Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson writes about his experience at the Tarkine BioBlitz

"In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."

Baba Dioum

Photo: Emma Anglesey

When we arrived at the Tarkine BioBlitz early on Friday evening, it was already in full swing. A “BioBlitz” is where a group of scientists, naturalists and community volunteers undertake biological surveying in a chosen area with the purpose of recording as many species of plants, animals, microbes, fungi, and other organisms as possible.  Sound like fun?!  Well when we walked into the BioBlitz Basecamp - the Riverbend camp, 6km south of Smithton – it was buzzing with excitement.  Around 100 volunteer naturalists, scientists and community members had been out in the field during the afternoon and they were marveling at and documenting their discoveries.  This was Tasmania’s - and my - first Bioblitz and this is just what I had expected.

Photo: Emma Anglesey

What I didn’t expect was to find groups of teenagers voluntarily documenting species of moss and attending lectures about “slime moulds” and rare Tasmanian orchids late into the night.  On your average Friday night in Tasmania, you don’t often find groups of people 25 and under excitedly hovering around microscopes looking at plants, invertebrates and microbes.  By their very nature BioBlitzes get people interested in biodiversity and encourage public participation, and it was fantastic to see so many young people involved and inspired by science in nature.

Photo: Emma Anglesey

On the Saturday we split into smaller groups and set off to two field sites which were chosen to allow us to explore some of the diverse ecosystems of the Tarkine. The coastal site was Dartys Corner/Eva Point (located south of Temma) - rocky and sandy shoreline, with two creeks and a variety of coastal vegetation - and the inland site was Dempster Plains (near the lookout on Sumac Road) - buttongrass, moorland and heathland surrounded by rainforest and eucalypt forest.  As participants we could choose our own adventure and naturally I picked the coastal option - how could you resist a visit to the magnificent Tarkine coastline?

Photo: Emma Anglesey

Highlights for me were seeing chitons while hanging out at the rock pool survey with Rodolfo Maia, an Environmental Scientist who work as a park ranger for Parks Victoria, and discovering how to identify different plants species with Anna Povey on the plants survey. Anna works with the Tasmanian Land Conservancy and has an environmental consultancy, Bush Matters, providing flora and fauna surveys, bush management plans and environmental education.  Between the plant and rock pool survey areas we had to go through a make-shift quarantine station to apply the appropriate biosecurity measures that prevent the spreading of any weeds and pathogens, and we were thankful that Jessie Westbury, the coast field site coordinator, was there to show us the ropes.

Photo: Emma Anglesey

There is a growing interest in organising BioBlitzes in Australia. A BioBlitz is a fantastic way to have fun, explore and learn together in special places and they are definitely worth the hard work of organising them.  We hope to see a developing community of practice around the BioBlitz model in Tasmania as it definitely works, and we’ll continue to support these fantastic community events.  Thanks all those naturalists, scientists, volunteers and participants who helped to make Bob Brown Foundation’s and Tasmania’s inaugural BioBlitz a fantastic experience - see you at the next one!

Peter Whish-Wilson

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