During the summer break I spent some time volunteering for PHD student Stephanie Pulsford. I had hoped to spend time volunteering in my break as it would allow me to gain some valuable work experience, and I was thrilled at the opportunity that Steph’s research provided me with. The aim of her research was to look at the effects human land use, in particular the effects that grazing had on habitat fragmentation, and what the consequences of this was for native fauna. Focusing on native frogs, lizards and ground-dwelling invertebrates, Steph was hoping to understand ways in which habitat connectivity and movement of these poorly dispersing species could be improved. This information would then hopefully have direct impacts as it could inform graziers on ways in which they could improve their management of their properties.
After organising my volunteering with Steph I was able to head out into the field with Steph’s assistant to gather some data that would assist her research. My first week of volunteering was spent at two properties out near Gunning. I then spent two further days out at properties near Bungendore.
My volunteering consisted of setting up, monitoring and then packing up different transects at the different sites. At each transect several drift fences, pitfall traps and funnel traps were set up, so that any animal moving along a transect would end up caught in one of the traps. The days after set up were then spent checking the traps. Whenever a frog or reptile was caught in the traps it was collected and noted down. The species, weight and length of the individuals were all recorded before the animals were marked with a fluorescent dye for identification in the case of recaptures. The individuals were then photographed for further identification before being released back where they had been found.
Many different species of frogs and reptiles were captured during my time volunteering; including a Jacky Lizard, a Gecko (my personal favourite), Pale and Dark Flecked Garden Sunskinks, Shinglebacks, Pobblebonks, Smooth Toadlets and Spotted Marsh Frogs. Unfortunately, but also thankfully I didn’t get any snakes in any of the traps. Although we did have plenty of other animals to keep us busy each day, including what seemed like countless Smooth Toadlets and Spotted Marsh Frogs.
Hopefully the data we collected will assist Steph with her valuable research which is looking to find ways in which graziers and property owners can improve the connectivity and movement of many different native species that have been threatened by human land uses and fragmentation. I am glad for the opportunity I had to spend time out in the field volunteering, and for the skills and experience I have gained.
(All photos taken by me)