Learning From Nature

Thank you to Rachel Bates, a freelance field ecologist from the UK, for asking me to write a guest post for her website Ecology Escapades. Rachel is keen to showcase the different kinds of work that ecologists do, and my post talked about doing field ecology research as well as the ecological significance of my study area in Victoria’s beautiful Murray Mallee region….

One of the most rewarding things about being an ecologist is the time you get to spend with Nature. As a research ecologist, those times don’t happen as often as you would like – we now spend more time at a computer, reading theory and background, analysing data, writing papers and applying for grants to do more research. However, doing field work gives you the chance to experience magnificent ecosystems, landscapes and wildlife that you might not have seen as a tourist. Those experiences, however fleeting, make the data analysis and administrative headaches all the more bearable!

My recent field work, collecting data for my PhD thesis, was in Victoria’s Murray Mallee (rhymes with ‘Sally’). The mallee is an ecologist’s paradise – full of ecological and geological wonders, and brimming with historical lessons that can guide our future. It is a Mediterranean biome, similar to the French garrigue or South African fynbos, and is one of Australia’s most enigmatically beautiful ecosystems. It’s kind of an ecological transition zone from the coastal plains and ranges of southern Australia, just before you get to the real desert in the heart of the continent. Continue reading

Water Damage

Warning: The following post contains language and concepts offensive to supporters of dams or reservoirs!

Rocky Valley Dam, Falls Creek, NSW


To begin with the obvious, dams are controversial.  They supply water, power and recreation to millions of people around the world, yet they also have irreparable effects on water ecology and the surrounding landscape.  In warmer climates, they can contribute extra methane to the atmosphere from the decomposition of drowned organic matter.  There is even some debate in geophysical circles over whether the world’s dams have caused the Earth’s axis to tilt and changed its rotational speed.

While the blame for these shifts in the Earth’s position cannot be entirely placed on dams (earthquakes also have the ability to affect the Earth’s rotation or position in space) it raises a valid point.  We all know how much water weighs (a full bucket of water is too heavy for many people to lift easily), so hundreds of gigalitres of imprisoned water will of course have some effect on the Earth’s mass, however miniscule. Continue reading

An Albatross around their neck!

“Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.”

I’ve written before about threats to the quality of rivers such as the Murray and the Daly due to overconsumption of their resources.  These stories are plastered across most media sources, so it is easy to assume that most people are aware of the same issues.

However, you realise this is not necessarily the case when you listen to local/regional radio channels, read regional newspapers or come across promotional material from regional political representatives.  So many people lack basic level education in the disciplines that describe natural processes (mainly science and geography).  How do they have the authority to make statements about these natural processes that influence and affect entire communities? Continue reading

Ode to the Murray

I’m using a few hundred words here to talk about the Murray River—a creature whose entire essence cannot be done justice in any number of words, written or spoken.

I recently stood on the banks of the Murray for the first time in my life—and I am not ashamed to say it made me cry.  I grew up in Queensland, where we are lucky enough to house the headwaters of the Murray’s equally majestic sister, the Darling.

But rivers are different up there.  Continue reading

Another day for the Daly

Is it human nature to run away from a problem, instead of trying to solve it?

When Australia began to face serious questions about the future of food and water security in the Murray-Darling Basin, those who could do something about it first disregarded the problem, and then, once it was beyond repair, immediately threw it into the too hard basket.

This avoidance tactic would let the Murray-Darling die an agonising death, while turning the focus onto the Kimberley-Top End region.  Continue reading