Day 7 - our last full day in the wilderness*

After a lovely sweet potato Thai curry around the campfire we each gave a presentation about how this experience would be followed up in our schools.

The cameleers from Australian Desert Expedition and the scientists working with us in the field were our audience and each of us described how this BushBlitz scientific expedition would engage the students in our classrooms. There was unanimous agreement amongst the teachers that this BushBlitz TeachLive Project 138 has been a unique and unforgettable scientific expedition; not only for us as teachers, but would also raise awareness amongst the students we teach to environmental issues such as climate change, habitat destruction, land degradation and the need to protect our rich biodiversity in this country for future generations.

Our students would be given the opportunity to engage in rich and rewarding learning experiences related to conservation biology. The 8 days we have spent in the desert wilderness will allow us to bring back to the classroom the skills we have acquired while carrying out capture and release methods using pitfall trapping techniques for studying endemic small mammals and reptiles. It will also allow the transfer of skills and knowledge related to other field work techniques such as carrying out transect studies of native birds and desert plants.

My knowledge of ornithology has been improved immeasurably while working alongside Boyd our zoology expert and my taxonomic knowledge about the diverse range and types of desert plants and the adaptations they have evolved to survive in this arid environment has been widened while working alongside Charlie our botanist. The knowledge I have gleaned from talking to Boyd and Charlie about the indigenous history of the Simpson Desert has also been rich and rewarding as I develop a new appreciation of how the aboriginal people formed such deep connections to this landscape and were able to survive in an environment that might be considered hostile and uninhabitable.

The transfer of all this knowledge into the classroom context will be of immense benefit to the students we teach. While we were in the field, many of our students were undertaking learning activities that were directly related to the scientific field work we were carrying out. They were learning about the geology, the zoology, the botany and the archaeology of the Simpson Desert with the teachers who were replacing our classes. When we return to the classroom, we can follow up our experiences and describe to our students precisely how we carried out the biodiversity audits in the different habitats found in the desert.

Today, after packing up and loading the camels, we set off travelling west over the dunes and then south following the western side of the clay pan that we walked along on day 1. As we passed over the dunes we spotted many Crimson Chats, a few Cinnamon Quail Thrushes, many Black Faced Woodswallows and Masked Woodswallows, some Variegated Fairy Wrens and a glimpse of an Eyrean Grass Wren which was quite exciting.

We also saw another Black Honeyeater, a Pied Honeyeater, many Budgerigars, many Diamond Doves, a Crested Pidgeon, a Horsfield Bronze Cuckoo, many Cockatiels and Zebra Finches; a Chirruping Wedgebill, a Singing Honeyeater and some birds of prey.

Budgerigars in the Gidgee Bushes Michael

Budgerigars in the gidgee bushes

The pit traps we checked before we left Camp 6 captured 9 Spinifex Hopping Mice (males and females)!! We also caught a Painted Dragon.

A Spinifex Hopping Mouse Michael

        Spinifex hopping mouse

After lunch halfway along the western side of the clay pan we discovered another Frilled Dragon.

A Frilled Dragon Michael

                  Frilled dragon

The walk back to base camp retraced our steps on the first day and we finally caught a glimpse of Andrew’s 4 wheel drive vehicle. He had driven the 6 hour trip form Birdsville ready to pick us up in the morning to take us to the landing strip at Poeppel’s Corner.

What an amazing expedition. To finish off our expedition, at base camp we discovered a gecko (Gehyra purparescens) which is found in the Little Sandy Desert.

After a celebratory cup of Billy Tea, we shared stories about the wonderful time we had together over the last 6 days, and we began to wonder what could have occurred in our time in the wilderness. It has felt quite strange but also liberating to be cut off from any news, and the experience has taken our mind off the troubles of the world as we immersed ourselves in the beautiful Simpson Desert.

Michael at lunch break

*Well, we thought it would be our last full day in the wilderness - it turned out our adventure was not quite over, as you will see from the posts for the next couple of days!