Why is Gill digging a bucket into the ground? To install a 'pitfall trap' - one of the three types of traps used to conducting biological monitoring in Mardo Reserve. Biological monitoring is the term used to describe how environmental scientists find out what animal or plant species are found in a particular area. With animals, it usually means capturing them and identifying what they are. Gill and Simon decided that involving students in this activity would allow them to learn about local wildlife first hand. This was carried out in the first week of September 2013.
The three types of traps used were:
Pitfall Trap: a 20L bucket dug into the ground with a small fence used to divert frogs, reptiles and small mammals into the bucket. Material (leaves, soil, toilet-rolls) is placed in the bottom of the bucket to give animals a place to hide.
Elliott Trap: a small, aluminium box trap with a pressure plate used to close the door when an animal enters. These are baited with a mixture of peanut-butter, oats and sardines to attract animals inside.
Sheffield Trap: a larger, wire-mesh cage used to catch mammals like possums and Quenda. These work on the same principle as Sheffield traps and are also set with bait.
Pitfall Trap Elliott Trap Sheffield Trap
Ten trapping sites were set up, each having one of the three types of traps. Traps were left open each night and checked early the next morning for 4 days in a row - this follows the methods used by scientists conducting real fieldwork. Students worked in small groups with either Simon or Gill to clear traps, placing animals into handling bags, then everyone got together at the end to learn about what was caught. All animals were processed (identified, weighed and measured), then Simon and Gill talked about their biology, before releasing them back into the reserve.
WHAT DID WE CATCH!?
Excitement filled the air on the first morning of trap checking as the students giggled and crept quietly into Mardo Reserve. Their expectations were not let down with SIX Quenda caught in one day! These included some larger males and one female with babies in her pouch. Here Gill is releasing one of the Quenda after processing.
Over the next few days the trapping was much quieter, probably because of the cooler wet weather. A few reptiles including skinks were caught in the pitfall traps, with two species being recorded: the Pale-flecked Skink, and the Five-toead Earless Skink.
On the last morning Simon's group were lucky to catch a possum, and not just one, but a female with a large joey on her back! This was a delight for the students to see, as possums are strictly nocturnal and you normally see them high up in a tree. They also have a particularly cute face, especially baby ones!
A Pale-flecked Skink caught in a Pitfall Trap Four-toed Earless skinks were also recorded in Pitfall Traps
This beautiful juvenile Common Brushtail Possum was caught with her mother in a cage trap on the last morning of trapping.