First Aboriginal School Mentoring
Program at Witchelina Nature Reserve
a resounding success
17 June 2016
Thirteen year 8/9 students from Port Augusta Secondary School (PASS) visited Witchelina Nature Reserve last week for a three-day work experience camp as part of the Aboriginal School Mentoring Program (ASMP), a groundbreaking education initiative backed by Heathgate Resources.
In the first of three camps at Witchelina this year, students participated in activities such as flora and fauna identification, map reading and GPS skills. The ASMP has been carefully designed to give young Aboriginal students the skills, opportunities, belief and confidence to finish school while providing them with a greater understanding of conservation of land management.
The dynamic program was developed by Heathgate's Senior HR Advisor Jacquie Dealtry and won the recent SA Premier's Community Excellence Award in Mining and Energy for Excellence in Social Inclusion. Working with Jacquie on the project has been Nature Foundation's Industry Engagement Manager Caroline Nefiodovas, who says working on the program has been a career highlight for her. "I have loved working on this project, which is a fantastic opportunity for Nature Foundation to work with our resource industry partners, like Heathgate, to deliver forward-looking and enriching events and activities for those who can really benefit. We are looking forward to hearing more stories from the first successful camp."
Nature Foundation SA volunteers inspire with their boundless energy and goodwill at the Hiltaba Grand Working Bee
4 May 2016
Bird surveys, weed mapping, tree planting, wombat burrow mapping, goat browse monitoring and assessment, walking trail development, fence removal and general property/infrastructure maintenance - it was all happening at the Hiltaba Grand Working Bee last week, 28 April to 1 May.
Over 50 volunteers plus staff, NFSA councillors, committee members and rotational manaagers travelled to Hiltaba Nature Reserve, our second-largest conservation property comprising 78,000 ha (780 sq km) bordering the Gawler Ranges on the Eyre Peninsula.
Our CEO, Hugo Hopton, attending his first NFSA working bee, was blown away by the energy, enthusiasm and camaraderie on display among the volunteers and staff at the event. In our staff meeting this morning, we all agreed to use those positive feelings as inspiration to bouy us through another busy week and month here at NFSA HQ in Adelaide.
Highlights from the four-day working bee include the addition of lots of new faces from last year, the completion of the Barbara Hardy Walking Trail, sighting three endangered yellow-footed rock-wallabies, almost finishing the resampling of vegetation monitoring sites, and the impressive revamp of the ruined Shepherd's Hut.
A big thank you to all volunteers, staff, councillors and committee members who came along on the weekend in contributed in so many varying ways to NFSA's conservation goals. All efforts are hugely appreciated.
Become a conservation land owner through BushbankSA
Through Nature Foundation SA's BushbankSA program, six 900 ha bush blocks are now for sale at the beautiful Blanchetown Bushland Estate.
Click here for more details and to secure your piece of South Australia's precious bushland heritage.
In the media: Nature Foundation SA reveals its endless battle against feral cats and their devastation on native wildlife.
by Clare Peddie in the Sunday Mail, 20 March 2016
The remains of more than 30 native lizards removed from the stomach of just one feral cat starkly reveals the damage the felines do to the nation's wildlife. The partly digested arms, legs, tails, heads and bodies represent about two days of meals for the 4.7 kg cat, which was killed in the Far North as part of a five-year study in the impact of ferals.
Click here to see the full Sunday Mail article.
Significant Environmental Benefit (SEB) biodiversity offsets in action: Funding research into the threatened thick-billed grasswren
Friday, 18 March 2016
In 2011, Nature Foundation SA designed a biodiversity offset strategy for Arrium Mining's habitat disturbance at the Peculiar Knob Iron Ore Mine, which triggered EPBC obligations for investigation and remediating thick-billed grasswren (TBGW) habitat as well as an SEB obligation. The strategy centered on a research component, designed to improve knowledge of the ecology, distribution and environmental preferences of TBGWs in arid South Australia to better inform conservation management strategies on Witchelina Nature Reserve. The research was conducted by PhD students Marina Louter and Amy Slender from Flinders University, and the final results and analysis are coming together now. NFSA is excited to report on this fantastic example of how SEB offsets can lead to real conservation outcomes.
Marina and Amy conducted bird surveys across 100+ plots across Witchelina and a large area west of Lake Torrens, and took blood samples from 164 individuals across two populations. Habitat features such as predation pressure, chenopod vegetation cover and insect abundance were related to the presence/absence of TBGWs at sites with low and high historical grazing pressure. TBGWs were more likely to be absent from sites that had experienced heavy grazing.
DNA analysis of blood samples revealed that the two populations are currently interbreeding and that the TBGWs on Witchelina have low levels of extra-pair paternity (high fidelity in grasswren breeding pairs). A second component of the SEB offset was the reduce on-ground predation (feral cats and foxes) on the TBGW populations and increasing the area/quality of TBGW chenopod shrubland habitat. Predation pressure on TBGW nests was low: 71% of TBWG nests survived until fledging. Although the identity of nest predators remained unknown, the high nesting success of TBGWs at Witchelina indicates that predator control measures are paying off.
Now that we are better informed of the TBGW's ecology and distribution across Witchelina through this SEB-funded research, conservation measures such as these can be even more targeted into the future. For example, the research found that TBGWs almost exclusively use large chenopod shrubs such as black bush (Maireana pyramidata) and low blue bush (M. astrotricha) to build their nests in and that grasswrens do not occur in areas without these shrub types.
Marina and her partner have recently become rotational managers at Witchelina Nature Reserve. "We could not resist stopped at a few grasswren territories along the road. I was happy to see that the first grasswren we ever caught at Witchelina in 2012 was still alive. This male is now at least five years old and he was together with a female and three other birds, including a juvenile of only a few weeks old that had a yellow gape. The grasswrens are breeding!"