Tuesday 16th February 2016

Tasmania is an extremely beautiful and natural place, but honestly it puts Victoria to shame with four seasons in one day!  It rained for most of Monday night but we woke up to a promising morning.  My morning started around 6:15am where we needed to have breakfast, prepare lunch and leave for our allocated sites by 9am. Each Bush Blitz expedition, Scientists sample from standard sites.  These are known as SSS1 and SSS2 sites.  I accompanied Kevin Bonham, Abbey Throssel and Ari to the SSS1 site, located within the Mount Mangana forest reserve.  Many of the roads within the reserves are dirt tracks and the sampling sites themselves require scientists to walk into dense forest to complete their sampling work.  

We arrived at our first site around 10:30am and were greeted with a number of leeches
on the side of the road. A leech is a segmented worm which has bilateral symmetry
(equally divides if cut in two), with thick muscular bodies.  Leeches usually have three
jaws and make a y-shaped incision.  They are sanguivorous (blood sucking parasites)
which feed of their hosts and generally drop off when they are full.  The scary thought is
they can ingest several times their own weight!! Yuck.  Can you spot the leeches present
in my photo?

Kevin is the leading Scientists on snails in Tasmania and has a particular eye to spot
microscopic snails in the natural environment.  It took all of two minutes to identify a
microscopic snail.  I honestly thought he was looking at a grain of sand.  This is a passion
he has had since he was 12 and quickly showed me where to look and what to look for.  
I was excited to have a go at finding these extremely tiny species of snail. Firstly these
snails were going to be extremely difficult to find with the recent rain and overcast day.

             DSCN3292
     

The terrain was up a shart embankment and I had to crawl and climb through the wet sclerophyll forest. The ground was covered by lichen, liverworts, moss and dense leaf litter. My mission was to carefully pull away the leaf litter and undergrowth to find these extremely small and almost unidentifiable (well, to me anyway) small snails.

I slowly dug around the leaf litter, being mindful not to disturb the habitat too much. These snails also like to hide under rocks and fallen down trees/branches.  I decided that I may have better luck to move to a large fallen tree which was covered in moss.  I lifted the mossy layer away from the tree and studied it intently.  To my utter disbelief I found a small structure that looked like a small snail.  I showed Kevin who was excited to see that I had indeed discovered a snail!!!!  This snail was so tiny, he estimated that it was approximately 2.5mm in size.  If you have a ruler near you, take a look at that measurement, it will show you how truly small that really is.  We collected this specimen to bring back to the laboratory for cataloguing.  We continued in this site for over an hour (that time flew by the way) capturing a total of 10 different species, before we rejoined with Ari and Abbey who were looking for dragonflies, moths and caterpillars.  Unfortunately they didn't have the success we had due to the weather and wind.

              A small snail at the end of Kevin's finger

At midday we stopped for lunch and to radio into base camp. This is standard operating procedure within the field for safety reasons.  We use a GPS 'spotter' which pings our location back to base camp.  The use of technology is improving the safety of these field trips constantly. From there we moved onto a spot on the Island that had never been surveyed for snails before.  This location is on the Southern end of Bruny Island, located in the Mount Midway and Mount Bruny Forest Reserves.  As you can see on the pdf map from yesterday it can be quite inaccessible.  Many of the tracks are by 4WD access only.  We travelled these small and at times narrow roads tracking our location by GPS to ensure we were testing in the Reserve and not in the National parks due to legislation.  By the afternoon, the weather had turned nasty, with 60km/hr gusts of South Easterly winds, rain that was sideways and due to the altitude (600m), that rain had turned into small pellets (tiny hail stones). At 3:30pm we had decided that sampling at those secondary and tertiary sites would cease and with a further 15 samples collected we headed back to base camp.

DSCN3308   DSCN3321   DSCN3298
 

Arriving back just after 4:30pm, the Kevin and Abbey headed to the laboratory.  The Laboratory has been set up in a fully functioning sheep shearing shed with spectacular views.  Kevin had already mentioned in the afternoon drive back to camp, that we had successfully collected four species that had not been previously identified to inhabit Bruny Island, bringing the total of species discovered on Bruny up to 40.  Kevin has discovered over 200 species of snails in Tasmania, so these species are so unique to this Island. These species were identified as

1. Discocharopa mimosa

2. Pedicamista Sp. 'Chisholm'

3. Prolesophanta dyeri

4. Elsothera Sp. 'Ricei'? (assumed name, as the specimen was a juvenile and need an adult to confirm true identification)

These names are their botanical name and not their common name. Scientists use the botanical names to adequately describe a species based on its structure and its commonality to like species.  This is known as the classification system.  

Another interesting fact I did not know was the shell of a snail is called the Umbilicus. The term umbilicus is used to describe the underside (ventral) of snail shells. Each snail has a different and unique shell, including the hole or spiral coils and how close or apart they are.  Many of the species collected today had extremely close coils with distinct ridges and colours in their coils.  

umbilicus

I have learnt so much today and I am extremely honoured to be a part of today's experience.  I also learnt that leeches hurt and if you remove them once they have connected, you must never scratch the site.  Leeches inject you with an anti-coagulant, which continues the flow of blood out of the incision which makes for easy and accessible blood consumption.  If you actually scratch the bite after removal of the leech (as it is extremely ITCHY) you will release the anti-coagulent and the small bite can ooze blood for a substantial period.  So lesson for today students is to correctly cover your body and to check before you get into the car for your car ride home!!!

I will endeavour to vido conference with as many of my classes tomorrow, so I hope you have lots and lots of questions to ask. 

Until tomorrow

Mrs Tinney