Bush Blitz explores ancient volcanic landscape for new species
23 March 2011
Top scientists team up with Indigenous land owners in Victoria
A team of more than 40 scientists, Indigenous rangers and volunteers will conduct the most comprehensive plant and animal survey yet on Aboriginal-owned lands in the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape in south-western Victoria.
The expedition is part of Bush Blitz — a three-year continental scale survey project to document plants and animals protected in Australia’s National Reserve System. Bush Blitz is a multi-million dollar partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton, Earthwatch Australia and AusPlots Australia.
The two-week ‘snapshot’ survey to the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape and Indigenous Protected Areas will cover about 3,000 hectares over six properties, including Lake Condah, Kurtonitj, Allambie, Muldoons, Vaughans, and Tyrendarra.
Parks Australia’s Bush Blitz Manager Anne Ferguson said the area to be studied was known for its significant cultural history as well as outstanding natural values which include rare plant communities and large areas of wetlands.
“This is the first Bush Blitz which has been conducted on Indigenous-owned lands, so we’re really looking forward to working with the Gunditjmara on their lands and learning about their traditional understanding of the plants and animals in their country,” Ms Ferguson said.
Dr Mark Norman, who will be leading a team of 24 scientists from Museum Victoria, said the field trip promised to yield a variety of new species across a range of animal groups.
“It’s very exciting to be working in the ancient Stone Country of the Gunditjmara people and learning from their elders and rangers,” Dr Norman said. “This dramatic volcanic landscape is rippled with ridges of ancient lava flows, providing great crevices for all sorts of small animals like native rodents, snakes, lizards, spiders and scorpions. This country also contains clear water creeks and lava sink holes where we plan to document the aquatic life including eels, other fishes, freshwater crayfish, shrimps and an array of insects.”
Executive Officer of the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corp, Damein Bell, said the traditional owners had invested in many projects to improve the health of the area’s natural and cultural heritage, including wildfire prevention measures and management plans, conducting plant and animal surveys and reviving traditional ecological knowledge.
“We welcome the Bush Blitz team onto our lands and we’re excited about the prospect of adding to our understanding of the plants and animals that occur on it and perhaps even finding new species,” Mr Bell said. “This information will complement our traditional knowledge — all of which forms part of our care of the country.”
The Bush Blitz expedition gets underway next week from 21 March to 1 April.
Interviews are available with participating scientists and the Bush Blitz project team.
Karen Markwort, Parks Australia (02) 6274 2655…0439 582 686
Lynnette Foo, Museum Victoria (03) 8341 7726…0422 115 391
• Scientists at work in the field – using survey techniques such as funnel nets, mammal traps, pitfall traps and scuba diving in order to describe the wildlife of the area including expected discovery of species new to science
• Night field work including visual spotlight surveys, frog and bat acoustic surveys and light trapping of night-active insects
• Botanists, plant and vegetation discovery — including collection of wetland plants and algae