Tally Howe!

On Sunday I’m off on my fourth trip to Lord Howe Island World Heritage Area. I thought I wouldn’t go again after my third trip – there are too many other places to explore – but when a citizen science trip came on my radar, I couldn’t resist. It’s in conjunction with the Australian Geographic Society and the Australian National Insect Collection at CSIRO.

Painting displayed on Lord Howe; unknown artist

Painting displayed on Lord Howe Island; unknown artist

The Pinetrees (the lodge where I’m staying) website says:

The Australian Geographic Expedition is for ‘citizen scientists’ to work with scientists from Australian Geographic, the CSIRO and the Lord Howe Island Board. With expert support, people with a good level of fitness (i.e walk 5 km in 1.5 hours and be steady footed in steep mountain terrain) and interest in conservation (i.e. you don’t need any scientific training!) can help discover insect species, which are thought to be extinct, or close to extinct. Many species remain undescribed or unrecorded since 1978, so the expedition stands to make a significant contribution to conservation on Lord Howe Island.

You don’t need any special expertise to go on citizen science trips – just enthusiasm and the ability to pay the money. You pay your own way to get there; food, accommodation and a donation to the research are included in the fee. It’s great to get a different view from what you’d experience as a ‘normal’ tourist and meet like-minded people, too.

Earthwatch is another volunteer organisation that can take you worldwide as well as in Australia, and covers a lot of research areas. Curious Traveller took me to Tassie earlier in the year to help with Tassie devil research, and will take me in November to Maria Island in Tassie to help with hooded plover research (there are still places available on that one if you’re interested).

On Lord Howe, we’ll be out in the forest every day collecting insects. The one with the most media coverage is probably the ‘land lobster’, which I wrote about here. If you click on ‘Lord Howe Island’ in the tag cloud at right, you’ll find my other posts on Lord Howe. Much of each afternoon will be free time, so I’ll be off to the museum, or snorkelling with the turtles, or taking photos of critters in rock pools, or walking the beaches, or sipping a beer at the bar, or …

I’ll really looking forward to this trip and I’ll tell you all about it after I get back!

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4 Responses to Tally Howe!

  1. janebeau says:

    You must be sooo excited. Imagine if you re-discover an “extinct” species or a new one!

    Btw what do you think about “de-extinction”? I believe they’re very hopeful of re-creating a Great Auk quite soon from “fresh” DNA (ie only a century old!). Next stop the woolly mammoth!!

    Xx j

    • Joy Window says:

      Yes, I am! It’s certainly on the cards to find new species. When I worked as a scientific officer in the Marine Invertebrates department at the Sth Aust Museum, we were always finding new species, simply because we looked in places no one had looked before. I am not fond of having to kill things for scientific dscovery, but that’s the way it seems to be done. Another friend wondered how many ‘last specimens’ of a species ended up in a bottle of alcohol. But if there was only one or a few left, the species is a goner anyway. De-extinction is a tricky thing to contemplate. I’m always reminded of the John Wyndham sci-fi novel, “Odd John”, about a dog that was engineered to have human intelligence. Terribly sad – he didn’t fit in anywhere. While it is a nice idea to resurrect mammoths or tasmanian tigers, they’d have to be in an environment that suits them or they’d go extinct again. The Lord owe Island phasmid will have its chance to reinhabit its former niche on Lord Howe after the rat eradication program in 2018.

  2. Prue Gargano says:

    Waah, that website’s identifying clause is “discover insect species, which are thought to be extinct”. (Wait…there’s a creepy crawly on my desk: phew, so insects aren’t extinct after all!)

    • Joy Window says:

      Isn’t ambiguity wonderful? One new fly species was found – to the delight of the fly guy – but the other flies and moths caught seemed the same species as on the mainland. Still worth knowing about. Will be posting about the trip as soon as I sort out my numerous photos.

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