We went to Wyperfeld (again)

Field work

Last month José and I ventured back to Wyperfeld National Park to explore monitoring options for the threatened pine-buloke woodlands. Here are a few of my photos taken along the way. Elsewhere, you can read more about…

Thanks to Chris, Dave, Kate, Guru and Simon for playing along.

Pine BulokeFire



EcoTas13I and many of my QAEco colleagues will be attending and presenting our research at EcoTas13 next week.

I’ll introduce how I’ve been modelling kangaroo-vegetation dynamics in semi-arid Australia during the Tuesday morning speed talk session.

Check out the main QAEco page for a full schedule of our lab’s presentations.

Exploring Wyperfeld National Park

VMRG training weekendRecently José, Guru and I returned to Wyperfeld National Park for the annual VMRG training weekend (you can read José’s account of our trip here and my summary of last year’s gathering here). It was great to reconnect with many familiar faces, receive updates on the monitoring program and get acquainted with the data logging devices.

IMG_8529We stuck around Wyperfeld for an extra 24 hours to get to know the park better in the context of our kangaroo-vegetation management project. We were privileged to have acting Ranger-in-Charge Dave Christian as our guide. He’s worked in the Mallee Parks for almost 30 years and I’d wager that what he doesn’t know about Wyperfeld and its management isn’t worth knowing! It was incredibly informative to ‘meet’ the buloke and slender Cypress pines that Parks Victoria are working to regenerate and to get a feel for the management operations on ground.

While I didn’t capture any photos of the Major Mitchell’s cockatoos or the regent parrots that we spotted, I’ve got plenty of other images to share.

CentralSnowdriftFauna Birds and pinesIMG_8581Mallee in flowerIMG_8596 IMG_8600Fox behind rabbit-proof fenceKangaroosLizard

Kangaroo-vegetation workshop, University of Melbourne

Workshop introduction
In May, José and I put our facilitation training into practice by hosting our own workshop at uni. The workshop fits into our ‘kangaroo project’, a collaboration with Parks Victoria to develop an adaptive management program for kangaroo control at Wyperfeld National Park. Kangaroo control is undertaken with the purpose of reducing grazing pressure and enhancing the regeneration of pine-buloke woodland. Our task is to build a model and help frame future management plans such that kangaroo management is explicitly linked to vegetation objectives and condition.

Small group workOur workshop gathered experts from the Mallee Parks, PV’s city office, academia and private practice to discuss how vegetation could be monitored and evaluated for both short- and long-term purposes. In the short term, we want the capacity to trigger actions that effectively protect regeneration. In the long term, we want to track progress in restoring the woodland and have a clear picture of the role of kangaroo management in that restoration. Our participants tackled these issues with gusto, bringing forth their many years’ experience in observing, researching and/or managing this system.

Workshop participantsJosé and I called on our training to plan a purposeful workshop and arrange activities that we hoped would engage and focus our participants. Some of these plans were highly successful, others were overlooked in the energy of the moment and a few fizzled. When our framing of an issue didn’t capture their perspective, our participants helped with a redefinition. We witnessed some terrific moments of self-organisation, with individuals reflecting and summarising what they’d heard from others, once or twice even pulling the group through a ‘groan zone‘ with little intervention from us facilitators.

That said, it was mighty challenging to draw on the facilitation techniques I’d learned while on my feet, in front of an (occasionally inattentive) audience. It helped enormously that I embarked on this workshop in partnership with José, so that leading and speaking could be alternated with reflecting and strategising. Several PV and university colleagues helped to form links and re-establish focus, while local students Hannah and Stefano assisted with note-taking and odd jobs (including the above photography!). Preparation and a post mortem with the facilitation discussion group helped us recognise challenges, develop strategies and identify paths for future improvement. This support network ensured that the first workshop José and I facilitated was robust in the face of our inexperience, and we’ll gain a little more foresight and confidence each time we take on this role.

NERP derp

Though I’ve been working with several of its researchers for years, this week marks my official entry into the Quantitative & Applied Ecology Group (now near-unanimously nicknamed QAEco). I’ll be employed as a research fellow under the National Environmental Research Program Environmental Decisions Hub.

My first academic love is maths. Few things occupy me more happily than differentiating equations (yes, really). I like applying the structure and logic of maths to environmental problems, deriving solutions that reveal something new about the actions and processes that are important.

Increasingly I’ve been working in direct collaboration with government agencies such as the Department of Primary Industries and Parks Victoria. This has been immensely rewarding and shown me a range of constraints and challenges in evidenced-based environmental management that don’t pop up in your average decision theory textbook.

I also make the occasional bracing trip into the field to check that my models aren’t completely fanciful.

At NERP I’m looking forward to bringing it all together on a couple of new projects. I’ll be shifting my focus to The Mallee where, among other things, kangaroo grazing affects vegetation condition and the status of malleefowl is uncertain.