By: Anna Miller, PhD

Posted: March 27, 2017
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Faculty Post

An Unforgettable Spring Break


Living in the rainforests of Australia has been the best decision I have ever made in my life. Coming from the Mid-West, I have never seen an environment so colorful and diverse in my life. The trees and flowers are so many shades of intense colors that are indescribable, and the birds and insects engulf the area in sounds I could have never imagined possible.

The time we have spent at Warrawee has been filled with learning an incredible amount of invaluable knowledge, as well as travelling and exploring the wonderful state of Queensland. We’ve seen wild kangaroos and slept underneath a sea of stars in the Outback, went swimming under a wondrous waterfall named Millaa Millaa, and spent time with the people who call the Atherton Tablelands home during our homestay weekend. I have made incredible memories with even more incredible people.

One of my favorite memories I have made thus far was during spring break. Some people rented bikes and explored Mission Beach, while others hopped on a flight and went sightseeing in Melbourne and Sydney. I spent my time exploring the shores of Trinity Beach and was on a mission to see what Australia really has to offer. The weekend was filled with soaking in the sun on the coast, hiking up to the summit of Earl Hill and to the beautiful Catana Wetlands, and checking the number one thing off of my bucket list; scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef!

Beautiful scene of Trinity Beach and the Australian coast from the summit on Earl Hill

Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef was an incredible adventure in my life that I will never forget. Ever since I was young I had dreamed of swimming alongside the fluorescent fish and coral. When I finally had the moment to see the marine life up close, it was completely breathtaking. I was able to swim among the gentle tides with fish of all different sizes and colors. They were so beautiful and peaceful; it felt as if I was one of them.

Me swimming next to a giant clam in the Great Barrier Reef

The amazing coral that gleamed shades of blue, yellow, and pink were like a luminous blanket on the ocean floor. Some parts of the reef were huge towers reaching to the surface and you were swimming in canyons of coral with fish all around. The entire experience is almost beyond words and is something that everyone who comes to Australia should do at least once in their life, especially before the reef is gone. I felt a rush of sadness when I saw that some corals were experience bleaching, but it has only fueled my passion to do what I can in this life to help preserve the stunning wildlife this planet holds. It was one of the best days of my life and I will truly cherish every second I was in the ocean swimming with the most beautiful wildlife I have ever seen.

Spring break was amazing and filled with so many laughs and adventures. I was so happy when everyone came together again and we all shared our stories around the picnic table during dinner. I had missed everyone so much and was so happy to hear that their weekends were amazing too. The day after we returned, we jumped right back into our last Field Exercise with Siggy and the Yellow-Bellied Gliders. In short, Yellow-Bellied Gliders are nocturnal marsupials that live off the eastern coast of Australia. They are small mammals that have rounded ears and pale yellow chest and bellies and glide amid the forest canopy (super cute!!).

An adorable Yellow-Bellied Glider climbing on a tree

The gliders we were studying are very unique compared to the rest of Yellow-Bellied Gliders throughout Australia. The gliders in the south have 5 different trees for food, whereas the ones we are studying only have 1! The way they live in the forest is so interesting. We spent 3 days surveying the forest, collecting data of nearby potential habitat trying to crack some serious mysteries they have brought to light. We spent the evenings sitting around trees they use for food and dens for 2 hours to observe the gliders at night. We saw them gliding from tree to tree among the canopy as they landed on their feed tree of choice. There were 5 gliders on the tree at once, all blaring the most interesting calls I have ever heard. They chatted and chased each other around on the tree like kids in a playground. It was the first time I had ever sat and scientifically observed animals in their natural habitat and it was an extraordinary experience.

I am so happy that I have had the opportunity to live in the rainforest and to see these amazing animals and plants that call it home. I have learned so much during my time at the Centre for Rainforest Studies with SFS and I am so grateful for every time we put on our muck boots and go out into the field to learn more about this remarkable environment. This place is unlike anything I have ever seen or imagined and I am so in love with the rainforest. Warrawee really feels like home away from home and I will never forget this place or the strangers who turned into family. Without them, this wouldn’t be the amazing place I call home for Wet 2017.

The Wet 2017 family enjoying a day off at Millaa Millaa Falls

→ Tropical Rainforest Studies in Australia

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