Rainforest Restoration and Cane Toads: A Sense of Place in Australia

Posted: October 23, 2012

Name: Sigrid Heise-Pavlov, Dr. rer. nat.
Position: Associate Professor in Rainforest Ecology
Program: Rainforest Studies, Australia

During the last two weeks students were involved in a lot of activities. Every Friday the group is split into four smaller groups which are engaged in volunteer work for the Center for Rainforest Studies (CRS) nursery, the removal of lantana (a weedy vine from South America) from the CRS surrounding property, restoration work near the local town of Yungaburra, and assisting in the work of a local nursery. These activities help keep our site clean and provide opportunity for engaging with restoration activities of the local community.

One week of the program was devoted to a field exercise in which students collected cane toads. The cane toad is an invasive species in Australia and its population expansion needs to be controlled. To do this, we need to know more about their biology. After the euthanasia of collected cane toads, they were dissected and students found out what cane toads have eaten, in which conditions they were and how much they were infected by a lung nematode. The gathered data was analysed statistically after students were introduced to some basic statistical tests. Each student developed his/her own research question which was the basis for writing a short scientific paper. An introduction to scientific writing helped students to achieve this.

After students had spent a weekend with Aussie families they were back to the classroom to have lectures as well as field lectures. They learned about major factors impacting on Australian ecosystems, such as climate change, fragmentation, and invasive species. They also visited small businesses on the Tablelands to see how locals are integrated in the economy of North East Queensland. A part of the week was devoted to learn about identifying plants of the Australian Wet Tropical Rainforest.  With so much knowledge on the fauna and flora of the rainforests here in Queensland, students feel more and more familiar with this unique place.