Name: Catherine Pohlman, Ph.D.
Position: Lecturer in Natural Resource Management
Program: Techniques for Rainforest Research, Australia
Today marks the final day of the 2012 Summer II course in Australia. Iris (our wonderful cook) is preparing the traditional Aussie barbeque to give the students a taste of some of our native wildlife (crocodiles and kangaroos – as well as some of the less-than-native-but-nonetheless-ubiquitous Australian cattle) before they head off back home to the States tomorrow morning. For some reason everyone flying overseas ends up having to catch the 5:30 am flight out of Cairns in order to meet connecting flights in Brisbane or Sydney, so the students leave the Centre at 2:30 in the morning (45 minutes driving, 2 hours+ to get through airport security…). Oh well, at least they’ll get a good head start on the jetlag.
The Summer II course is my first time teaching at SFS and, from my point of view at least, it’s been a very enjoyable time. I’ve been able to share my enthusiasm for rainforest plant ecology with a group of very interested students (who have been more excited by their studies than any group of students I’ve previously taught) – and I’ve been able to drag them up and down some steep hillsides to search for native seedlings in some rainforest restoration sites on the southern Atherton Tablelands.
That might sound odd – normally a reforestation project involves planting seedlings rather than searching for them – but a group of landholders and researchers are trialing a new revegetation technique to see if they can find a less expensive way to restore rainforest; basically, by getting the natural processes of vegetation succession to do most of the work. Problems like dense exotic paddock grasses, degraded soil and weed infestations can prevent (or at least severely slow) these processes, so the idea is to “remove the barriers” and see whether natural succession can take care of the rest. It’s early days so far but we’ll see how it goes…