Bush Blitz news and media releases can be accessed from the below links:
Bush Blitz Blog
Fresh back from a two-week stint in SA, SA Museum scientists are in awe at the level of biodiversity at an "ecosystem crossroads" in the Gawler Ranges.
Read the full article at the South Australian Museum website.
Photo: Blue Banded Bee found by SA Museum scientists Remko Leijs © E Lake
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 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 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...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!
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.
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!
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.
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...
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 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
This native bee (I call him Lego man bee) has been mounted and will be taken back to the SA Museum
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.
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 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.
Hugh collecting lichen from this Western Myall (Acacia papyrocarpa) tree, which is probably around 200 years old
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.
Juergen gets a closer look at the Stenanthemum arens
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.
Rainfall transformation at Hiltaba
The desert can be harsh, hot and unforgiving, and in this climate the ecological currency is water.
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.
Follow our blog
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.
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.
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.
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.
Visit our new gallery showing the variety of diverse species found in the Victorian Mallee.
Visit our new gallery showing the variety of diverse species found on the Goldfields.
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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.
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.
A new discovery!
Read more about how the Bush Blitz botanical team found a new plant record for Victoria, discovering a black-seed daisy.
Visit our new gallery showing the variety of diverse species found on the Volcanic Plains.
An inside scoop
Gaia Resources test their mobile biological data recording system down at Neds Corner.
New species possibly found
Dr Teresa Lebel may have discovered a new species of truffle - although these sort are not for eating!
Dr John Stanisic, self proclaimed snail whisperer, writes up about the snails found at Neds Corner Station.
Visit our new gallery showing the beauties of Cane River reserve in Western Australia.
Open day at Neds Corner
Read all about what has been found during week two at the blitz at Neds Corner station!
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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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.
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.
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.
Bush Blitz 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.
New species of creepy crawlies and fossilised remains found on Credo Station
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.
A day in the life of...
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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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.
Out Blitzing the Goldfields
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.
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.
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.
Follow our progress in Lake Condah!
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
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.
Bush Blitz Bon Bon
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)
Check out the photos from the New South Wales, Gawler, and Gawler and Stony Plains Bush Blitz.
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.
And the winner is...
Find out who are the lucky winners in the Top Ten New Species competition.
Check out the photos from the Wet Tropics (Queensland) Bush Blitz.
Bush Blitz Resources
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.
The 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.
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.
Check out the photos from the Western NSW and Tasmanian Bush Blitz.
View media release
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.
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.