Siteworks for Schools at Bundanon

With funding from Inspiring Australia, over 100 students and teachers from three high schools in the Shoalhaven Region had the opportunity to experience first-hand environmental issues, biodiversity, bush regeneration and issues of feral and native fauna as they conducted a flora audit at Bundanon on Thursday 18 September.

Year 9 and 10 students studying zoology, biology, science and earth & environmental science from Bomaderry, St John the Evangelist, and Nowra High Schools, had the opportunity to learn from and engage in field work on site with leading ecologists and scientists. As they explored the property, the groups rotated through five different activities. Volunteer students acted as reporters and photographic documenters during the day to record the experiences and learning.

Siteworks Associate Diego Bonnetto led an entertaining Weedy Walk around the Bundanon property, pointing out the positives and negatives of introduced species around the farmland and bush margins. He assisted the students to identify and locate common weeds and explained their use as traditional medicine.

In the pristine and peaceful amphitheatre, experts on all things ornithological Barry Virtue from Bird Life Shoalhaven and Ann Millard, guided the participants in listening to, observing and documenting the diverse bird species on the Bundanon property. As Barry is engaged in regular surveys of birds on the property, he was able to pass on his knowledge and emphasize the links between birds, their habitats, feeding cycles and the importance of maintaining species diversity.

Juliet Dingle, a National Parks and Wildlife Officer, who is responsible for monitoring and supporting the endangered Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby populations in the region engaged the students with a demonstration of sand pads tracking of feral fox movements. Fox predation is the major threat to the colonies. Juliet explained how she assesses changes in the fox numbers as well as other wildlife species and what methods are used to rid the natural bush land of these damaging introduced species. Juliet displayed digital recording methods using motion sensor cameras, indicating the knowledge she gains from analysing these images. The Friends of the Brush-Tailed Rock Wallaby supported Juliet’s contribution to the event.

Ralph Dixon, a bush regenerator and member of Bundanon’s Property Team, led a walk to explore a selection of sites of the Living Landscape – a project to rid the property of Lantana, regenerate the bush and re-connect wildlife corridors to preserve vulnerable and endangered species. Ralph explained the problems caused by lantana (a Weed of National Significance) and the links between bio-diversity, habitats and vegetation communities. He guided the students along sections of the new Janet Laurence planted art work Treelines Track, which incorporates many aspects

Participants worked with Liza Smith from the University of Wollongong, Janet Cosh Herbarium using scientific survey methods within a selected quadrat of Southern Lowland Wet Schlerophyll Forest. Students learnt about characteristics of plants and set about identifying species within the quadrat using systematic survey techniques.

The response to the event was overwhelmingly positive. Teaching staff attending with their students considered the day excellent professional development. The topics were relevant to the students, expanding on many of their curriculum themes. Above all, it was the hands on experiential learning taking place throughout each session with the experts, scientists and specialists in the various fields which the students really responded to.

About the author
Mary Preece is Education Manager at Bundanon Trust. This weekend’s public Siteworks event includes a BioBlitz where all are welcome to participate in more environmental audit activities. For information about the weekend’s program of conversations, art and performance, visit the website.

Find out more, book your tent site and secure your BioBlitz place by visiting Siteworks