We salute a great scientist who will be sadly missed

At our “Celebration of Science” in 2013, organised by the Atlas of Life in the Coastal Wilderness, CSIRO colleague Jim Peacock, a former Chief Scientist of Australia and a past President of the Australian Academy of Science, told the audience that they probably didn’t recognise just how good a scientist Dane was and that in our midst was an outstanding scientist with an international reputation; Jim is certainly well qualified to make that assessment and it did open our eyes to some of the achievements of this humble man.

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Dane’s initial interest in science and botany were stimulated by childhood rambling around in bushland on the small farm he grew up on near Northmead in Sydney. He couldn’t do biology at school as he was already doing physics and chemistry so his initial contact with the biological sciences was during university when he was able to study botany and zoology. At the end of 1956 having finished final exams at Sydney University, Dane Wimbush and Jim Peacock took a holiday student’s job in the Snowy Mountains at Island Bend, assisting Dr Alec Costin with his ecological work. Dane stayed on with Alec after graduation and joined the Alpine Ecology Section in the CSIRO Division of Plant Industry.

Initially Dane’s work concentrated on the damage that had occurred to alpine and subalpine ecosystems over a century of grazing and autumn burning. Concurrently a study of the hydrology of sphagnum bogs was undertaken and this led to a master’s thesis, submitted in 1970. Among other things the work involved monitoring the recovery of vegetation after grazing and burning ceased in 1958, and included sediment sampling from the bottom of Blue Lake. The impacts of grazing were clearly reflected in the increased sedimentation rates, established using carbon dating of the sediments. Other studies included: runoff and soil loss from alpine and subalpine vegetation; snow surveys within the Guthega catchment; grazing trials; and surveying for, and co-authoring Kosciuszko Alpine Flora, which is now in its 2nd edition. His last seven years before retirement involved a co-operative study with the CSIRO Division of Wildlife on the effects of rabbits on snowgum woodland & subalpine frost hollows near Kiandra.

Dane had an exquisite understanding of the vegetation dynamics and ecology of the high country and he never stopped working to protect our fragile alpine environments from the damage caused by wild horses and other impacts. Dane was a firm opponent of the reintroduction of alpine grazing; decades of field work and monitoring meant he fully understood the destruction that would ensue. One of the great benefits of Dane’s precise and accurate long term studies of Australian alpine vegetation is that we have a magnificent baseline data set to assess the impacts of climate change on the alpine area.

After retiring he undertook vegetation mapping from satellite imagery across the southern half of NSW for the NPWS and later acted as a consultant on the Snowy Water Enquiry. Another smaller job was to search for threatened and endangered species along the Alpine Way below Dead Horse Gap. In most of this work his wife Robyn assisted; in all things they were great partners.

During their life at Waste Point, they both learned to fly and took great delight in showing friends the Alps from above. Jindabyne Dam started filling in about 1966 and they started sailing dinghies on the rising waters. Dane became Commodore of the Lake Jindabyne Yacht Club and raced against Robyn, each with one of their two kids as crew. This started a long love affair with boats, culminating in buying a cruising yacht and sailing to Tasmania and the Whitsundays before down-sizing to a trailer sailor.

In recent years Dane was involved with the Atlas of Life in the Coastal Wilderness, and catalogued many plant and animal species encountered on the Far South Coast. He also acted as a moderator, ensuring the integrity of data flowing into the CSIRO Atlas of Living Australia. Dane supported environmental education activities and established a herbarium for Bournda Environmental Education Centre; he also participated in the digitisation of that resource which is now online.

Dane was a committed conservationist who devoted much time and energy into the long term campaign to protect our natural heritage. He brought to that work a fine analytical mind and wealth of scientific knowledge.

As a man of science, he helped us to understand better our precious alpine areas. His work is influential and substantial and will continue to inspire others.

Dane was a lovely man and a great contributor and will be sorely missed by Robyn, his family and his friends throughout the world.

A tribute written by Doug Reckord and echoed by all of us who were fortunate to know and work with Dane – a good life – lived to the full.

For the Atlas, Dane was a great contributor and moderator – a scientist who shared all his passion and expertise with his community of friends.

photo Stuart Harris and Jurgen Otto

search for Peacock Spiders at the BioBlitz

Tiny, charming & elusive, the Peacock Spider is dancing up a storm on the Sapphire Coast.
Known for their brilliant blue colours and elaborate courtship dances which can last up to 2 hours, the male Peacock Spider is a creature we’re hoping will make an appearance at Wallagoot BioBlitz on December 4 and 5th.

The species is endemic to Australia and part of the jumping spider clan, but at 4 to 5 mm, it’s so small that most of us don’t see it.
Canberra man Stuart Harris has been chasing them for years after snapping one while bushwalking in Namadgi National Park. The photo attracted the attentions of global specialist Dr Jurgen Otto, who believed it may be  a new species.  Fast forward, and Stuart is a pioneer researcher of this remarkable little arachnid. He’s one of around 40 experts leading bound for Bournda National Park to lead expeditions to survey wildlife and celebrate citizen science.

Liz gets right down to her fungi recording

Liz gets right down to her fungi recording

The nature of citizen science is that anyone can join in and team up with experts to broaden our knowledge of the world around us.
It’s fun too, you can learn ways to study animals up close without harming them, lure them with pre-recorded calls, make various traps to record prints or hair and good old fashioned foraging.

Expeditions will target reptiles, shorebirds, mammals, birds and frogs at all hours of the day and night. Basecamp will be set up in the heart of Bournda National Park.

Identifying a frog - at the Panboola Bioblitz - Harrison Warne

Identifying a frog – at the Panboola Bioblitz – Harrison Warne

Organiser Libby Hepburn said the far south coast arm of the BioBlitz movement, Atlas of Life in the Coastal Wilderness, is at the forefront of BioBlitz’s in Australia. A similar event at Mimosa Rocks last year recorded 1008 species pushing the database to over 11,500 since it was created four years ago.
“(Bournda) in between Tathra and Merimbula, is a important site for the history of our region. We will also be searching for sea centipedes and other marine creatures, birds during the morning chorus and spotlighting during the evening for gliders and frogs.”

Flora Survey at Green Cape where all ages enjoyed the event at Science Week.
Ecologist Steve Sass (On the Perch aviaries at Tathra) is the key ecologist for the BioBlitz and will lead the mammals, birds and frogs expeditions.

“What makes Bioblitzes such inspiring events for everyone who wants to learn more about the mysteries of nature is this special chance to work with people who are both knowledgeable and passionate about their subjects,” Libby said.
“Interested people can register for surveys online, and we’d love to welcome you to explore, enjoy, learn lots and make a valuable contribution all at the same time.”
Browse and register for surveys http://bit.ly/bioblitzbournda

Thanks to Sarah Chenhall for this blog from Sapphire Coast Tourism

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Bookings open for the BioBlitz

With less than a couple of weeks to go until December 4th and the start of our 2015 BioBlitz at Wallagoot Catchment, it is time to look at the survey list and sign up for your favourite surveys. We have a number of new and different surveys this year as well as all our old favourites, so you will be spoiled for choice.

Look under the BioBlitz and the Wallagoot BioBlitz tab, click on the link and have fun choosing – we look forward to seeing you soon.

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Photocomp winners will be announced at the BioBlitz

Our judges, Max, David and Graeme have been deliberating with difficulty who shall be the winners of this year’s photocompetition.  We will be announcing the winners and exhibiting the winning photos at Basecamp at Bournda during the BioBlitz on December 4th and 5th.

Once again the standard has been commended by the judges and there has been a very interesting range of images entered. Thank you and congratulations to everyone who has taken part.

Dugong  - photo at Merimbula by Hans Cousin

Rare Dugong sighting at Merimbula!

A Dugong has been seen and filmed swimming around merimbula Lake and the Wharf over the last 3 days. Several people including Beth Richards and Hannah Cousins, new curator of the Merimbula Aquarium have been watching the Dugong and this photo is by Han Cousin. See the Merimbula News Weekly for a video.

Normally Dugongs are seen much further north in tropical waters, they feed on seagrasses, so hopefully it will be happy for a while in Merimbula Lake.

Dugong  - photo at Merimbula by Hans Cousin

Dugong – photo at Merimbula by Hans Cousin

 

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Last chance to enter the 2015 photo comp!

Only two days to go to enter the Atlas of Life Photo 2015 comp. Hurry to find your best images and enter the competition to have a chance to win one of the great prizes – 2 nights at the unique Tanja Lagoon Camp luxury safari tents, $100 voucher for find dining at Wheeler’s Seafood Restaurant and $100 cash prize. If you are one of our winners, your photos will be part of the exhibition at the Wallagoot BioBlitz on December 4th and 5th.

We have already had some wonderful images but we want to give our judges a real challenge, so do send us your best!

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