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Journals from James Cook University, Australia

2011-09-05 A Field Trip to Cape Tribulation

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Peppermint Stick Insect

I recently got to have the amazing experience of traveling to what is considered to be one of the most species diverse places on Earth. Our Tropical Marine Ecosystems boarded the bus on Saturday morning and started the trip up north to Cape Tribulation. We were informed that this was a place in which, within a square kilometer, there are more species of trees than are found in North America, so we knew we were in for a treat! The roads got narrower and became a bit more rocky as we approached our destination. Our first stop was at a mangrove. These are very unique forests that are found in wetland areas where water meets land. Bring your bug repellent! I think I counted 91 sand fly bites on my legs from this trip, and they are worse than mosquitoes (or mozzies as the Aussies might say). The mangroves are absolutely spectacular, and it is amazing to see that literally within a few metres, the rainforest changes into a mangrove forest. There is almost a line where you can stand: behind you is the rainforest and in front of you is the mangrove. The mangrove trees have amazing roots of all sorts. And one wouldn’t think that the roots would be the most interesting part of a tree, but each type of root serves a purpose for the special needs of each tree.

We then spent some time in the tide pools near the intertidal zone. Some features of these pools were similar to those in Oregon, except there were several interesting types of algae, and we saw several sea cucumbers. The beach was beautiful, and very peaceful. I even saw a man sleeping in a hammock between the trees, above the waves in the middle of nowhere on my walk down the beach!

After a spectacular Barramundi dinner at our accommodation, and a very long game of taboo, we trekked out into the rainforest for a spotlighting adventure. We saw bats, toads, cockroaches, rats, big spiders, and the coolest thing of all: the Peppermint Stick Insect. This is a type of insect that looks similar to a walking stick, but they are huge, and have a blue green color that allows them to blend in with the leaves in their environment. They are called the Peppermint Stick Insect for a reason: when you touch them or bother them, they spray you with a substance that smells like none other than peppermint! This is supposed to be a defense mechanism, but as you can imagine, it is not a very good defense for humans who love the smell! This was an experience that I fully enjoyed and I am looking forward to more spotlighting trips to the rainforest!

 

Ashley Tobiska

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