In the mid semester break just past I got to experience my dream job with ACT Parks and Conservation. I was lucky enough to be granted a spot with the department at their Murrumbidgee River Corridor Depot located in the Cotter Reserve. Over five days I accompanied some of the rangers for their usual tasks over a working week. I was involved in a range of monitoring, restoration and conservation work.
The depot is responsible for land and catchment management of the Murrumbidgee River Corridor in the ACT. This region includes the Lower Cotter Catchment, which has a primary management goal of protecting Canberra’s water supply. The rangers at the depot have a wide range of skills, which they require to manage such a large and diverse region.
On the first day of my placement I was lucky enough to join most of the rangers on a trip within the Namadgi National Park. Namadgi National Park is at the northern end of the Australian Alps and has a rich history of indigenous occupation and early European settlement. The reason for the days visit was to discuss the management history and restoration of pine plantations in the area. In the late 1900’s, and into the 2000’s, much of Namadgi was covered in pine plantation. Management strategies to clear existing plantations, wild pine, and to then revegetate with native species were addressed along with the implications of the 2003 bushfires. Restoration and regeneration work is imperative to conservation efforts today and to understand some of the government processes’ surrounding this work was really valuable.
I then got to experience firsthand some revegetation work in the Woodstock Nature Reserve in the West Belconnen area. This area is home to the pink-tailed worm-lizard (Aprasia parapulchella), earless dragon (Tympanocryptis pinguicolla) and the striped legless lizard (Delma impar) which have been featured in the ANU’s Biodiversity Conservation course. These species utilise embedded surface rocks to bask on, which are in no short supply in this area. Several species of Eucalypt were planted and we avoided areas that would block sunlight from the existing rocks in the future. Casuarina trees were also planted in the creek line where mature casuarinas had since died.
Some of the rangers at the depot had previously noted two protected flora species growing in the Pine Island Reserve in the Tuggeranong district. This was an exciting discovery and in order to protect these populations from the threats of grazing animals we constructed exclusion fences around the plants. True conservation at work if you ask me!
The last two days at the depot I spent on two of their long-running programs. The depot is responsible for feral animal and invasive specie control in the region. The rangers use a highly monitored fox (Vulpes vulpes) control program to regulate the numbers of this feral species in their area of responsibility. 1080 poison was laid throughout the Lower Cotter Catchment Reserve to initially reduce fox numbers and is now used continuously to maintain control. The rangers are responsible for monitoring the baiting areas on a regular basis. All of the baits are checked and replaced if need be on a weekly basis. This program is important for the conservation of native species, particularly those in the critical weight range as well as ground-nesting birds, which are heavily preyed upon by foxes.
Radiata Pine (Pinus radiata) plantations were once spread throughout the Murrumbidgee River Corridor and Namadgi National Park and have since posed issues for ACT Parks and Conservation. Pine trees are an invasive species due to their fast growing nature and easy dispersal through wind transport. Their needles affect the fertility of Australian soils, while they also utilise more water than native species, reduce light levels due to their thick cover of needles, and lack support of native faunal species through food or habitat. The rangers have long been managing the pine populations that have escaped designated plantation areas. During my placement I was able to help in some manual removal of this escaped pine. I was also involved in some monitoring and assessment of particular populations.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with the amazing, dedicated and hard working rangers at the Murrumbidgee Depot and have arranged further volunteer work with ACT Parks and Conservation.
Lauren Smith, u5372741
ACT Government, 2010. Summary of the Namadgi National Park Plan of Management. Available at: http://www.tccs.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/387934/WEB_Namadgi_National_Park_Summary.pdf [accessed September 9 2016].
ACT Government, 2010. Namadgi National Park Plan of Management 2010. Available at: http://www.environment.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/387930/Final_Namadgi_National_Park_Plan.pdf.
ACT Government, 2016. Transport Canberra and City Services. Available at: http://www.tccs.act.gov.au/city-living/wildlife/birds.
Environment and Planning Directorate, 2016. Murrumbidgee River Corridor. ACT Government. Available at: http://www.environment.act.gov.au/parks-conservation/parks-and-reserves/explore/murrumbidgee-river-corridor.