Field trip to Rubicon Sanctuary and Brook Eden Vineyard

Ecology in Action on Private Land. Leaders – Anna Povey and Rowena Hamer, Tasmanian Land Conservancy

Rubicon Sanctuary (www.rubicon.org.au) is a hotspot for orchids (over 50 species) and threatened species (12 species, the only known site for the endangered Marsh Leek-orchid, Prasophyllum limnetes, and almost the only site in Tasmania for Cassinia rugata). What should the private landholders do to ensure these species thrive?

This trip reveals the extraordinary ecological experiments of Phil Collier and Robin Garnett, which would be the envy of any university department, and their management, which would be the envy of the Parks and Wildlife Service. Fire regimes and slashing alternatives have been used. Staff of the Tasmanian Land Conservancy, to which the land has recently been gifted, continue the monitoring (with Phil and Robin) and management of this 20 ha property and will guide the visit. Hear the story of how local naturalists and Tasmanian Land Conservancy originally saved the land from development, protected it in perpetuity with a covenant, and “revolved” it to Phil and Robin, and how it has come back to them. 

After lunch, we will travel to Brook Eden (www.brookeden.com.au), a small, sustainably-managed vineyard, where wetlands support platypus, revegetation is linking remnants, native wasps are used for pest control, and between-row plantings are increasing diversity. The vineyard was managed organically, and is now mostly organic. Wine tastings available ($5).

Cost: $65 inc GST per participant

Inclusions: morning and afternoon tea, lunch

Optional extra cost: Bring $5 per person for wine tasting!

Practicalities:Clothes suitable for walking on rough ground and through undergrowth. Sun hats/warm clothes.

Timing:
Meet 8am for 8:30am departure. Return to Launceston by 5pm

 

Urban Green Zones – Using science to inform management in urban reserves

Leaders – Gill Basnett (Tamar NRM) and Kathryn Pugh (City of Launceston) and Emily Flies (University of Tasmania).

Over half the world’s population lives in cities, making urban green spaces the most frequent – and sometimes the only – natural areas with which people regularly interact. However, differing, sometimes conflicting, management aims, limited resources, multiple reserve use and pressure from surrounding urban areas make urban reserve management complex. Maintaining these urban areas requires unique solutions that can balance the competing interests of the public, politicians, developers and the wild plants and animals that co-habit that space. Striking the right balance is critical since research has revealed that small habitat patches may be as important for biodiversity and conservation as large, highly connected areas of vegetation.

This field trip explores the values of urban parks and gardens and how ecological science can help create solutions for complex management issues. The day will involve walking through three different reserves managed by the City of Launceston (Carr Villa Flora Reserve and Memorial Park, Punchbowl Reserve and West Tamar Walking Trail). We will look at how the council, in partnership with agencies, organisations and the community, have used science, including citizen science, to help conserve threatened species and communities. With local land managers, government officials and scientists as guides throughout the day, we will explore how issues such as bushfire risk, water quality, vegetation management, revegetation, pet control, urban encroachment and recreation are addressed using applied ecology, community education, and citizen science.

Cost: $65 inc GST per participant

Inclusions:
morning and afternoon tea, lunch

Timing:
Meet 8am for 8:30am departure. Return to Launceston by 5pm

 

Lake Mackenzie – restoration of alpine vegetation after wildfire

Leader – Dr Darren Turner (University of Tasmania)

Tasmania’s alpine flora is unique – over 60% of the plant species are found nowhere else on earth. In 2016 a series of dry lightning strikes in the Mersey Valley region resulted in the Mersey Valley fire complex. The wildfire burnt up through a steep valley known as Devil’s Gullet and entered the plateau area around Lake Mackenzie, before it eventually burnt itself out. A total of ~15,000 ha of alpine vegetation was burnt. Of critical interest in the area was the ancient Antarctic Gondwanan flora which was badly damaged – Athrotaxis cupressoides (Pencil Pine) and Sphagnum spp. suffered badly (Figure 1).

In 2019 field work commenced to trial various rehabilitation techniques for both these critical species, in attempt to accelerate their recovery and to facilitate resilience against ecosystem collapse.


Figure 1 (a) Healthy sphagnum from Skullbone Plains, near Bronte Park, Central Tasmania ©Darren Turner;
(b) Post-fire conditions of burnt Sphagnum and Pencil Pine trees near Lake Mackenzie, Northern Tasmania ©Darren Turner

On this field trip you will get the opportunity to see and learn about the interventions being trialled. You will also see the catastrophic damage due to wildfire, and observe how the landscape is faring after fire. Finally, we will discuss and demonstrate the novel part of this project – using Drones to map the environment to provide fire severity data, field observations and track the expected recovery of the Sphagnum.

Itinerary:
9 am Departure Launceston. Quick stop at approx 10am in Mole Creek (last toilet stop)
11 am Devils Gullet lookout
12pm Lake Mackenzie car park, prepare for 30-40 min walk to field site
1pm Lunch at field site, discussions around intervention, drone demonstration
2pm Walk back to car park and board buss for return trip (with toilet stop)
5pm Arrival back

Practicalities:
You will be in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Please tread carefully. What you bring in with you, you will take out with you – nothing more. You will not be able to fly a drone in this area.
What to bring – Hat, good all-weather walking shoes, wet weather gear, suitable attire for walking on uneven ground. Clothes for cold weather. Clothes for hot weather! Any allergies? Jack jumpers and snakes will be active. Camera, binoculars – wedge tailed eagles may be around.
More information here:
Alpine and subalpine flora
https://www.parks.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?base=3216
Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area
https://www.parks.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?base=391

Cost: $75 inc GST per participant

Inclusions:
morning and afternoon tea, lunch

 

TERN Ecosystem Surveillance Field Trip: Plot-based ecological monitoring in Australia’s ecosystems

Leaders: Ben Sparrow, Sally O’Neill, Emrys Leitch

TERN’s Ecosystem Surveillance platform provides the data, methods, field samples, networks, apps, training and opportunities and advice needed for improved monitoring and assessment of Australia’s major ecosystems. All outputs are freely available to anyone who would like to use them.

This field trip provides an overview of the TERN ecological surveillance plot-based monitoring methods and techniques. We will visit one of the 700+ plots Australia wide, provide an overview of how the plot location was selected, and run-through all the techniques used to mark the plot, and collect vegetation and soil measures. Participants will obtain hands-on practical experience in the standardised, nationally accepted techniques, including plot layout and positioning using DGPS (or equivalent), photopoints, vascular plant vouchering, genetics and isotope sample vouchering, point intercept transects, basal area calculations, leaf area index, soil pit descriptions including soil characterisations and bulk density sampling, soil metagenomic sampling, plot disturbance, landform and vegetation community descriptions.

Location: this field trip will be run in conjunction with Bush Heritage Australia, visiting ‘Beaufront’ in the Midlands region.

Cost: $65 inc GST per participant

Inclusions:
morning and afternoon tea, lunch

Timing:
8am departure. Return to Launceston by 5:30pm

 

Northern Midlands – Trip 1: Managing Native Grasslands on Beaufront

Co-Leaders: Dr Matt Appleby (Bush Heritage Australia) and Dr Tanya Bailey (UTAS)

This field trip will take us to ‘Beaufront’ in the Midlands region. The property is owned by Julian von Bibra, a 7th generation Tasmanian farmer, who describes himself as a commercial farmer who supports conservation. His 20,000 ha land holding includes extensive areas of native vegetation in addition to cropping and livestock enterprises.

Julian’s interest revolves around increasing his understanding and management of the cultural and natural environment in which he works, and to minimise agricultural impacts on landscape scale biodiversity values. The Northern Midlands bioregion is a national biodiversity hotspot, home to several threatened plants and animals that inhabit lowland native grasslands and grassy woodlands.

Landholders play a vital role in actively managing native grasslands. Julian will give his perspective on the collaboration between landholders, Bush Heritage Australia and the Tasmanian Land Conservancy that resulted in the Midlands Conservation Fund, an innovative programme of rolling conservation payments and contracts. In addition to managing extensive areas of native vegetation, Julian has been working with the State Government, the University of Tasmania and Greening Australia to revegetate degraded riparian vegetation, buffer and connect woodland remnants and embed climate adaptation research. Recent projects on the farm have focused on investigating the impact of fragmentation on the distribution of critical weight-range mammals across the property and the role of landscape fire for conservation outcomes, as well as an exploration of how architecture and art can be used to communicate and reinstate the importance of ecology in agricultural landscapes to the general public.

The morning session will be combined with the ‘Trip 2: Indigenous Management on Beaufront’ group. The afternoon session will focus on landscape scale restoration plantings led by Greening Australia/UTAS.

Inclusions: morning and afternoon tea, lunch

Timing: Meet 8am for 8:30am departure. Return by 5pm.

Cost: $65 inc GST per participant

Northern Midlands – Trip 2: Indigenous Management on Beaufront

Leader: Andry Sculthorpe

This field trip will take us to ‘Beaufront’ in the Midlands region. The property is owned by Julian von Bibra, a 7th generation Tasmanian farmer, who describes himself as a commercial farmer who supports conservation. His 20,000 ha land holding includes extensive areas of native vegetation in addition to cropping and livestock enterprises.

Julian’s interest revolves around increasing his understanding and management of the cultural and natural environment in which he works, and to minimise agricultural impacts on landscape scale biodiversity values. The Northern Midlands bioregion is a national biodiversity hotspot, home to several threatened plants and animals that inhabit lowland native grasslands and grassy woodlands.

Trip 2 will highlight indigenous management practices (past, current and future) on ‘Beaufront’. Indigenous land managers shaped this landscape by creating and maintaining the open grasslands and grassy woodlands of the valley floors. These areas were targeted by early European settlers, initially for sheep-grazing. The field trip will be led by members of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, who, in collaboration with UTAS, have been involved in implementing a landscape fire project to determine the effect of wildlife browsing (native and feral herbivores) on different-sized patches of burnt grassland and grassy woodland.

The morning session of Trip 2 will be combined with the ‘Trip 1: Managing Native Grasslands on Beaufront’ group. In the afternoon, participants will visit Indigenous cultural sites of significance.

Inclusions: morning and afternoon tea, lunch

Timing: Meet 8am for 8:30am departure. Return by 5pm.

Cost: $65 inc GST per participant