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DISPLAYING POSTS TAGGED: biodiversity (20)

Frogs, bogs and fungi

Author
by Mark Norman
Publish date
2 December 2011
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Mark is Head of Sciences at Museum Victoria. He's reporting back from Neds Corner in this series of blog posts.

By 25 November, rain drenched Neds Corner and the clay turned to slippery mud. Great weather for frogs. With the rain's arrival, frogs emerged from the mud as our vehicles sank into it.

Rain at Ned's Corner Rain at Ned's Corner. Left: The view from the homestead porch | Right: Boggy road
Image: M. Hewish / M. Cheng
Source: M. Hewish / M. Cheng
 

Pobblebonk frogs turned up everywhere. In our pitfall trap lines, 30 pits contained 37 frogs. These frogs bury into the soil in the dry weather and wait for the rains. Then they emerge to feed and mate.

Pobblebonk Frog Pobblebonk Frog (Limnodynastes dumerili) at Neds Corner.
Image: David Paul
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The other frogs we encountered were the Spadefoot, Spotted and Barking Marsh Frogs, Peron's Tree Frog and a froglet (genus Crinia). The tree frogs can be recognised by their padded toes, good for climbing.

Peron's Tree Frog Peron's Tree Frog (Litoria peroni) with beautiful green spots.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The wetter weather was also good for the fungi and Dr Teresa Lebel from the National Herbarium of Victoria found many new records for this region. In arid country many types of fungus rest under the soil in a shrivelled state. As soon as the water reaches them, their stalks hydrate and the heads of species like puffball fungi emerge above the mud to release their spores.

Fungi after rain at Ned's Corner. Fungi after rain at Ned's Corner. Left: Fruiting bodies of the Earth Star fungus | Right: Tinder Conch fungus
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

One of the fungus highlights was finding fallen white shelf fungi at the bases of big River Red Gums. The spongy dead fungus is called Tinder Conch fungus as Aboriginal peoples used it for carrying the slow-burning coals needed for fire starting.

Our survey team was not as well-adapted as the frogs and managed to bog three cars in one day, but a combination of winches and effort got us all home safe and sound.

Bush Blitz is a biodiversity partnership discovery program between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton and Earthwatch Australia, that aims to document the plants and animals across Australia's National Reserve System. Museum Victoria also participated in Bush Blitz at Lake Condah in March 2011.

Links:

Parks Australia blog

Bush Blitz

Frogs of Victoria infosheet series

Royal Botanical Gardens Fungimap

Reptile central

Author
by Mark Norman
Publish date
1 December 2011
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Mark is Head of Sciences at Museum Victoria. He's reporting back from Neds Corner in this series of blog posts.

With the warm weather we experienced at the start of the survey, the Neds Corner Bush Blitz team clocked up an impressive tally of reptile species. Being in the driest corner of Victoria, the desert influence is obvious in a wonderful range of skinks, dragons, geckoes and snakes.

Four of the larger lizards have been found. The Inland Bearded Dragon has the scales and scutes of the best fictional dragons and has been found sunning itself on dead logs and fence posts. From above these spikes help them blend against the background. The Shingleback with its bright blue tongue has been observed many times living up to its other name (Sleepy Lizard) by sleeping or slowly loping on the roadsides. They are often in pairs. This species mates for life and can live to up to 50 years old. Sand goannas and a large Lace Monitor have also been recorded.

Shingleback Skink Shingleback Skink
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Five gecko species (Bynoe's, Thick-tailed, Tree Dtella, Tassellated and Marbled) have already been found through night walks or searching under bark and through leaf litter. They are a mix of ground dwellers (with normal claws) and tree-climbers with their fat fleshy toes. Many gecko species store fat in their tails and our ones seem well fed. We've been finding some very pregnant females bulging with the two eggs they lay at a time.

Thick-tailed Gecko Thick-tailed Gecko
Image: David Paul
Source: Museum Victoria
 

In addition to the Shingleback, five other skink species have been found including Tree Skink, Boulanger's Skink, Carneby's Wall Skink and several yet-to-be resolved Ctenotus species.

Boulanger's Skink Boulanger's Skink
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The snake highlight has been a Curl Snake, a small species around 30 cm long. It was found while researchers Patrick Honan and Chloe Miller were searching at night for tiger beetles on clay pans. Though small, this species is highly venomous and has caused human fatalities so we handled it very carefully. It is listed as threatened in Victoria under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.

Curl Snake Curl Snake
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Bush Blitz is a biodiversity partnership discovery program between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton and Earthwatch Australia, that aims to document the plants and animals across Australia's National Reserve System. Museum Victoria also participated in Bush Blitz at Lake Condah in March 2011.

Links:

Parks Australia blog

Bush Blitz

Bush Blitz at Neds Corner

Author
by Mark Norman
Publish date
30 November 2011
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Mark is Head of Sciences at Museum Victoria. He's reporting back from Neds Corner in this series of blog posts.

Researchers from the museum's Sciences and Live Exhibits departments have gathered in the far north-west corner of Victoria to survey the wildlife of Neds Corner Station on the state's desert fringe. The Neds Corner survey is part of the Bush Blitz program, a biodiversity discovery partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton and Earthwatch Australia. It aims to document the plants and animals across Australia's National Reserve System. The 30,000 hectare reserve is managed by the Trust for Nature, an independent not-for-profit organisation that purchases and permanently protects properties to conserve nature.

Saltbush Saltbush at Ned's Corner
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The survey encompasses animals, plants and fungi, so the museum team has joined scientists from the National Herbarium of Victoria, the Queensland Museum and the University of New South Wales. They have also been joined by five staff from BHP's Environmental Division around Australia, who will be aiding the researchers in the field and lab.

Ned's Corner Bush Blitz team The Ned's Corner Bush Blitz team.
Source: Museum Victoria

The aim is to survey across the many arid fringe habitats found in the Neds Corner reserve including saltbush plains, mallee scrub, clay pans, sandy rises and amongst the River Red Gums and Black Box eucalypts that line the adjacent Murray River.

Ned's Corner habitats Habitats at Ned's Corner. Above: River Red Gum forest. Below: Black Box eucalypts.
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The survey runs from 21 November to 2 December and the museum team are using extensive visual and acoustic surveys, pitfall trap lines, small mammal traps, baited cage traps, bat sonic listening devices and moth light stations to census the wildlife.

two types of traps Two types of traps in use at Ned's Corner. Above: small mammal trap Below: pitfall trap
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Bush Blitz is a biodiversity partnership discovery program between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton and Earthwatch Australia, that aims to document the plants and animals across Australia's National Reserve System. Museum Victoria also participated in Bush Blitz at Lake Condah in March 2011.

Links:

Parks Australia blog

Bush Blitz

Prom Bioscan

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
19 October 2011
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Comments (1)

Museum Victoria has partnered with Parks Victoria for a two-week intensive biodiversity survey of Wilsons Promontory National Park. The Prom Bioscan project, from 16 to 28 October, is targeting terrestrial, freshwater and marine wildlife and visiting some remote and rarely-visited sites. This rapid census will help Parks Victoria assess the environmental impacts of recent extreme weather events: the 2005 and 2009 fires and the floods in early 2011. On 23 September the southern part of the Prom reopened to visitors after six months of flood repair. Many riparian zones (near creeks and rivers) have changed proundly since the flood, their vegetation and beds scoured away the 370mm of rain that fell in one day in February.

Wilson's Prom is one of Victoria's oldest National Parks. It was first designated a National Park in 1898 due to its unique wilderness, stunning natural beauty and its ease of isolation from the mainland. Its habitats - heathlands, swamps, grasslands, forests and more - house numerous species of plants and animals.

skink A skink from Wilsons Promontory.
Image: David Paul
Source: Museum Victoria
 

lacewing A lacewing caught at Wilsons Promontory.
Image: David Paul
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Researchers have worked here for decades to document the life and environment of the Prom. The Prom Bioscan is a special case: it's rare to have so many experts working simultaneously across the park. Over 40 Museum Victoria staff and volunteers and 15 Parks Victoria staff are participating.

three biologists checking mammal traps Karen, Lara and Karen checking mammal traps.
Image: Michela Mitchell
Source: Museum Victoria
 

In the first few days, the scientists have observed 69 species of birds, two types of rats, Gondwanan snails, numerous skinks and much more. Some specimens will become part of the Museum Victoria collections whereas others are released after a small tissue sample is taken for genetic research. The days in the field are long, especially for those who follow animals that are active at dawn and dusk, but the stunning surroundings more than make up for it.

Granite boulders, wildflowers and blue sea at Wilsons Promontory Granite boulders, wildflowers and blue sea at Wilsons Promontory.
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

You can follow #PromBioscan on Twitter. Tweet your questions for MV scientists about the project to @museumvictoria. 

Links:

Parks Victoria: Wilsons Promontory National Park 

 

Bush Blitz video

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
7 April 2011
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Comments (1)

In this video, Head of Sciences Mark Norman and Gunditjmara Elder Ken Saunders talk about the recent Bush Blitz project at Lake Condah.

Watch this video with a transcript

More Bush Blitz video is coming soon!

Bush Blitz is a three-year national project to document plants and animals protected in Australia’s National Reserve System. Bush Blitz is a multi-million dollar partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton, Earthwatch Australia and the Terrestrial Ecosystems Research Network (TERN) AusPlots. It involves Australia’s top scientists from museums, herbariums and research institutions across the country.

Links:

Bush Blitz

Lake Condah Sustainable Development Project

ABC Mission Voices: Lake Condah

Bush Blitz finds

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
23 March 2011
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This morning Patrick Honan from Live Exhibits instructed the Bush Blitz team to keep an eye out for Mountain Katydids (Acripeza reticulata). These are large, robust long-horned grasshoppers that are usually found in cold high-altitude areas so Patrick was surprised to see them recorded in a previous ecological survey of Lake Condah. Ranger Brad Williams and botanist Val Stajsic brought in two specimens from Muldoons that they’d found on Tuesday, suggesting that they’re reasonably common here.

Muldoons is property adjacent to the Lake Condah Mission site but getting there is not straightforward. There was a bridge decades ago dating back to when it was the hunting ground for people living on the mission. Matt Butt, the Coordinator of Land Management, explained that the bridge was washed away in a heavy flood in the 1940s. The road into the property was built only five years ago and the terrain is incredibly rocky. It’s also incredibly beautiful; the bush is largely intact since the ground was too rocky to be any good for agriculture. The ground is dotted with rock-lined sinkholes in the lava flow from Mount Eccles (known to Gunditjmara people as Budj Bim, meaning ‘high head’). Some of the sinkholes are full of water where Remko Leijs, from the South Australian Museum, has sampled the small crustaceans that live in the groundwater. Later in Bush Blitz some of the MV marine scientists will put on their SCUBA gear to film the wildlife of these water bodies.

Most of the MV biologists were at Muldoons for a couple of hours this morning and found some amazing animals. And yes, one of them was a Mountain Katydid plodding through low grass just a metre away from the road. She’s a female and particularly fat, possibly because she’s full of eggs. She’s gone back to Melbourne Museum with the Live Exhibits staff where they hope she will be the start of a captive colony for display.

female Mountain Katydid Female Mountain Katydid found at Muldoons.
Image: Julian Finn
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Budj Bim rangers Simone Sailor-Smith and Deb Rose caught a beautiful Jewel Spider (Austracantha minax). Another amazing find was a Peripatus or velvet worm. These are ancient animals that share some characteristics with worms and some with arthropods, and haven’t changed much in millions of years.

Peripatus The tiny and beautiful velvet worm found at Muldoons.
Image: julian Finn
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We also found scorpions, centipedes, beetles, lacewings, ants and lizards. Where possible, the team is only collecting the first specimen that is caught and releasing subsequent finds. For birds and mammals, the surveys are by sight, by ear or through capture and release. The birders spent a few hours this afternoon at Lake Condah and reported breeding Musk Ducks plus three Reed Warblers which is interesting because they have usually flown north by this time of year.

leech One of the hungry tiger leeches that are common in swamps, on low shrubs, and clinging to Bush Blitzers!
Image: Julian Finn
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Of course, all this time we're spending in swamps is great for one local animal - the leech. We've all become quite good at spotting and flicking leeches before they latch on to feed, but some of us have still become hosts for these blood-sucking parasites...

Peter with leech Peter Lillywhite with a leech feeding on his neck.
Image: Berlinda Bowler
Source: Berlinda Bowler
 

Bush Blitz is a three-year biodiversity discovery program supported by the Australian Government, BHP Billiton, Earthwatch Australia and Terrestrial Ecosystems Research Network (TERN) AusPlots.

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

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