Scanning Victoria’s hidden alpine secrets

14 November, 2013

Alpine landscape
Victorian Alpine National Park

Parks Victoria, Museum Victoria and 4WD Victoria are set to commence one of the most comprehensive wildlife, geology and palaeontology surveys ever conducted in the eastern corner of the Victorian Alpine National Park, north of Omeo.

Commencing on 18 November and running for two weeks, the Bioscan will focus on rarely researched species across the remote and rugged terrain of the eastern area of the Alpine National Park; from mammals to birds, frogs, fish, snakes, snails, moths and other insects. Palaeontologists and historians will also be conducting research. 

“Many of the high altitude species in the highest parts of Victoria are the most vulnerable in the state,” Dr Mark Norman, Head of Sciences, Museum Victoria, said. “Over 80 researchers will be seeking the signs, sounds and movements of these wonderful creatures.  The data we collect will help establish the status of many of the area’s endangered species.”

This is the fifth Bioscan to be undertaken by Parks Victoria and Museum Victoria as part of a five-year program designed to study wildlife across Victoria’s national parks, from deserts to forests to underwater kelp reefs.  The program commenced in 2011.

“Parks Victoria’s partnership with Museum Victoria in past bioscans has been enormously valuable in helping us understand some of Victoria’s most significant natural places”, said Dr Bill Jackson, Chief Executive, Parks Victoria.  “As we roll out this program, we are gathering crucial data that is informing our best-practice management strategies and filling in our knowledge gaps of the parks that are being surveyed.”

Insights from this survey will be showcased with the local community via programs with four local schools and a Friday night ‘Science at the Pub’, where students and residents will be able to engage and chat with a number of scientists and rangers that participated in the Bioscan.

For the first time, 4WD Victoria will be a partner on the Bioscan survey.

“We love exploring the bush and this project presented a unique opportunity for our volunteers to be used for the first time in a major fauna research survey,” said Wayne Hevey, Project and Events Manager, 4WD Victoria.  “Our volunteers are excited to be able to support this project with their specialist 4WD driving skills and local knowledge of the area’s rugged tracks.”

The information gathered throughout the Bioscan in this remote eastern area of the Alpine National Park will complement and build on the existing biodiversity knowledge of the surrounding areas.

Key scientific focus areas – Alpine National Park Bioscan:

Small mammal trapping will seek insights into rarely seen and endangered species such as Smoky Mouse, Mountain Pygmy Possum and Long-nosed Potoroo.

Bird watching and sound recordings day and night will provide critical knowledge on the bird life of these rarely surveyed remote and rugged areas.

Tracking frog calls at night will seek to capture the 17 species found in the Victorian Alps, including critically endangered species such as the Spotted Tree Frog. A key aim is to seek evidence of the Chytrid fungus that has hit frog populations elsewhere in the state. Researchers will act like forensic scientists, sterilising themselves between sites to quarantine any fungus discoveries.

Bat mist nets and moth light stations will document the flying creatures of the night. The mix of moths can provide insights into the origins of the wildlife of the region and links to the ancient land mass of Gondwana.

Hunting for reptiles (the snakes and lizards) will seek sightings and information on the rare and endangered Alpine She-Oak and Guthega skinks.

Aquatic wildlife are a particular focus, with divers and electro-fishers seeking information on suspected new species of native fish and rare freshwater crayfish.

Detailed knowledge of the smaller invertebrate animals will come from searching leaf litter, rotten timbers, rock screes and catching flying insects.

At the same time, palaeontologists will dig into the ancient biology of the area. They will explore the 400 million year old marine life of Limestone Creek, especially the lamp shells (brachiopods), corals and trilobites that have left their remains on ancient seafloors.

About the Bioscan:

The Bioscan focuses on the Alpine National Park area north of Omeo including Native Dog Flat, Davies Plain, Satellite Creek, Limestone Creek, Wombat Flat and the Cobberas.

Previous Bioscans have included Wilsons Promontory, the Grampians, Bunurong Coastal Park and the 12 Apostles Marine National Parks. The 2014 Bioscan is scheduled to take place in far-east Gippsland.

For further media information, interviews or images, please contact:

Claire Fitzgerald, PR Officer Museum Victoria Sciences
0400 130 675 or  cfitzgerald@museum.vic.gov.au

Melanie McVey-DiLazzaro, Regional Marketing & Communications - East Region, Parks Victoria  0459 818 451 or  melanie.mcvey-dilazzaro@parks.vic.gov.au 

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