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DISPLAYING POSTS TAGGED: bushfire (5)

Smoky mouse update

Author
by Phoebe Burns
Publish date
25 February 2014
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Comments (3)

Phoebe is a University of Melbourne Masters student supervised by Dr. Kevin Rowe at MV. She is studying post-fire distribution and ecology of the Smoky Mouse in the Grampians National Park.

In September 2013, I moved to the Grampians, pitched a tent and set out to see how the endangered Smoky Mouse, Pseudomys fumeus, was faring in the aftermath of the February 2013 Victoria Valley fire. After three soot-covered months, I’m back in Melbourne enjoying modern comforts like showers and instant boiling water.

Grampians landscape Grampians landscape
Image: Phoebe Burns
Source: Museum Victoria
 

I began my surveys at the site where, prior to the fire, we found a healthy population of Smoky Mice in the November 2012 Museum Victoria Bioscan. By September regrowing bracken ferns and eucalypts added a splash of green to the blackened landscape. In spite of the devastation, I caught several healthy Smoky Mice including some of the same individuals we’d caught the previous November! The ecological significance of this discovery alone was cause to celebrate.

Adult Smoky Mouse Adult Smoky Mouse on a burnt log
Image: Phoebe Burns
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Between my first capture in September and my final trapping night in December, I surveyed 46 sites in and out of the burn scar across the Victoria Range in the Grampians. At six of those sites, all within the burn scar, I found Smoky Mice living in the rocky habitats. The mice in these populations were not just surviving, they were healthy and breeding. I caught adults weighing as much as 70 grams but I also found tiny juveniles newly emerged from the nest weighing only 12 grams.  

Juvenile Smoky Mouse Juvenile Smoky Mouse
Image: Phoebe Burns
Source: Museum Victoria
 

While I was looking to find Smoky Mice, my trapping methods meant I also caught a number of other small mammal species (and a few reptiles). I was lucky enough to encounter Swamp Rats, Rattus lutreolus, Heath Mice, Pseudomys shortridgei, Agile Antechinus, Antechinus agilis, and Dusky Antechinus, Antechinus swainsonii. The highlights of my small mammal by-catch were two tiny Eastern Pygmy Possums, Cercatus nanus, that found their way into my traps.

Eastern Pygmy Possum Adult female Eastern Pygmy Possum
Image: Phoebe Burns
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The last three months were physically and mentally challenging, hiking up mountainsides in the rain and hail, being snowed on one day and sweating in the heat the next, but it was worth every unpredictable minute. I feel so privileged to explore the beautiful, rugged wilderness of the Grampians National Park and to have encountered so many remarkable species. The Parks Victoria staff provided a wealth of logistical and emotional support. It’s great to know that our parks are in such capable hands and that the Smoky Mice of the Victoria Range are thriving in spite of the fires.

Links:

MV Blog: Smoky Mice in the Grampians

The Earth Wins at IMAX

Author
by Jerry Grayson
Publish date
25 July 2013
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Writer/Director Jerry Grayson is a helicopter pilot-turned-filmmaker. He spent eight years flying for the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, a role that culminated in him being awarded the Air Force Cross by Her Majesty the Queen for outstanding gallantry in Search and Rescue. He talks about flying back over the scorched land he filmed for THE EARTH WINS, a unique Australian-made documentary which opens at IMAX Melbourne Museum on 29 August. 

A core premise of our film THE EARTH WINS is that if you view any given subject from a different perspective (in this case from the air) then there is the potential to form entirely new opinions.

Flying over the forests between Kinglake and Marysville was a sobering experience in the week following Black Saturday. However high we flew, the lifeless brown woodlands still stretched to the horizon. There was still a form of beauty to be found in the way that the hillsides resembled the rough hide of an elephant head, and we still refer to this shot as the "hairy hill".

Burnt landscape 'The hairy hill' - a view from the air of the forest between Marysville and Kinglake in the week after the Black Saturday fires.
Source: Helifilms
 

But if there was ever a scene that justified the phrase "a dreadful and terrifying beauty", this was it.

Four years later, almost to the day, I couldn't resist the opportunity to fly over the same hills once more and to record the way that the landscape had changed in the interim. As we crested the ridge at Kinglake I was horrified to see that the only change had been a change in colour. Vast forests of dead brown trunks were now vast forests of dead grey trunks. The hamlet of Kinglake West was almost unrecognizable to me in the way that new roads had been carved and new buildings erected. I gave up trying to find the remains of the house from which the chimney had been so lovingly preserved and transported to Melbourne Museum.

But for tens of kilometres beyond the human footprint the forests were as dead as they had been when we were shooting for our film in February 2009. Only an odd stand of trees here and there gave any clue as to what had once been.

Hills with dead trees The forests between Kinglake and Marysville four years after Black Saturday.
Source: Helifilms
 

But then a wonderful thing happened as we simply altered our perspective from the oblique to the vertical. Almost hidden at the base of the towering grey trunks was a carpet of new green life; huge and luxuriant ferns providing shade and water catchment for the young trees that would soon overtake their deceased parents.

Tree ferns under burnt trees Tree ferns springing back to life after bushfire.
Source: Helifilms
 

The experience gave me pause to consider the very essence of what THE EARTH WINS was always designed to convey, that just a tiny variation in one’s perspective or viewpoint can result in an overwhelmingly different conclusion.

If our film succeeds in illustrating how different some things can seem when viewed from a different angle then I will be very happy. See the film, share your thoughts with me at www.theearthwins.com. Did it move you, your partner, your mate, your parents or your offspring to view anything from a slightly altered perspective? Go on, make my day!

Smoky mice in the Grampians

Author
by Phoebe Burns
Publish date
31 May 2013
Comments
Comments (3)

Phoebe is a University of Melbourne Masters student supervised by Dr. Kevin Rowe at MV. She is studying post-fire distribution and ecology of the Smoky Mouse in the Grampians National Park

Smoky Mouse Smoky Mouse, Pseudomys fumeus. Grampians, November 2012.
Image: David Paul
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The Smoky Mouse (Pseudomys fumeus) is an elusive and endangered rodent native to southeast Australia. Historically, the Grampians in western Victoria have been home to healthy populations of the mouse, though years can pass without observations of the species. During the November 2012 Museum Victoria Bioscan, we found a large population of Smoky Mice in the Victoria Range in the west of the Grampians; an amazing find as the mouse had not been detected in such high numbers since the 1980s!

In February 2013 a wildfire burnt through 35,000 hectares of the Grampians, including 80 per cent of the Victoria Range and the locations we surveyed in November. While such a large fire raised concerns about the survival of the Smoky Mouse population, we’re using the opportunity to understand how the species responds to fire. So far things are looking promising: earlier this month we found evidence of rodent activity in a small sheltered patch in the middle of a burnt gully and the vegetation is regenerating well. Excitingly, Parks Victoria staff have detected Smoky Mice on cameras in the southern end of the Victoria Range.

Fire has shaped the communities of plants and animals that live in the Grampians, but we still have so much to learn about the role it plays in the lives of our native rodents. Regular burns are essential to the reproduction of some plant species, which in turn provide habitat for our animal species. The Smoky Mouse relies on specific plant communities to provide food and shelter; fire is necessary to ‘reset’ these plant communities to prevent them growing to a point where they are no longer suitable for the mouse. However, fire is best delivered in a patchy mosaic, allowing animals to live in unburnt areas while adjacent burnt areas regenerate and the plant community returns to a suitable state. Wide-scale fires like the one in February are not ideal, and we’re eager to learn what impact it may have on the native fauna.

We’re hopeful that the Smoky Mouse is living in unburnt patches throughout and around the burnt areas. Over time the Smoky Mouse will recolonise the recently burnt areas and we’ll be able to map the movement of the species across the landscape using genetic techniques. In the short term, I will be hiking around the Grampians monitoring the progress of the Smoky Mouse over the next year. I hope to learn where the mouse is persisting and how the species responds to fire in order to help plan management techniques to ensure the conservation of the species for generations to come.

  Smoky Mouse Smoky Mouse, Pseudomys fumeus. Grampians, November 2012.
Image: David Paul
Source: Museum Victoria

Links:

YouTube video: Moth hunting at the Grampians

MV Blog: Gallery of the Grampians survey

Siding Spring Observatory

Author
by Tanya
Publish date
14 January 2013
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Comments (2)

Like other Australian astronomers last night, I was glued to the computer watching as a fire raged across the Warrumbungle National Park in NSW, home to Australia's world-class optical and infrared telescopes at Sliding Spring Observatory. I think the hardest thing was knowing that it's almost 10 years ago to the day, that fires destroyed the Mt Stromlo Observatory in Canberra. Could this really be happening again?

Fire around telescope A truly frightening image, as Australia's largest optical telescope, the Australian Astronomical Telescope (AAT), is engulfed in smoke.
Source: Rural Fire Services
 

Fires around telescope Fires blaze around cottages in front of the AAT. To the top right of the image are the flames that engulfed the lodge.
Source: FTS webcam
 

Fire at astronomer's lodge The glow as the astronomer's lodge is destroyed. Temperatures at the AAT were measured to be over 100 degrees.
Source: FTS webcam
 

Thankfully, lessons were learnt from that event and there is much hope that measures put into place may have saved the dozen or so telescopes on the mountain. We'll have to wait and see as the damage is assessed over the next few days.

The good news is that all 18 staff were evacuated safely. Many telescope domes are still standing, as new images come through this morning. The building which has been destroyed was the lodge which provided accommodation for astronomers during their observing runs. 

Fire around telescope Electronics were not meant to survive such temperatures.
Source: HATSouth webcam
 

Telescope dome after fire The picture I wanted to see today. The AAT dome still stands, but there will be a wait to access how the telescope fared inside.
Source: LCOGT webcam
 

Our thoughts are with the community of Coonabarabran and those who have been affected by the fires, and our thanks go out to fire services for their great efforts. 

If the telescopes had been destroyed it would have been devastating for Australian astronomical research, all but ending our ability to do continue doing optical astronomy here. Hundreds of researchers and students rely on those telescopes. And it would also have affected the Coonabarabran community, many of whom rely on the telescopes for their livelihoods too.

Images of the event, many taken from the webcams that are normally used by astronomers to check sky conditions during their nightly observations, tell the story.

burnt astronomer's lodge building The burnt out remains of the astronomers lodge. I have fond memories of Margaret's delicious chocolate pudding, which I would devour there, before heading up to the telescope for the night's observing run!
Source: Rural Fire Services

Telescope dome after fire The square "dome" on the left houses the ANU's 2.3 metre telescope which stayed a comfortable 20 degrees throughout the fire. The dome to the top right is the new SkyMapper telescope, led by Nobel Laureate Brian Schmidt and built to continue the work of the Great Melbourne Telescope after it was destroyed in the Mt Stromlo fires. Temperatures there peaked at 65 °C.
Source: Rural Fire Services
 

UPDATE: 

The Warrumbungle Shire Council has set up a Warrumbungle Shire Mayor’s Bushfire Appeal with donations being used solely to assist residents affected by the fire. The NSW Rural Fire Service are reporting that some 40 properties and over 110 out-buildings have been confirmed lost as well as a large number of livestock and farm machinery.

 

Links:

Siding Spring after the fires of January 2013 via Observations Blog, Sydney Observatory

Report from The Australian

Astropixie liveblogging the fire: Sunday night and Monday morning

The Thank You Gift

Author
by Catherine McLennan
Publish date
21 December 2010
Comments
Comments (4)

This guest post is by Catherine McLennan. As part of her Master of Public History, Catherine completed a student internship with Museum Victoria, working with Senior Curator Liza Dale-Hallett on a special object that was acquired for the Victorian Bushfires Collection. This collection recently won the 2010 Arts Portfolio Leadership Award in the Community Leadership category.

This year I was given the opportunity to work on the Victorian Bushfires Collection. In my role as student intern, I was assigned to research a tree-shaped sculpture, interview its makers and create some stories for publication on Museum Victoria’s Collections Online. When I first laid eyes on this beautiful piece of art, I had no idea who made it, why they made it, or what it represented. It was time for some research…

Thank You Gift The Thank You Gift
Source: Museum Victoria

After a few phone calls, I learnt that the sculpture was created in the Kinglake Ranges by local woodworker Glenn Barlow and local blacksmith Ray Brasser, using wood and metal that had been salvaged from their properties following the 2009 Victorian bushfires. Glenn and Ray presented this sculpture to the ex-Premier of Victoria John Brumby at a concert that was held at Federation Square, Melbourne, on 10 April 2010 – the Thank You Melbourne and Victoria concert. The purpose of this concert was to thank the people of Victoria for their generosity in the wake of Black Saturday and the sculpture was made as a physical token of this ‘thank you’ message.

In September I travelled to Kinglake to meet and interview Ray, Glenn and three other people that were involved in organising the Thank You Melbourne and Victoria concert. It was an honour to meet these people. All of them had been through some terrible experiences during and after the fires, but despite this, they were so welcoming and had a great sense of humour. Organising the Thank You concert was, for them, a way of channelling their grief and getting local musicians, artists and poets involved in the recovery process whilst simultaneously saying ‘thank you’.

Researching the Thank You Gift was an incredible experience that I will never forget. I would like to thank those who were so generous in sharing their stories with me (they know who they are), and to Museum Victoria for hosting my student internship.

Links:

2010 Arts Portfolio Leadership Awards

Thank You Gift on Collections Online

Making of the Thank You Gift

Thank You Melbourne and Victoria concert

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