You can help track 4 billion bogong moths with your smartphone – and save pygmy possums from extinction



Healesville Sanctuary, Werribee Open Range Zoo

Sally Sherwen, University of Melbourne and Therésa Jones, University of Melbourne

Each year, from September to mid-October, the tiny and very precious mountain pygmy-possums arise from their months of hibernation under the snow and begin feasting on billions of bogong moths that migrate from Queensland to Victoria’s alpine region.

But for the past two springs, moth numbers have collapsed from around 4.4 billion in alpine areas to an almost undetectable number of individuals. And the mountain pygmy-possums went hungry, dramatically affecting breeding success among the last remaining 2,000 that live in the wild.




Read more:
Meet the Australian wildlife most threatened by climate change


This year’s migration of bogong moths to the possums’ alpine home is crucial for the critically endangered mountain pygmy-possums. That’s why we’re asking you to do two simple things: turn off your lights at night, and if you see a bogong moth, take a picture.

What’s happened to the moths?

Bogong moths make an epic migration through Australia every spring.
Credit: Donald Hobern

We don’t know exactly why the moths are not making it to their summer alpine destination. It’s likely extreme drought, pesticides and changes in agricultural practices are all major factors. However, scientists believe that because moths use both the Earth’s magnetic field and visual cues on the horizon to navigate, light pollution from urban centres can confuse the moths and stall their journey.

Some of the greatest beacons on their path are Parliament House and Canberra’s bright surrounds. Both parliamentarians and the general public are being asked to turn unnecessary outdoor lights off from September 1 to October 31, as part of the Lights Off for Moths campaign.

Artificial night lighting has dramatically changed the nocturnal environment. In urban environments, the soft glow of moonlight is overpowered by bright streetlights, security lights and car headlamps. These light sources can be more than 1,000 times as bright as moonlight, and their biological impact is increasingly visible and widespread.

One of the most obvious impacts of artificial light at night is that it can attract animals (sometimes fatally). While a “moth to a flame” may be somewhat poetic, when one moth becomes hundreds, or potentially thousands, the ecological impact may be catastrophic. Current global lighting practices may be creating this very scenario.

Recent evidence links the presence of artificial light at night with large-scale deaths and shifts in nocturnal migration patterns in birds. In insects, artificial night lighting disrupts nocturnal pollination networks and is strongly linked with observed mass declines in insect (and particularly moth) populations.

No moths means hungry possums

When a species like bogong moths decline, it has huge ramifications. Insects in particular are vital pillars supporting whole ecosystems – without bees and other insect pollinators, for example, we risk the extinction of our flowering plants. Many birds, reptiles and mammals depend on insects as part of their diet.

Tiny mountain pygmy possums, like many other animals, depend on the annual bogong moth migration for food.
Tim Bawden

For mountain pygmy possums, the fatty, nutrient-rich bounty of bogong moths arrives right as they are waking up in the spring. They are one of the only Australian mammals that hibernate, and can spend up to seven months sleeping under the alpine snow.

The possums awake ravenously hungry, and devour the bogong moths to regain crucial fat stores. Without the moths there at the right time, the possums struggle to secure enough energy to breed successfully.

Snap that moth

Alongside the Lights Off for Moths campaign, Zoos Victoria has launched Moth Tracker, an app that allows Australians to photograph and log any potential sightings of migrating bogong moths.

Moth Tracker, which can be accessed through any laptop or smartphone, is adapted from the popular Southern Right Whale watching app in collaboration with Federation University and Victorian conversation network SWIFFT.

Bogong moths migrate from their winter breeding grounds throughout Queensland, New South Wales and western Victoria in search of cooler climates for the spring and summer in the Victorian and NSW Alpine regions where the mountain pygmy-possums live.

Before they become moths, the larvae look like tiny, shiny brown capsules and are commonly referred to as cutworm. Migratory bogong moths are dark brown, with two lighter spots on each wing. They are small, only about the length of a paper clip. During the day they’re often seen grouped together like roof tiles. At night, they are more active and flying around.

If you see a bogong moth (or something you think might be a bogong month), we need you to take a photograph and log the location, day and time with Moth Tracker. Scientists will use the data to determine whether any moths are making their way to the precious, and very hungry, possums that are just starting to wake from their winter hibernation.




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The Victorian Mountain Pygmy-possum Recovery Team, together with partner organisations, is also investigating options for interventions in the wild if needed. These may include a world-first airdropping of “bogong balls” to feed the hungry possums, as well as improving habitat connectivity and captive measures to support populations through the breeding season.

But with unnecessary outdoor lights switched off and citizen scientists looking out for bogong moths, there is still hope for the mountain pygmy-possums.The Conversation

Sally Sherwen, Director Wildlife Conservation and Science, Zoos Victoria, University of Melbourne and Therésa Jones, Lecturer in Evolution and Behaviour, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Stick to the path, and stay alive in national parks this summer



File 20181220 45388 1gmerbt.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Step carefully.
Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

Edmund Goh, Edith Cowan University

Many Australians will take a trip to one of our national parks over the holidays. In New South Wales alone, there are more than 51 million visits to national parks each year. Few if any of us would expect not to make it out of one alive.

But national parks claim lives around the world every year. In the United States, an average of 160 visitors each year die in a national park. Australia’s numbers are unsurprisingly smaller – there have been 13 deaths in national parks since 2013 – but the common theme is that these fatalities are usually avoidable.

Wherever death and injury are avoidable, it pays to alert people to the dangers. In Australia the main risks – falling off cliffs and waterfalls, deadly snakebites, getting lost – can all be reduced by one crucial piece of advice: stick to the path.




Read more:
Good signage in national parks can save lives. Here’s how to do it right


It sounds simple enough. But in fact, visitors failing to heed advice about walking trails is a significant problem for national park managers. Venturing off-trail poses significant danger to visitors, and puts unnecessary strain on emergency services and police.

Our 2017 study was the first to gather some hard numbers on the reasons why people tend to disobey the signs. We surveyed 325 visitors at Blue Mountains National Park on their attitudes to off-trail walking.

So, what’s behind our compulsion to get off the beaten track? First, 30% of respondents told us that off-trail walking can result in a shorter or easier walking route, whereas 20% said straying from the path can afford a closer look at nature.

Second, visitors are heavily influenced by other visitors and friends – the “monkey see, monkey do” effect. They are much more likely to leave the track if they see someone else do it first.

It might make for a great photo, but the dangers are obvious.
Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

Third, in the absence of a handy toilet, many visitors venture off-trail for a private “comfort break”.

Finally, visitors rely heavily on signage to help them stay on the designated trail. Some 13% of our survey respondents said they would venture off-trail if there was a lack of adequate signs.

What might change our behaviour?

There are several tactics park authorities can use to reduce off-trail walking at national parks. They can use direct management techniques such as capping site capacity to avoid congestion – basically, regulating the maximum number of walkers in a given area, so the paths don’t feel too congested. They may consider zoning orders to permit or limit certain events to control capacity.

Ropes or low barriers along the walking trail can give a clear indication of the trail’s boundary. Of course, there is a fine balance between building structural barriers and maintaining the feeling of natural wilderness in a park.

Social media marketing might also work well. Suggested slogans such as “A true mate sticks to the trail” or “Be safe and stay on the trail with your mates” might help influence visitors’ behaviour. Park visitors are ever more connected to social media – Parks Australia’s social media channels reach an estimated 30 million people.

Signs should also let walkers know exactly what they are getting themselves into, by posting clearly the length and typical duration of walking tracks, and the distance to popular destinations such as lookout points. These signs should be posted both at the beginning of trails at at intervals along it, particularly at junctions or river crossings.




Read more:
Our national parks must be more than playgrounds or paddocks


When it comes to our national parks it’s best to assume that, as with most things in life, humans will look for alternatives to what is expected. It’s human nature to want to bend the rules in what we might wrongly think is a harmless way.

Bushwalking in a national park is a great way to spend some time this summer. But when going off-trail could turn a tranquil walk into a deadly accident, it pays to stay on the beaten track.The Conversation

Edmund Goh, Deputy Director, Markets and Services Research Centre, Edith Cowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australia: NSW – Sydney Residents Track Cockatoos with iPhone App


The link below is to an article reporting on how residents of Sydney are tracking Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos with an iPhone app.

For more visit:
http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/journal/public-help-track-cockatoos-with-iphones.htm

Yacaaba Headland Walk


Kevin's Daily Photo, Video, Quote or Link

I ran out of time yesterday to post about my walk up Yacaaba Headland and how I only just avoided being in a storm that was moving in. So today (it’s actually the 27th July 2012 as I type away) I must get two days of posts done, even if I slip this one in back in time, so to speak (as you can with the post time when posting).

BrunchSo I decided to do the Yacaaba Headland walk just before lunch and had lunch in the carpark, while reading the paper. Nothing too healthy – I tend to eat far too much junk when I’m on holidays. So it was a bacon & egg roll, as well as a couple of potato scallops and some chips (and coke of course) See Picture at Left. It was really brunch and I needed the energy boost to accomplish the walk. Sounds…

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Australia: New South Wales


Tracks Reopen in Time for Easter

Two tracks will reopen in New South Wales, just in time for the Easter break.

The Giant Stairway walking track at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains National Park will soon be reopened following repairs to the track. A landslide on the 17th February closed the track and over 50 metres of handrails and barriers were replaced.

For more, visit:
http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/media/DecMedia12040202.htm

 

The Cumberland State Forest trail in the Cumberland State Forest at West Pennant Hills has now reopened. The trail was closed for the Bunya Pine fruiting season, as very large falling cones were considered very dangerous to walkers.

For more, visit:
http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/aboutus/news/recent-news/forests/state-forest-trail-reopens

Holiday Update


My latest holiday plan has gone flop – the back packing holiday is a no-goer. Reason? It would seem from all reports that the Tops to Myalls Heritage Trail has been abandoned, with parts of the route now so overgrown as to be unrecognizable. I have been told of walkers in recent times having to back track a fair distance when the way ahead was no longer able to be walked. So as disappointing as it is I have abandoned the trail myself and will now do something else.

With time running out for a settled option, I have decided to fall back on an earlier idea and that is to visit the Cathedral Rocks National Park and possibly do some further walks at the Dorrigo National Park. I have booked a vehicle (car rental) for the trip so things are fairly settled now as far as the destination is concerned. I am now going to put some meat on the bones of my idea and draw up an itinerary, Google Map, etc. So some real detail of what I plan to do will be coming over the next few weeks.

This isn’t going to be an expensive holiday or a long one, but is mean’t to be a simple time-out break and one that will allow me to plan some much bigger holidays for later in the year and into the coming year also.

Recycled Ink Cartridges to Build Bicycle Track in the West MacDonnell National Park


Here is a great recycling news story coming out of the Northern Territory in Australia – a 170km bicycle track is being built between Alice Springs and Simpson’s Gap in the West MacDonnell Ranges National Park, out of recycled plastics, including plastic from used printer ink cartridges. The bike track is a popular tourist destination in and around Alice Springs, so this upgrade is certainly a welcome one – especially given it that is being made out of recycled plastics. Full marks to the Northern
Territory government on this project – great news for all.

http://www.engadget.com/2010/06/13/recycled-ink-cartridges-used-to-build-bike-path-in-australian-na/

Visit Repeat Plastics Australia at:

http://www.replas.com.au/index.shtml