As we got out of the air-conditioned vehicles for a break on the drive through the channel country, we exchanged nervous glances as we felt just how incredibly hot the wind blowing into our faces felt. To either the first time volunteers or seasoned desert veterans, the heat was a shock. A record-breaking heat wave was punishing western Queensland at the time, with 11 straight days above 40°. What sort of trip had we committed ourselves to? Continue reading
As winter 2013 approaches, another team of Desert Ecology Research Group (DERG) staff and volunteers has returned from the Simpson to wash the red dust, diesel and olive oil stains from their clothing and pluck stubborn spinifex spines from their skin. It was a bumper trip, both in terms of the number of vehicles and attendees present and the work completed, though it’s definitely a ‘bust’ season out there.
Five vehicles (four DERG Hiluxes and Tom’s Landcruiser ute) carrying 22 passengers made their way through the gate onto Ethabuka on the 5th April, after an uneventful drive from Sydney. The amount of gear was considerable, including several large rolls of wire netting, wire and star pickets of various lengths, on top of the usual equipment. Continue reading
See the full trip gallery
On the local radio in western Queensland of late, tales of farmers doing it tough in the ‘drought’ are a familiar refrain. Rainfall in the region has been patchy at best, with some areas experiencing relief in the form of rain, while others endure the dry. Conditions around our study area in the Simpson Desert reflect this same scenario. On most of Ethabuka, where our Main Camp is located, little rain has fallen. Other parts of the study area have fared better this year, resulting in much more favourable conditions for flora and fauna. Continue reading
By Jenna Bytheway
Let’s talk about poo. That disgusting warm brown smelly mess that you want to get as far away from as possible. But what if I told you that the scats (poos) of animals that eat insects contain a world of secrets in the shape of decapitated heads and legs. Pull one apart under the microscope and it reveals the devastation of a mass murder. Continue reading
Check out Aaron Greenville’s blog post “Of mice and dogs” discussing a recent paper by Aaron, Glenda Wardle, Bobby Tamayo and Chris Dickman. The paper describes how dingoes can suppress ‘mesopredators’ (cats and foxes) in the desert system – but that in the good times following rain, this interaction breaks down.
Heat and flies are what you have to expect in the Simpson in Summer; you will also find plenty of reptiles. The most recent trip to the Simpson has returned after braving these events but also encountering lightning and dust storms, rain, and even the elusive desert frogs!
See the article on us on the ABC webpage.
Stephanie Yip, Maree-Asta Rich and Chris Dickman have published a paper examining the diet of feral cats in relation to the population cycles of their prey – particularly that of the Long-haired rat, Rattus villosissimus.
Al Glen and Chris Dickman have edited this new book on the ecology and evolution of carnivores in Australia. With chapters by the leading researchers in their fields, the book covers topics concerning the reptiles, birds and mammals, native and introduced, of the Australian continent. For more information see CSIRO publishing.
The dates for our final RatCatcher field trip of 2014 to the red playground that is the Simpson Desert have been finalised – We hit the red centre 20 Nov – 6 December for a hot desert summer ecological adventure.
We have limited volunteers spots available. The good crew that will be steering the two DERG desert ships will be Prof Chris ‘Interpretive Emu Dancer’ Dickman, doctoral student Eveline ‘Flying Dutchwoman’ Rijksen and research assistant David ‘Give me Wood and Top40’ Nelson.
Expressions of Interest back to Chin Liang Beh ASAP please – firstname.lastname@example.org
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