after recent rains.

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November 2011

Bush Blitz Media Release

Media Release: Blitzing Neds Corner for new species. [PDF 477kb]

A team of top biodiversity scientists are spending more than 2,000 hours blitzing Neds Corner Station in Victoria's mallee country, surveying the reserve's plants and animals in the hope of finding species that are new to science.

Current Bush Blitz blogs links to Parks Australia can be found here

A video detailing Neds Corner can be found here

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Blitzing the magnificent mallee country

Bush Blitz is about to conduct one of their most intensive blitzes yet on the Trust for Nature conservation property Neds Corner. With more than 20 scientists as well as the BHP participants taking part in this blitz it's estimated that we'll spend some 2,000 hours scouring the reserve for plants and animals from 21 November to 2 December.

Neds Corner Station was purchased by Trust for Nature in 2002 with the assistance of the National Reserve System. Since acquiring the 30,000 hectare property Trust for Nature has transformed this former sheep grazing property into a conservation oasis.

Bush Blitz will bring together a team of scientists from the Museum of Victoria, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, University of NSW, Queensland Museum and La Trobe University along with BHP participants through the Earthwatch Program, to collect the plants and animals of this iconic property.

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Bush Blitz Credo Station

Bush Blitz Credo Station Expedition Video

Watch the Bush Blitz expedition video footage from Credo Station

A swag of new species including spiders, true bugs and native bees were among the discoveries made when a team of scientists went prospecting at Credo Station in the Western Australian goldfields during September 2011.

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New species of creepy crawlies and fossilised remains found on Credo Station

Bush Blitz Media Release

Media Release: New species of creepy crawlies and fossilised remains found on Credo Station. [PDF 291kb]

New species of creepy crawlies and fossilised remains found on Credo Station (22/9/2011).

Creepy crawlies including pseudoscorpions, trapdoor spiders, true bugs and bees were among the swag of new species discovered during a recent Bush Blitz at Credo Station in the Western Australian goldfields - the first comprehensive biodiversity survey conducted on Credo.

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A day in the life of...

Bush Blitz Blog

Find out what our scientists are getting up to at Credo Station

Day One: Bush Blitz arrives at Credo Station

Day Two: Bush Blitz - pitfall traps and the search for true bugs

Day Three: The magic of Credo

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Follow our blog

Bush Blitz Blog

Read Blogs from Credo Station

Bush Blitzers find fossil remains at Credo Station - Ever wondered what the fossil of a brood bee looks like?

Bush blitzing for creatures that glow in the dark - Discover whats lurking in the shadows at Credo station at night.

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Out Blitzing the Goldfields

Credo Station Bush Blitz

The Bush Blitz team is out and about again, this time blitzing the Western Australian Goldfields. From the 29th of August the Bush Blitz team, scientists and BHP Billiton Volunteers, through the Earthwatch Institute, will be in the field at the Credo Station Reserve located in the Western Australian Goldfields.

Taxa being studied will include small mammals, reptiles, spiders, vascular plants and bryophytes, beetles, bees, stygofauna, wasps, butterflies and moths, land snails, true bugs and dragonflies.

Keep an eye on the website for blogs from the field by Bush Blitz’s newest member Mim Jambrecina.

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Biodiscovery in the Pilbara

Biodiscovery in the Pilbara

The 10th Bush Blitz expedition is now underway in Western Australia’s Pilbara at the Cane River Conservation Park. Follow our blogs to find what our team of 15 scientists are finding out on these red plains.

Read our blog about Cane River here

For a closer view of the area, please click here.

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Blind cave-dwellers

Bush Blitz Media Release

Media Release: Blind cave-dwelling crustaceans found during Bush Blitz at Lake Condah. [PDF 90kb]

Blind cave-dwelling crustaceans found during Bush Blitz at Lake Condah (23/3/2011).

Scientists surveying plants and animals on several Indigenous protected areas near Heywood in south-western Victoria have discovered species that are likely to be new to science as well as populations of species that are threatened elsewhere.

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Follow our progress in Lake Condah!

Bush Blitz Media Release

Lake Condah Bush Blitz blog

Discover what Bush Blitz scientists are up to on their latest field trip. Museum Victoria's blog on Lake Condah in south west Victoria: Museum Victoria's blog

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March 2011

Bush Blitz Media Release

Media Release: Bush Blitz explores ancient volcanic landscape for new species. [PDF 260kb]

Bush Blitz explores ancient volcanic landscape for new species (23/03/2011).

A team of more than 40 scientists, Indigenous rangers and volunteers today begin the most comprehensive plant and animal survey yet on Aboriginal-owned lands in the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape in south-western Victoria.

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Bush Blitz Bon Bon

ECOS Magazine

Bush Blitz Bon Bon in the news!

Journalists visited the Bush Blitz team at Bon Bon station last year. Check out their stories in ECOS and Voyeur In-Flight magazines.

ECOS (Volume 159, Feb-Mar 2011 edition)

Voyeur (March 2011 edition: flip to pages 39-40 for the Bush Blitz story)

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January 2011


Photos of Bush Blitz

Check out the photos from the New South Wales, Gawler, and Gawler and Stony Plains Bush Blitz.

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The New South Wales open day

During the recent NSW South Western Slopes Bush Blitz, local residents were given the opportunity to meet Bush Blitz scientists. Personnel from the Lachlan Catchment Management Authority and the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water were also in attendance to chat to scientists and residents about the reserves and local environmental programs.

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And the winner is…

Pink hand fish

Top Ten New Species competition.

Find out who are the lucky winners in the Top Ten New Species competition.

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August 2010


Photos of Bush Blitz

Check out the photos from the Wet Tropics (Queensland) Bush Blitz.

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Bush Blitz Resources

Teachers Booklet

Teacher Resource Booklet

The Bush Blitz teacher resource booklet was produced by the Australian Science Teacher's Association (ASTA), in partnership with the Australian Biological Resource Study to provide background information for teachers on the Bush Blitz program. The booklet also includes supporting activities, projects and investigations for teachers to undertake with students from preschool through to senior secondary levels.

A booklet was sent to every Australian school as part of the 2010 National Science Week school kit but is now available to download.

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The Witchelina Launch

Media Release: Bush Blitz - Witchelina Launch

When Environment Protection Minister Peter Garrett launched a vast new addition to the National Reserve System on the 4th of June, Bush Blitz scientists were on hand to demonstrate some of the survey techniques that will be used there when we visit later this year. The Witchelina Bush Blitz will be the first ever to comprehensively survey this huge property.

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Can you pick Australia's favourite new species?

Sea spider

Media Release: Can you pick Australia's Favourite New Species?

A barnacle that looks like the Sydney Opera House? A pink fish that walks on the sea floor? An outback ant that makes a tubular home from spinifex grass and red soil? These are just some newly discovered Australian species that are part of a new teachers' resource booklet and competition that will this week go to school children around the country.

"Ahead of World Environment Day on Saturday and in the International Year of Biodiversity, we want to get kids excited by the environment around them and the discoveries still taking place today of new plants and animals across our vast continent," Environment Protection Minister Peter Garret said.

More details of the competition can be found here.

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May 2010


Photos of Bush Blitz

Check out the photos from the Western NSW and Tasmanian Bush Blitz.

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View media release

Media Release: Bush Blitz - launch of Australian nature discovery mission

Media Release: Bush Blitz - launch of Australian nature discovery mission

Bush Blitz - launch of Australian nature discovery mission (15/02/2010).

Environment Minister Peter Garrett today launched Bush Blitz - a three year multimillion dollar partnership to document the plants and animals in properties across Australia’s National Reserve System.

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Download factsheet

BushBlitz: Factsheet

BushBlitz: Factsheet. [PDF 1.1mb]

Bush Blitz is the world's first continental scale survey - a three year multimillion dollar partnership to document the plants and animals in hundreds of properties across Australia’s National Reserve System.

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BushBlitz Launch

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