Mark Norman: We're situated at Lake Condah Mission which is a mission site of enormous significance to the Gunditjmara people. Through the Bush Blitz program, that's been funded federally by the Australian Biological Resources Study and BHP Billiton, we've come, the Museum Victoria team and groups from the herbarium and University of New South Wales, have come to do surveys of the biodiversity here . And it's about rapid biodiversity assessment, so it's looking at the animal and plant groups that are in these federal reserves or these Indigenous Protected Areas.
So this is the first Bush Blitz based in Victoria but it's also the first Bush Blitz survey to work on Indigenous Protected Areas with the Traditional Owners. We come with a scientific perspective or survey approach and they bring enormous knowledge and connection to the Country we're in.
Ken Saunders: First up my name's Ken Saunders and this was my playground. This is where Mum brought me home here, when I was a baby of course, and this has been my playground for quite a few years. This wasn't here when I was a young fella running around. This was all bush. None of these cabins were here and stuff like that so huge change, but that's that modern world now. That's the new world where we have to adapt very very quickly to make sure that we're comfortable with it first up but we're also part of it. And we don't want to be left behind again.
Mark Norman: One of the most exciting things about this survey is the diversity of techniques being used. We've got some borrowed bat accoustic stations that we've borrowed from Arthur Rylah Institute from DSE, and you set up these remote stations and they record all the bats flying past that we can't hear (it's at ultrasonic levels) and then you play back the unit and you can work out from the waveforms which bat species are in an area.
We've got bird experts doing visual and accoustic surveys; we're recording what happens round pounds and lakes at night to get the frog fauna, as well as the visual surveys and then we're doing underwater work... We've got Remko Leijs from South Australian Museum who's looking at the stygofauna, which is the creatures that live in underground water bodies, so he's putting pumps into water bodies under the ground and bringing up new species of tiny shrimps and little springtails and other little crustaceans.
The herbarium's got a team here looking across everything from mosses, funguses, trees, shrubs; there's even a woman working on the truffles trying to understand the truffle and mushroom fauna that's here. And then we've got a group from the University of New South Wales working on the true bugs. So these are the insects that pierce with piercing mouthparts and suck the sap out of trees.
We also have volunteers - specialists - coming to help us so for three days we've got moth experts coming who'll set up night light stations with big sheets and lights. And then the moths will come to the light and they get a chance to document the diversity that's here, expecting lots of new species because this area really hasn't been surveyed much, and those lava flows with all those broken crevices and little caves are fantastic environments for moths as well as scorpions and spiders and frogs and land snails and all the animal groups we're interested in.
So it's wonderful, kind of ancient, broken kind of stony environment we're in and it's really exciting to be doing that with the Traditional Owners out on their Country.
[to rangers]: I wonder if any of your Elders know the traditional names for them because they would have been all through here, wouldn't they.
Our aim in doing this biodiversity survey is to be minimal impact. We're not coming and killing everything we see; we're trying to document the presence of species here and get a sense of what's important, what might be a conservation issue, what are the first records for a region. We are taking some voucher specimens but as soon as we've got representation of a species then we catch and release.
One of the things I find most exciting about this environment is the really spectacular-looking invertebrates. On one night's spotlight walk or a wander around just gently turning over rocks we're finding centipedes, velvet worms - Peripatus - the ancient kind of primitive worm groups, scorpions, all sorts of spiders, the trees are full of all sorts of jumping spiders and beetles and true bugs, we're getting gum leaf hoppers, we're getting all sorts of grasshoppers and praying mantises. Moths, butterflies, you know, it's an enormous range of creatures here.
The Mountain Katydid just looks like this rambling dinosaur on a tiny scale and they're just such beautiful animals and they seem so suited to this sort of harsh rocky ground environment, that... it's a really special place.