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DISPLAYING POSTS BY: Kate Phillips (2)

Eltham Copper Butterfly update

Author
by Kate Phillips
Publish date
13 May 2014
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Once thought extinct, the Eltham Copper Butterfly was rediscovered in 1986 in Eltham, in a small patch of bush that was going to be bulldozed to build houses. A campaign to save the butterfly’s habitat began and the local council, State government and local community raised the money to buy the land and make it a conservation reserve. Since then other sites have been reserved in other parts of Eltham, Greensborough, Castlemaine, Bendigo and Kiata.

Eltham Copper Butterfly Eltham Copper Butterfly (Paralucia pyrodiscus lucida) perched on Sweet Bursaria, Bursaria spinosa.
Image: Andrea Canzano
Source: Andrea Canzano
 

Over time, butterfly numbers in the Eltham reserves went down. People from the nearby houses would walk through the reserves, let their pets in and local kids couldn’t resist building cubby houses. Active trampling wasn’t the only problem. The reserves weren’t being grazed by native fauna or cleared by periodic burns any more. Vigorous native plants and weeds started to crowd out Sweet Bursaria, the butterfly's sole food. The habitat was no longer ideal for the larvae or butterflies which need patches of sunlight and clear flight-paths.

Eltham Copper larva with ants Eltham Copper larva being tended by Notoncus ants on a Sweet Bursaria bush. The Eltham Copper Butterfly can only live in habitats where this plant and these ants are present.
Image: Andrea Canzano
Source: Andrea Canzano
 

A couple of years ago I ventured out one cool September night to help with the larvae count at an Eltham reserve. While it was exciting to be in the bush at night we didn’t find a single larva where they had been numerous a few years earlier. Results like his made people realise that it was not enough to fence off reserves and expect the butterflies to flourish.

In 2012 the Friends of Eltham Copper Butterfly in partnership with Nillumbik Shire Council, Parks Victoria, Friends of Diosma Road, Friends of Woodridge Linear Reserve and Eltham East Primary School obtained a Communities for Nature grant to protect and enhance the habitat of the Eltham Copper Butterfly.

The habitat restoration involved skilled workers selectively weeding the reserves and planting more Sweet Bursaria, other butterfly-attracting native grasses and daisies to bring the vegetation back to an ideal mix for the Eltham Copper Butterfly.

And the result? Already, only 12 months later, there has been a significant increase in the number of Eltham Copper Butterflies recorded in the counts in this summer (2013-14). It is an encouraging start, and supports the idea that active management can make a decisive difference for an endangered species. Ongoing community involvement and education is the other vital component. This takes many forms from festivals, to butterfly-friendly garden courses, to education in the local schools.

Children and performer Eltham East Primary School children have planted a butterfly garden. Here they're learning about the Eltham Copper Butterfly.
Image: Alison Bayley
Source: Alison Bayley
 

So it looks hopeful for the Melbourne Eltham Copper populations but what about the butterfly in Central Victoria?

In 2009 there were only three known butterfly sites in Central Victoria but in the last five years a small team surveyed 3,000 hectares of public land looking for the right habitat features for the butterfly – a combination of enough Sweet Bursaria bushes in an open forest habitat. Having identified promising areas, they went back at the right time of year to see if they could find the adults. With great excitement they found seven new sites bringing the total in the region to ten.

Julie Whitfield in butterfly habitat Julie Whitfield, a leader in Eltham Copper butterfly conservation in Central Victoria, at a site where a colony of butterflies was found at Big Hill, Bendigo.
Image: Kate Phillips
Source: Museum Victoria
 

However at the same time these new butterfly colonies were being discovered, the risk of fire was brought into sharp focus and fuel reduction burns given greater priority.

Areas surrounding regional towns such as Castlemaine and Bendigo are set aside to be burnt each year. Many of these overlap with the newly-discovered Eltham Copper butterfly habitat. The fuel reduction burns are designed to be ‘thorough’. While this is seen as good fire risk management it endangers fire-sensitive species such as rare orchids; a fire in Eltham Copper Butterfly habitat could wipe out one of its populations. However when on-the-ground knowledge is used to guide fuel reduction burns, important habitat pockets can be excluded. It is not a case of conservation versus safety, but a balancing of the two needs.

Thanks to Andrea Canzano, Karen Borton, Anne Fitzpatrick and Julie Whitfield for their contributions to this post.

Sportsworks olympians

Author
by Kate Phillips
Publish date
20 July 2012
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Kate curated the Sportsworks exhibition at Scienceworks.

Some of the athletes who feature in the Sportsworks exhibition at Scienceworks are heading off to represent Australia in the Olympics in London. When we developed the exhibition in 2005, we interviewed 40 Victorian athletes to show inspiring people from a wide range of sports.

kids in Scienceworks Sportsworks gymnastic exhibit featuring Ashleigh Brennan aged 14.
Image: Kate Phillips
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Ashleigh Brennan, a gymnast we filmed when she was 14, is now 21 years old and is competing in her second Olympics. At the time we filmed her she was a promising young gymnast – but we had no idea that she would go on to compete at the highest level. We filmed her and five other gymnasts aged 7 to 14 for an exhibit where visitors have to be judges and give each athlete a score for their routine on the beam. This is a popular exhibit, particularly with aspiring gymnasts.

Girl smiling at camera Gymnast Ashleigh Brennan, aged 14.
Image: Jenni Meaney
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Even at 14 Ashleigh looks very strong, confident and skilful. During the time we spent with the girls and their coaches at the gymnasium, I was impressed by the effort and the hours they put in to their training. It was a big commitment for those children and their parents. But I also saw the joy they felt in learning to do some amazing things and the challenge of continually mastering new skills.

Girl walking along low beam A visitor balancing on the beam interactive exhibit.
Image: Kate Phillips
Source: Museum Victoria
 

One of the main messages of the exhibition is that no matter if you are short or tall or what your abilities are there is a sport that you can enjoy. Visitors can test themselves and measure a range of abilities in the exhibition then complete a questionnaire to match themselves with a sport.

At 147cm, Loudy Wiggins (Touky) is the shortest athlete on the Australian team. She is competing in the 10 m synchronised diving at her fourth Olympics. Again, I was delighted to discover that someone we featured in the exhibition seven years ago was still competing at this level and I can't wait to see her diving.

Rowie Webster, now aged 24, is competing in the water polo. When we featured her she was already a great competitor in the under-17 age group and told us 'My formula is hard work, plus focus, mixed with water, equals success!'

exhibition label with hand sillouette You can measure your proportions and compare your handspan with an outline of Drew Ginn's hand.
Image: Kate Phillips
Source: Museum Victoria

One measurement in the exhibition includes an outline of Drew Ginn's hand. As a rower you can bet that his hands, arms, shoulders and back are all very strong! He is competing in his fourth Olympics in the rowing fours. He was a member of the famous 'Oarsome Foursome' crew that won gold at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics. Ginn went on to win two more gold medals at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.

Best of luck to all the athletes – we hope all your hard work is rewarded. Your skill and dedication inspire us.

Links:

Athlete profiles on the official London 2012 AOC site:

Ashleigh Brennan

Loudy Wiggins (Tourky)

Rowie Webster

Drew Ginn

About this blog

Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.

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