Day 4 - Bush Blitz Community Day!

Spiders and scorpions and snakes, oh my!

Sunday, 2nd December 2018

From 10am to 3pm today, the Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) hosted the Bush Blitz in the Gardens day. The Bush Blitz scientists, along with community groups such as the Canberra Ornithologists Group were in attendance. They set up interactive displays for visitors, hosted workshops and took small groups on guided walks.

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TeachLive participants (From left: Cara, Mich, Jane, Adriana, Oliver, Alyce)

After my morning coffee, it was time to face my fear of scorpions! There were many shrieks and pulled faces on my part, and she nearly disappeared up my sleeve, but I did it! I held a scorpion!

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Scorpion!

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This one isn't a scorpion - it's a stick insect. Pretty cool!

I was rostered on with the spider team today – Dr Robert Raven from Queensland Museum and Eamon who is studying ecology at university, and volunteers at the Queensland Museum with Rob. A Bush Blitz standard survey site had been set up at the ANBG. The standard survey site is set up to ensure at least one site is surveyed by every Bush Blitz team to get a comprehensive understanding of what species are living there. It is also usually used as a control.

Eamon and I headed to the standard survey site in the morning in search of spiders. There were lots of Man ferns which were host to a type of trapdoor spider. Each fern’s trunk was covered in small burrows containing these spiders. Eamon explained to me that these spiders are ancient spiders, and they differ from modern spiders in that modern spiders’ fangs pince, but the fangs of ancient spiders don’t.

After collecting a water spider, and encountering a bright red mite, we headed back to the Crosbie Morrison Building, where the displays were set up.

I then had the opportunity to talk to the scientists and enthusiasts and interact with the different displays… I even held a snake! Well, a diamond python to be more precise.

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Diamond python

I also went for a walk around the gardens with the Bush Blitz teachers and Sandra and Cass from Earthwatch. We saw some movement and a few spikes belonging to an echidna in the rainforest section!

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Rainforest in the ANBG

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Looking for the echidna

When the community day was over and the packing up was complete, I headed back towards Birrigai with Rob, but we had some planned stops on the way! As I said earlier, I was with the spider team today, but aside from the water spider at the standard survey site, I had not done any collecting.

Rob pulled over on the side of the road in Namadgi National Park but left his car idling. The vibration seems to cause spiders to come to him. The first two stops yielded little success, but the third was a different story! After about 10 minutes, the spiders came running!

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Waiting for the spiders to come

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Rob looking closely for spiders

We collected two ant spiders, one small black spider with very fine legs and a spider that Rob said was related to the white-tail spider. We later discovered that we had collected a male and a female ant spider – as they were in the same vial, the female killed the male before we returned to Birrigai.

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One of the spiders we sampled

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Another spider we sampled, as viewed through the microscope