The strange title of this piece has been inspired by my work experience at Scottsdale Reserve south of Canberra with Brett Howland. Over the two days we carried out reptile surveys using pre-existing tile traps as well as setting up a kangaroo survey by creating transects. The Kangaroo surveys were 100m transects with markers every 6m where you would (in the future) come back and count the kangaroo pellets thus we had to remove all the pellets already there. The purpose was to get a rough estimate on the number of kangaroos in the park for culling purposes. Too many kangaroos threaten the ecosystem, as they are voracious herbivores as was made evident from the small patches of grass that was fenced off from them.
My first thought on the prospect of culling all of these native animals was inherently negative; these are wonderful animals, a symbol of Australia. But after witnessing firsthand the destruction they can have on the ecosystem, I have come to realize it is simply not feasible to have an over-abundance of kangaroos roaming unchecked. My second thought was, what a waste of perfectly yummy meat. The beef industry is one of the most harmful to the environment, and if we were all vegetarians the wilderness would be better for it but why can’t we capitalize on the necessity of these culls and turn waste into plenty. I happen to love Kangaroo meat; it is cheap, lean and native!
The second part of the work experience, and certainly the most exciting, was the reptile survey. We went to transect throughout the park already set up and helped Brett collect his data. The transect consisted of tiles placed along the transect, with three parallel lines in total. We needed to flip the tiles very fast to see what we found underneath; the reptiles like to use them to heat up in the morning.
The first few tiles were met with amazement as we saw new species; mostly Delicate skinks and an overabundance of ants. After a while these became common place with “just another Delicate” being the catchphrase for the day. The most interesting part of the reptile survey were the areas in which the most species were found. The areas containing the most biodiversity and abundance were the exotic grasslands of the park, rather than the native areas. It appears that the rarer and more cryptic species preferred the exotic and invasive species of flora; should this be taken into account for the preservation of such species? One native species surviving better due to the presence of an exotic species is not exactly what conservationists want to hear, as it makes things considerably more convoluted but it is certainly an interesting point.
All in all, the work experience at Scottsdale opened my eyes to the type of work you can expect in the field, and all of the extra questions and problems such work can bring!