When we arrive at base camp for our Fish River Bush Blitz the humidity is oppressive, my lily white Canberra skin breaks out into a sweat that will stay with me for the next week. The smell of damp earth, humidity and aviation fuel — Bush Blitz NT style.
I’m here with 20 or so biodiversity scientists — on the hunt for new species and to document the plants and animals that inhabit this stunning 178,000 hectare property that was added to the National Reserve System last year. It’s the end of the wet season and the roads are still impassable.
In less than two days the base camp looks like a full-scale military operation. Two helicopters are moving scientists from site to site in a hectic schedule that won’t stop for the next two weeks. The base camp is radio central with the two-way going off every few minutes as conversations between the pilots, scientists, two field camps and the fish team in the dingy on the river staccato the air.
Already the findings have started coming in. Vials overflowing with snails, presses bulging with plants, buckets full of fish and bags of spiders brought back by grimy, sweaty scientists. A possible new species of spider and an expected new species of micro snail are just a couple of the finds so far.
Two field camps have been set up deep in the heart of Fish River Station. Regular food drops are keeping the camps replenished while the scientists search for beetles, bugs, frogs and reptiles as well as the increasingly elusive and possible new species of pseudantechinus, a mouse-sized relative of the quoll which our mammal experts are hoping to find.
Jo Harding Bush Blitz Manager
Bush Blitz is a biodiversity discovery program between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton and Earthwatch Australia which aims to document the plants and animals across Australia’s National Reserve System.
Fish River Station is a new addition to the National Reserve System, having been bought for conservation last year by the Indigenous Land Corporation, The Nature Conservancy and the Pew Environment Group with funding assistance from the Australian Government and support from Greening Australia.