Learning About the Australian Rainforest

Posted: February 26, 2014

During the last two weeks, the life of students at the Centre for Rainforest Studies (CRS) was filled with lectures, field lectures, field laboratory work, and workshops.

In lectures, students heard about the history of the Australian rainforest and how indigenous and European people used the natural resources of this environment. On walks they experienced the nature of the rainforest by identifying its structural features such as buttress roots, lianas, epiphytes, emergent trees and plants of the understory. They were introduced to methods of plant identification and practiced them.

In lectures and lab work students were introduced to the fauna of Australia including the large and fluffy creatures such as possums and kangaroos, the dangerous creatures such as snakes, and the very small creatures such as insects. In the field lab, students used microscopes and various identification keys to work out the order or species of some of the small animals.  A highlight was a spotlighting night walk through the forests of the Centre during which students discovered spiders, frogs, small dragons, and even microbats.

Students spent a day with Aboriginal elders who familiarized the students with their culture and their ways of using the land. Students also visited the James Cook University to discuss the pros and cons of plans to further develop coastal areas of tropical Australia. They learned how to assess development projects in their complexity.

Two days were devoted to aspects of climate change and rainforest fragmentation and another day was devoted to learning applications of spatial tools such as GIS. Despite being busy with classes, students had also time to explore Australian life themselves by spending one weekend in Cairns.