Australia Impressions from a Visiting (Costa Rica) Faculty Member

Posted: July 15, 2013

When I first thought of coming to the Wet Tropics of Australia for my sabbatical, I knew that I was going to encounter hundreds of new species of animals and plants, very different than those of Costa Rica, where I work at the Center for Sustainable Development Studies (CSDS). On my arrival at that Center for Rainforest Studies (CRS) my excitement was fighting against the jetlag and the cool wet climate of the mountain where the center sits. After a delicious meal I walked to my room traversing a forested area in between buildings, and there, in the middle of the trail was my first new species: the Long-nosed bandicoot. Perhaps for many not a big deal, but for me it was such a great reward to initiate my stay here in Australia.

I came to CRS to work on the effects of traffic noise on bird bioacoustics, specifically on the structure of dawn chorus. Thus, to experience the dawn chorus in the Wet Tropics of Australia I got up the next day before sunrise and walked to the forest and wait for the event. Twenty six minutes after 6 am the first bird species commenced the incipient chorus. Shortly after, several species of birds joined in and the monotonous sound of the wind and light rain vanished from my ears. The monospecific chorus of Chowchillas and the individual songs of the Eastern Whipbirds captivated my brain.  With this unforgettable experience I started to prepare the recording equipment to be used in our joint research across centers. While doing so, I was asked to brief the students on the research and to show them the recording devices to be used. After the briefing and demonstration of the equipment I felt even more motivated to continue with the investigation and monitoring of the natural soundscape.

It has been only four days since I arrived, and yet I have had time to check the potential study sites, put to work the first recording devices, share ideas with faculty members, show and tell on the techniques used in our research, spotlight for animals with students and faculty, enjoyed wonderful meals and, of course, to watch many new species.