When Water Rats and Rhinos Collide
Attendees at Earthwatch's first Sydney and Melbourne Info Night for 2009 were treated to some field facts about Australian water rats, African rhinos and Zambezi crocodiles.
The Sydney Info Night began with Dr Peter Banks delving into his new one-day field research project, Sydney's Hidden Mammals, that volunteers can join.
Dr Banks, who studies Australia's native rakali, also known as a water rat, presented a strong argument to those that might otherwise believe all rodents to be a pest.
Invasive species, like ship rats, were on Dr Banks' most unpopular list as they threaten native mammals like the rakali. His talk left many audience members with a sense of being "water rat champions" after he explained their importance.
"If we are able to understand our elusive rakali, we may be able to better protect Australia's unique biodiversity from the threat of invasive species," Dr Banks said.
Next on Sydney's speaker list was Earthwatch volunteer Tony Hepworth who made the 2.5 hour trek to speak on the night about his Saving Sweetwaters' Rhinos expedition in Africa.
The trip from Shell Cove was little compared to Tony's journey to Africa which he describes as a life-long dream; "I'd wanted to go to East Africa for the past 50 years and finally my chance came when I read about Earthwatch's rhino expedition in their Research and Expedition Guide."
"Working as a field assistant to Dr Geoff Wahangu had an enormous personal impact on me. I have nothing but praise for Geoff and his team, and the way they interspersed fieldwork, with education, game drives and Kenyan cultural experiences was very rewarding."
Later at the Melbourne Info Night, returned volunteer Matthew Allen spoke about his Crocodiles of the Zambezi experience, leaving little to the audience's imagination as he graphically described one night where the eye-shine of what he believed to be two juvenile crocodiles lurking just off their boat turned out to be one very large male crocodile.
Matthew hopes his experience in handling river crocodiles has inspired some keen adventurers; "The entire project was a great adventure and the journey was exceptional. The environmental risks and highlights that confronted the team on the expedition proved to make every day enjoyable and adventurous. Working as a field assistant was unbelievable and I'd recommend it to anyone."
Thank you to all who attended the Info Nights, we hope you received some great advice and inspiration from our guest speakers.
And special thanks to Dr Peter Banks, Tony Hepworth and Matthew Allen for their unique and informative presentations.