City of Gold Coast, QLD
Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, NSW
Environment, Planning & Sustainable Development Directorate, ACT Government, ACT
Level Crossing Removal Project, VIC
Sunshine Coast Council, QLD
The Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve BioBlitz was an interdisciplinary biodiversity conservation research and community engagement project. Over four days in March 2019 a diverse team of scientists, artists and Traditional Owners explored five giant strangler figs (Ficuswatkinsiana) to research and celebrate biodiversity, from the floor of the forest to the emergent canopy.
The MCSR BioBlitz was Australia’s first vertical bioblitz. Unprecedented access to the stratified rainforest was facilitated by a team of arborists. We scaled physical heights, generated conservation data and facilitated new relationships across cultural and epistemological divides. Thirteen scientists surveyed seven taxonomic groups found living on and around the trees, including plants, fungi, insects, mosses, epiphytes and mammals. The artists who worked alongside the scientists documented the research in five visual diaries, one for each survey tree. The diaries became and continue to be a colourful and poetic repository of technical observation. They captured the BioBlitz in the language of art, rendering it accessible to the public audience. Coinciding with the UN Year of Indigenous Languages, the survey trees were bestowed Jinibara names by the elders. Each name was prominently displayed and referred to by all participants. For example tree four was named Dala, which means stag-horn in Jinibara language. Traditional Owners shared their knowledge and perspectives throughout the event and emphasised the inseparability of cultural and natural heritage across time.
Over 250 people participated in a dynamic public program. Each event was an opportunity for the community to gain an insight into biodiversity. Opportunities included: ◦ Listen Up – a livestream canopy microphone available via: http://locusonus.org/soundmap/051/ (the only location in Australia on this international platform) ◦ a bat detective walk at dusk, using EchoMeter Touch technology ◦ an entomology light-trap night ◦ dawn pademelon population surveys ◦ Jinibara talking circles ◦ Forest Feedback – an interdisciplinary panel evening on bio-communication ◦ botanical printmaking ◦ Junior Ranger kits ◦ Questagame citizen science app challenge ◦ nature journaling workshops Between 28 March – 31 July, more than 64 900 people have visited MCSR’s Rainforest Discovery Centre, where our biodiversity exhibition has showcased results from the BioBlitz. From the analysis currently available, the scientific survey has identified the following different species: ◦ 80 macrofungi ◦ 41 beetles ◦ 14 epiphytes ◦ 14 bat species ◦ 90 ground-level plants ◦ 19 bryophytes Notably, an Eastern Blossom Bat not previously listed for the Reserve was recorded in the survey. One species of moss and one liverwort not previously listed for the region were also identified.
The BioBlitz was supported entirely by visitor gold coin donations. Reinvestment of this financial resource into conservation research and public engagement programs at Mary Cairncross sustains a positive feedback loop. By identifying knowledge gaps and undertaking research we can improve conservation management of this valuable remnant habitat. By educating and engaging the public about the Reserve’s biodiversity values and embedding these in our local culture, MCSR will continue to be a leader in biodiversity conservation. By deliberately drawing upon scientific, cultural and creative disciplines we bring new knowledges to complex biodiversity issues.