Counting Sheep (and Then Some).

20 km north of Balranald, NSW, in the Murrumbridge catchment, is a low-lying floodplain called Paika Lake. Due to levee banks and roads, this wetland has been isolated from surrounding floodplains and thus has been deprived of water. It had been like this for 100 years, until, in 2011 CSIRO, NSW OEH, Peter and Sue Morton, and Dianne Williams began their joint endeavour to reintroduce flooding to the region. The project ventures to restore flooding, connection and protection through management of Paika Lake and other surrounding floodplains (Hobbler’s Lake, Cherax Swamp and Dundomallee Lake). It will do this through infrastructure works (for example installation of water delivery pipes) to maximise biodiversity recuperation, managing what species utilise the area through fencing, and monitoring the response of target species of vegetation and other biodiversity. CSIRO involvement mainly consisted of monitoring ecological responses within the flood plains.

Along side Ellen Gearing, I took part in a two day work experience with CSIRO Ecosystem Services, through Dr Heather McGuinness. We began work at 9 am and worked into the afternoon (with a very nice tea break, I might add). We were asked to examine photographs taken using time lapse and motion sensing remote cameras, taken between April and September 2013. We were able to work our way through Cherax Swamp, Hobbler’s Lake and Dundomallee Lake. The time lapse photographs were taken every day at 8 am and 4 pm. Motion sensing photographs were taken when something moved in front of the camera. Three photos were taken in three seconds. We were asked to identify photographs where mammals were present and record the site, location, type of camera, date, time, temperature, relative water level, fauna class and family, species, maximum number seen in each set of photographs (ie in each set of three for motion sensing and each individual image for time lapse) and comment on anything particularly interesting. An example of “something interesting” was when a Kangaroo had a joey or appeared pregnant.

The purpose for this sub set of research was to monitor the abundance of feral mammals in these areas. Once this data set in analysed, it will be used to investigate their relationship to vegetation type, water levels and other variables listed above.

There were an exceptional number of photographs, most of which contained countless birds, all moving around and looking identical to each other (we were very thankful we didn’t have to count those and feel sorry for whoever has to do it…). Animals we encountered in our photography growing were inter alia feral cats, pigs, goats, sheep, cattle, Eastern and Western grey kangaroos, foxes. It was a fabulous experience and a great chance to understand a bit about a key part of biodiversity conservation research (we at least got a taste!). We saw some pretty cool things, including some humongous hawks. We even got the chance to see a goat residing in a tree…

Hilary Tier


About Biodiversity Conservation Blog

I am an Associate Professor at The Australian National University and convene a (very awesome) course called Biodiversity Conservation. Myself and students in the course contribute to this blog.
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One Response to Counting Sheep (and Then Some).

  1. Sounds like a great project re-instating the longitudinal connectivity that is often lost in river and wetland systems as we heard in Week 7 of the course. Phil

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