Bush Blitz back in Tasmania

Steve De Hann and Miguel de Salas collect herbarium specimens

Steve De Hann and Miguel de Salas collect herbarium specimens

The Bush Blitz team is out in the field again – this time in Tasmania’s beautiful central highlands. On this trip, I had the pleasure of escorting Steve De Hann, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery’s (TMAG) newest Deputy Director. Steve joined us “at the coalface” to see how museum and herbaria specimens are collected. He was delighted to shed his suit for hiking boots and a raincoat (definitely necessary in the almost winter-like conditions).

The weather might have been chilly, but Steve’s enthusiasm wasn’t. The researchers from the TMAG Herbarium worked him hard – by the first evening, thanks to Gintaras Kantvilas, he could tell us the difference between a moss and lichen and lay claim to a few bagged herbarium specimens with the help of Miguel de Salas.

Steve and Bruce Paton (Earthwatch) check out Steve’s spider catch

Steve and Bruce Paton (Earthwatch) check out Steve’s spider catch

On the second day, Steve donned his “camo” gear again (much to my concern regarding my WH&S responsibility not to lose him). He hit the track with spider expert Robert Raven of the Queensland Museum and leaf bug specialist Gerry Cassis of the University of NSW. Robert showed his party trick of leaving the diesel vehicles running to attract spiders (no one is sure why they are attracted to the vibration), and Steve happily crawled around on the ground with the other scientists and helpers to catch the specimens.

After the great spider hunt, Steve and I joined Gerry Cassis to see how many insects would fall out of a bush if you hit it hard enough. The answer is lots! Steve collected about 50 different species in one sweep –then took on the challenge of sucking the insects up in a specially designed “pooter”…with only the slightest hesitation.

Steve and Gerry Cassis | The ingenious “pooter” is designed to collect insects without squishing them

Steve and Gerry Cassis | The ingenious “pooter” is designed to collect insects without squishing them

Every time I show visitors what we do on Bush Blitz expeditions it opens my eyes again to just how amazingly diverse our world is. We joke that Bush Blitz scientists are just kids that haven’t grown up – still crawling around looking for creepy crawlies. Bush Blitz constantly reminds me that we should never lose that childlike wonder in our environment and should remember to slow down, look down and open our eyes.

Jo Harding, Bush Blitz manager

Bush Blitz is an innovative partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities and Earthwatch Australiathat is helping fill the gaps in our knowledge of biodiversity within Australia’s national system of conservation reserves.

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