Bringing back the dead with old ecology photos

Mallee Swale Eucalypts Wyperfeld 1982 Cheal

Take a close look at the coppicing trees in the old photo above. Notice anything unusual?

Perhaps it looks like any other stand of burnt mallee? Perhaps it does. But most of the trees aren’t resprouting after a fire. They aren’t recovering from drought, insect attack or damage by humans either. What could have caused the damage? Continue reading

The night the cold killed the mallee: extreme events & climate change

tent in frostMy toes knows it’s cold outside. Me nose knows too. And me ear. Our thin nylon tent holds little warmth.

Last night the mercury fell to –2°C in the mallee. Cold on the extremities, but not cold in the extreme. Cold in the extreme? Last seen, winter ’82.

Every winter, the small town of Ouyen – a grain silo, roadhouse, general store and little more – gets about 18 frosts. Most years, the coldest night is a chilly –1°C. Thirty two years ago, the mercury plummeted.

Continue reading

A great GPS for your mobile phone

MorgansMap1945Our old Melways street directory has gathered dust for years. We use Google Maps on the phone now. A man who sounds like George Bush barks out, ‘In 20 meters, at the roundabout, take the third exit. Take the third exit’. Despite his name, George is absolutely useless in the bush. Google Maps doesn’t show most dirt tracks and phone reception is often poor away from towns and highways.

Last weekend, we used a fantastic new GPS app during a day walk in a nearby national park. It’s a free app for Android phones and iPhones called Continue reading

100 years of habitat change: an animated fire ecology

The Southern Legless Lizard, Delma australis. Original photo courtesy of the Mallee fire & biodiversity team.

The Southern Legless Lizard, Delma australis. Original photo from the Mallee Fire & Biodiversity Team.

Southern Legless Lizards are stylish critters. Big round eyes, happy smile; who couldn’t love ‘em. What they lack in limbs, Delma make up for in energy, excitability, and a dash of fussiness. Southern legless lizards don’t live just anywhere. They like their mallee habitat to be just right.

Fire shapes the spinifex mallee of south-eastern Australia. Fire, and the time between fires; the period when plants grow, die, drop limbs and decompose. As the mallee grows older, legless lizards – like many animals – become more, or less, common. Some species thrive shortly after a burn, others prosper in old, unburnt stands. Continue reading