"THE CURE FOR BOREDOM IS CURIOSITY. THERE IS NO CURE FOR CURIOSITY."
Incl: lunch, dinner
After a pick up from Launceston Airport or your accommodation, we’ll set off towards the north-west. The journey will take us through small towns such as Wynyard, where we’ll stop for lunch and a leg-stretch, and see some fossils, weather permitting. We’ll also pass the cities of Devonport and Burnie and some of Tasmania’s richest farming land en route to Arthur River, where we expect to arrive about 5pm. After getting settled in rooms there’ll be some free time to explore before dinner and a briefing from Menna about the work ahead.
Incl: breakfast, lunch, dinner
Each day after breakfast, we’ll be assisting the scientists in remote and active survey methods. The aim of the project is to monitor the ecosystem prior to the arrival of the Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease and then over the life of the project to monitor changes in the ecosystem as the devil declines. The project will establish 20 survey sites, 10 in each of the two main habitat types (coastal scrub and forest). At each survey site, we will place two remote wildlife cameras, four medium-mammal Mascot traps, ten small mammal Elliot traps, and conduct bird survey and reptile surveys. Across the whole site we’ll also deploy 40 carnivore traps.
The group will divide into smaller groups of 3-4 people, each with a wildlife scientist, and rotate around different activities, including trapping carnivores, primarily Tasmanian devils and quolls, trapping medium-sized mammals such as potoroos and bandicoots, and small mammals such as native and introduced rodents and marsupial mice. We’ll identify and sex each animal, and collect a genetic and a blood sample, the latter for testing for seroprevalence of Toxoplasma gondii. We will also collect a whisker and some fur for analysis of diet using stable isotopes, and of the baseline levels of stress hormones in the wildlife populations. We’ll learn how bird and reptile surveys are done and have the opportunity to identify species. Remote cameras will have been at the site for three weeks before we get there, and we’ll collect these and download the images to identify the species recorded. It’s a great opportunity to see and have first-hand (literally!) experience of the many mammal, bird and reptile species in this ecological outpost, and we’ll learn about both survey techniques and about the profound ecological changes that are happening in Tasmania. At night, Menna and her colleagues will host dinners that feature Tasmanian produce and lead informal discussion about devil history, biology and future prospects. We’ll drive transects along roads in the evening to count macropods and other nocturnal animals. During our stay at Arthur River we’ll take time out to head north to Preminghana Indigenous Protected Area. Formerly privately owned by the Van Diemen’s Land Company, this 500ha parcel of land was acquired by the Tasmanian Government in the late 1970s to protect its Aboriginal engraving sites. It’s one of 11 areas returned to the Tasmanian Aboriginal community over recent decades, and was declared an IPA in June 1999. On the last evening will (hopefully!) be one of the expedition highlights: a devils’ banquet where we’ll have the opportunity to see wild devils behaving in their natural state.
DAY 7: Mole Creek and Trowunna Wildlife Park
Incl: breakfast, lunch, dinner
After breakfast, we’ll drive back from the north-west, arriving at Mole Creek and Trowunna Wildlife Park in time for lunch. Through the afternoon, we’ll join Trowunna owner Androo Kelly for an in-depth look at the park’s captive breeding program for Tasmanian devils – an integral part of the insurance population created under the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program. Trowunna’s been caring for native animals for more than 30 years and it harbours one of the world’s largest heritage populations of devils.
We’ll leave our accommodation in Mole Creek after breakfast and travel via Deloraine, which is renowned for its historic buildings and as a crafts centre, to arrive at Launceston Airport around 12:30pm – in time for outgoing flights. Remaining volunteers can join us for lunch, or be dropped at their at accommodation, in Launceston. We’ll return to the airport for afternoon flight drop offs.