Arid zone ecology

Students from both La Trobe University’s Albury-Wodonga and Melbourne campuses have recently returned from an eight-day intensive ecological field trip to Calperum Station* as part of the Arid Zone Ecology subject newly launched this year by the University’s Department of Environmental Management and Ecology.

arid zone soil samples‘This subject came about because some of us have a great deal of enthusiasm for arid Australia, after all 70 per cent of Australia is arid,’ says Dr Peter Pridmore, Environmental Management and Ecology Lecturer and Subject Coordinator. 

‘It’s an important part of the geography of Australia, and we wanted to take some students out and let them have a bit of a look and develop their field techniques.' 

The station is the perfect backdrop for students to experience as they are introduced to this important part of Australia’s ecological make up by reinforcing and extending their capacity to undertake ecological research in the field.

‘We’re running a subject that has some on-line components, so they don’t came out here ignorant, they have read up a bit before it and staff accompany them and run research projects.

‘At Calperum we covered seven research projects with five students per group, and they had fairly good interaction with the staff members the other people they were working with,’ says Dr Pridmore.

Some of the student groups worked on analysing the properties of soils,  another group looked into vegetation and two groups focused at macro-invertebrates—one on terrestrial and one on aquatic—.Another group looked at mammals and waterbirds.

Each group has one lecturer showing students how to analyse their specific focus and explain the importance each element forms as part of the ecosystem.

‘At the end of this subject the students will combine the knowledge they have gained about these different components of the ecosystem to gain a basic understanding of the whole of the arid zone,’ says Dr Pridmore.

Earlier this year a similar subject was conducted with close to 40 students in alpine and sub-alpine eco-systems at the Bogong High Plains near Falls Creek. These subjects are an important part of many science courses as both the arid-zone ecology and alpine ecology provide new methods to learn in these fields.

‘It’s important that they have hands on experience with techniques they might use in their future careers,’ says Dr Pridmore.

‘Many of them may not become research scientists but they need to understand how research scientists work and the limitations and the strengths of the data that research scientists can obtain.’

For more on the subject Alpine Ecology visit: www.latrobe.edu.au/news/articles/2012/article/alpine-ecology 

To view the Arid Zone Ecology video news release please visit: www.latrobe.edu.au/news/videos/students-tackle-arid-zone-ecology 


For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Meghan Lodwick

La Trobe University Communications Officer

T:  03 9479 5353 M:  0418 495 941 E: M.Lodwick@latrobe.edu.au  

* Calperum Station is a 242,800-hectare pastoral lease located in eastern South Australia. The station lies near the transition from semi-arid to arid zone. It supports extensive areas of mallee, some chenopod shrub lands and riparian woodlands, and ephemeral wetlands.

Calperum Station is a long established pastoral lease in the river land of South Australia. After about 150 years of grazing it was actually purchased with private philanthropic funds and Commonwealth Government money, de-stocked and since the mid 90’s its been used really as a landscape management training area, a place where communities can try new things about managing landscapes and getting involved and more importantly a place for education and training and capacity building.

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