Category Archives: Rangelands (Fowlers Gap)

Drawing to a close

After 12 months, The Iconic Landscapes project is drawing to a close.  The study’s final exhibition, set up at the University’s Sci-Tech library, will be running until 3 December.

A SUMMARY

In August 2009, a team of Arts and Science scholars from the University of Sydney commenced a year-long study of how scientific researchers can make better connections with the people who live in the environments that the scientists investigate. The project was called ‘Iconic Landscapes’, because of the special regions that were examined: 1) Sydney Harbour, 2) the Simpson Desert in the arid dry-zone and, 3) the rangelands in Western NSW.  The ‘Iconic landscapes’ team examined how fresh knowledge can be made available to the local people and how local knowledge can be accessed while research is under way.   The team started with a hunch that more ‘down-to-earth’ explanations about the objectives of the scientists could be combined with better understanding of the values of the people living in the study regions.  Perhaps this dual approach could produce richer knowledge and experiences for everyone involved?  

The project needed to test this hunch or hypothesis. So the team looked at how scientists were investigating and communicating their knowledge of: 

1) wildfire and predators in the Simpson Desert 

2) engineered habitats for seawalls in North Sydney 

3) the grazing behaviour of sheep and kangaroos in the rangelands.  

Most importantly, the team paid close attention to how and why the community members engaged (or did not engage) with the scientists.The team staged special events in each location, bringing the communities and scientists together to explore not only scientific research but also the emotions and desires of various people involved with the particular regions. These exchanges were important, as they helped scientists reconsider how to make inquiries and deliver results that meet the challenges and the deep feelings that are most important to the communities.Unlike conventional ecological studies, ‘Iconic Landscapes’ sought to combine scientific and cultural observations by supplementing empirical data collection with humanities methods of analysing why people do what they do and how communities form bonds and act together.  Using cross-disciplinary techniques, the study sought a better understanding of the relationship between biological events, ecological and social value and human practices of place-making.  In addition to scientific data-gathering, ‘Iconic Landscapes’ also pursued ‘softer’ or more qualitative investigations involving storytelling, memory-gathering and playful word-associations in response to questions about the emotions attached to particular places. At the end of the project, when we gather up all the different ‘data-sets’ generated by ‘Iconic Landscapes’, we can see a little more clearly how particular communities experience nature, how they perceive their immediate surroundings, and what they want and need from the people who come into their territories.

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Filed under Arid dry-zone (Simpson Desert), People and the environment, Putting it in context, Rangelands (Fowlers Gap), Sydney Harbour (seawalls)

Broken Hill press – Fowlers Gap community event

See the full Barrier Truth coverage of the July 18 ‘Iconic Landscapes’ community event held at the Fowlers Gap Arid-Zone Research Station. 

Monday, 12 July

PDF version

Monday, 2 August

Pages from JulMon12

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Filed under Australian landscape's 'character', Presentation methods, Rangelands (Fowlers Gap), Relevant articles

Iconic Landscapes and 20 years of desert research exhibitions

Both the ‘Iconic Landscapes’ and ’20 years of desert research’ exhibitions opened last Thursday (12 August) at the University of Sydney’s Scitech library.

See a short walk through both displays below. (A more detailed video of desert exhibition coming soon)

ICONIC LANDSCAPES – exhibition introduction…

In August 2009, a team of Arts and Science scholars from the University of Sydney commenced a year-long study of how scientific researchers can make better connections with the people who live in the environments that the scientists investigate. The project was called ‘Iconic Landscapes’, because of the special regions that were examined: 1) Sydney Harbour, 2) the Simpson Desert in the arid dry-zone and, 3) the rangelands in Western NSW.  The ‘Iconic landscapes’ team examined how fresh knowledge can be made available to the local people and how local knowledge can be accessed while research is under way.   The team started with a hunch that more ‘down-to-earth’ explanations about the objectives of the scientists could be combined with better understanding of the values of the people living in the study regions.  Perhaps this dual approach could produce richer knowledge and experiences for everyone involved?  

The project needed to test this hunch or hypothesis. So the team looked at how scientists were investigating and communicating their knowledge of: 

1) wildfire and predators in the Simpson Desert 

2) engineered habitats for seawalls in North Sydney 

3) the grazing behaviour of sheep and kangaroos in the rangelands.  

Most importantly, the team paid close attention to how and why the community members engaged (or did not engage) with the scientists.The team staged special events in each location, bringing the communities and scientists together to explore not only scientific research but also the emotions and desires of various people involved with the particular regions. These exchanges were important, as they helped scientists reconsider how to make inquiries and deliver results that meet the challenges and the deep feelings that are most important to the communities.Unlike conventional ecological studies, ‘Iconic Landscapes’ sought to combine scientific and cultural observations by supplementing empirical data collection with humanities methods of analysing why people do what they do and how communities form bonds and act together.  Using cross-disciplinary techniques, the study sought a better understanding of the relationship between biological events, ecological and social value and human practices of place-making.  In addition to scientific data-gathering, ‘Iconic Landscapes’ also pursued ‘softer’ or more qualitative investigations involving storytelling, memory-gathering and playful word-associations in response to questions about the emotions attached to particular places. At the end of the project, when we gather up all the different ‘data-sets’ generated by ‘Iconic Landscapes’, we can see a little more clearly how particular communities experience nature, how they perceive their immediate surroundings, and what they want and need from the people who come into their territories.    So, this collection of videos, stories, word-patterns and images gives some fresh and refreshing insights into the scientific and cultural perceptions that tangle together in each of the three landscapes. 

20 YEARS OF DESERT RESEARCH – exhibition introduction…

There’s something about arid Australia that is incredibly magnetic… Once you get red sand under your skin, it pulls you back irresistibly. You don’t have much say about it. 

– Professor Chris Dickman 

20 years ago, Ecology Professor Chris Dickman arrived in the Simpson Desert. He planned to spend five or six years researching the patterns, distributions and abundances of small mammals and reptiles in the area before moving onto another site. After two decades, the University of Sydney’s Desert Ecology Research Group (DERG), of which Dickman is director, shows no sign of slowing down, or moving on. The 2000 kilometre journey north, through NSW and Queensland, is made three to four times a year. Each of these trips involves the participation of professors, students carrying out Honours and PhD projects and volunteers. To date, over 500 volunteers have been out on roughly 150 trips. Many have returned again and again. 

The desert itself is made up of a parallel dune system running southeast to northwest, extended for up to 200kms. While the Simpson Desert is only one part of the continent’s vast arid zone, it covers more than 17 million hectares of central Australia. DERG works mainly within Queensland’s Diamantina Shire channel country area of Bush Heritage Australia’s Ethabuka and Cravens Peak reserves as well as Carlo cattle station and Tobermorey station in the Northern Territory. 

The DERG is driven by a fascination with the richness of animal life, the systems that sustain them and by the imperative to conserve and manage the land. It is among the longest and most comprehensive arid zone research projects in Australia.

While numerous studies have been undertaken in the past, the DERG’s current two Australian Research Council projects are investigating the effects of predators on small mammals and reptiles and a follow up to the broad scale wild fire that went through the desert in 2001 and 2002 looking at the recovery of mammals, reptiles and plants.In this exhibition you will see a snapshot of life, fieldwork and the great diversity of plants and animals in the desert. 

It is hoped the DERG’s research will contribute vital information on how common and threatened species respond to fire, exotic species and grazing in the arid zone. It will also define the resources required for population and community recovery. 

Advances in ecological understanding are crucial for protecting, restoring the arid biome of Australia, which is experiencing pressure from changed land management regimes and uncertainty with respect to climate change in the future. 

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Filed under Arid dry-zone (Simpson Desert), Australian landscape's 'character', Bringing the project to life, People and the environment, Presentation methods, Rangelands (Fowlers Gap), Sydney Harbour (seawalls), Visuals

The start of something new…

On Sunday July 19 Adam Munn, a scientist looking at the grazing patterns of different animals in the NSW Rangelands, gave a talk on his findings. It was the first of what is now hoped will be regular annual presentations and or open days, to share important information with the surrounding public and graziers, at Fowlers Gap Research Station.

Menindee Lakes

 

Rippled river bed, Fowlers Gap Research Station

 

Water trail

 

Growth

 

Empty bed

 

Surface

 

Leaves and sky

 

Sunset

 

Afterglow

 

Adam presenting his findings

 

Adam

 

Post talk discussion

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Filed under Australian landscape's 'character', Bringing the project to life, People and the environment, Rangelands (Fowlers Gap), Visuals

Iconic Landscapes on ABC’s Country Hour

Kangaroo grazing effects

By Amy Spear

Friday, 16/07/2010

It’s been an ongoing debate and one that’s provoked thought from both country and city folk alike. 

But now it seems there’s an answer. 

Research shows that when it comes to effects of grazing on Australian rangelands, one kangaroo is equivalent to point 4 of a sheep.

Adam Munn, from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Wollongong, has been conducting the research at Fowlers Gap near Broken Hill, for the past 5 years.

Fowlers Gap is a research station run by the University of New South Wales.

He says it’s important that they’ve found out the facts.

“For a while now the comparative grazing impacts of kangaroos has been that one kangaroo has been equal to point 7 of a sheep and we’ve suspected for a long time that, on a whole animal basis, that was an over estimate.”

He says they wanted to get a handle on it so they could really take into account the grazing pressure of kangaroos when estimating total grazing pressure on an environment.

The research has taken 5 years.

In this report
Adam Munn, scientist, University of Wollongong

Visit the site

Listen to the July 16 Country Hour podcast (Adam Munn is speaking three quarters of the way through)

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Adam Munn in ABC news

Land Managers to attend animal impact talks

A scientist from the University of Wollongong will present a talk to local land managers at Fowlers Gap about the impacts of animals this weekend.

Adam Munn has been studying the difference between the impact sheep and kangaroos have on the land.

He has found the impact of a kangaroo is about 30 to 40 per cent that of a sheep.

Mr Munn says he hopes the information can be used by land managers and government bodies to understand the impact kangaroos might be having on the environment.

“Ultimately what we’re hoping to do is build a picture,” he said.

“Now that we have a good idea about some of the kangaroo species, we want to expand this research into looking at different animals such a feral goats and different breeds of sheep.

“[Then we’ll] really be able to figure out what the ratios are of animals you can have on the land to improve your environmental, and therefore your economic, sustainability.”

The public is invited to attend the talk which begins at 10:00am (AEST) Sunday at the Fowlers Gap Research Station.

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Filed under Bringing the project to life, People and the environment, Rangelands (Fowlers Gap), Relevant articles

RESEARCH AT FOWLERS GAP: SCIENCE SPEAKS

Today, an article on the upcoming talk Adam Munn will be giving to local property owners on the impacts of native, domestic and feral grazing animals around Fowlers Gap, was in Broken Hill’s Barrier Daily Truth.


Full article:

After five years of research at Fowlers Gap, scientist Adam Munn is ready to present his findings on the impacts of native, domestic and feral grazing.
 
Mr Munn has been working out of the University of NSW’s Fowlers Gap arid-zone research station, which is 110 kilometres north of Broken Hill on the Silver City Highway. He will give a public talk on his results there on Sunday morning.
One of his principle projects sought to establish large-scale grazing plots so that different grazing scenarios can be examined, particularly in light of mixed-grazed systems.
“When we compared sheep and kangaroos, both in a large enclosure and out in the free range environment, we found that contrary to what previous estimates have been, which is that one kangaroo equals 70 percent of a sheep, one kangaroo really equals about 30 or 40 percent of a sheep,” Mr Munn said.
The figures are based on the animal’s energy use and food and water intake.
“On average, the sheep on the saltbush diet were drinking about 12 litres of water a day and kangaroos about one and a half,” he says.
The goal was not to replace sheep with kangaroos, according to Mr Munn, but to learn an manage the two together.
“At the very least, we’re aiming to gather information necessary for people to make informed decisions about how they run their properties,” he said.
Geoff Laan, Director of Planning and Environment at Broken Hill City Council, said scientific research could help develop effective management plans.
“There’s a very real need for scientific development and research to continue,” he said.
Nicole Payne, Assistant Director and North West Manager of the Kangaroo Management Program for the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water said the sharing of scientific information around Fowlers Gap had been limited until now.
“There’s a big yawning gap between what the scientists know and talk to each other about and what filters down to the level of people who are making on the ground decisions,” he said.
“The upcoming Fowlers Gap information event will be a chance to discuss ideas and future research projects that benefit local land managers and the community,” says Munn.
Mr Munn extended an invitation to everyone interested in his findings to come along to his talk on Sunday at 10am in the Fowlers Gap shearers’ quarters.


For more information on the event contact:

gemma.deavin@sydney.edu.au

02 9351 4870

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