Journals from James Cook University, Australia
2011-05-23 Biodiversity of Tropical Australia Field Trip
Sam and I at the Curtain Fig Tree
This past weekend, I went on a field trip for my Biodiversity of Tropical Australia class and over three days went to several locations. 40 people, students and professors, piled into 4 vans and drove to Yungaburra, located in the Atherton Tablelands. After checking into our lodge and eating a delicious Aussie barbeque, we went spotlighting at Mt. Hypipamee. Unfortunately, it happened to be a very cold night, dipping into the low 40s. There weren’t many animals out because of the low temperature; however, we did see four different types of possums, including the Striped Possum, which is quite rare to see in Australia.
The next morning we went to the Curtain Fig Tree, which consists of three separate trees bound by a strangler fig. It is one of largest trees in North Queensland and the root system of the strangler fig gives the tree its unique appearance. We also stopped at 40 Mile Scrub National Park, which is a dry rainforest. In this climate, the forest will receive large amounts of rainfall during the wet season but very little, if any, rain during the dry season. To prevent water loss the trees in this region will lose their leaves. Normally there are a variety of reptiles at this location, but again the cold temperatures left us with only a few insects.
Before stopping at our lodge in Undara for the night, we went to the Kalkani Crater located in Undara Volcanic National Park. Our class walked around the rim of the crater, which led us to spectacular views of the actual crater and the surrounding valleys. The longest lava tube in the world is also part of this crater, and stretches over 164 kilometers long. During our hike we also saw dozens of Eastern Grey Kangaroos and Whiptail Wallabies. Once we arrived at our lodge, we settled into our rooms and had dinner. Our professor told our class she wanted us to arrange an informal presentation on the weekend’s activities as part of our assessment. Over dinner the three groups prepared skits and songs to perform around a campfire. They were all very entertaining, to say the least. In regards to student-professor relationships, I found the Australian culture to be much more relaxed than in America. The majority of the class, including the professors, was sitting around the campfire with a beer or glass of wine during the presentations. It made the setting much more relaxed and comfortable.