Ecological surveys on Cape Otway

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Words by: Dr Kay Weltz, CEC Conservation Project Manager

Data is critical for conservation. We are conducting an ecological baseline survey of the flora and fauna of Cape Otway.

This will help inform future management decisions for the conservation of the biodiversity of this unique area. Specifically, this summer and autumn, the CEC team has been using camera traps to detect the presence of small native mammals as well as using transect surveys and sound recordings to detect bird species in all the different ecological vegetation classes on the Cape.

Now, ecological conservation work can have a certain air of awe surrounding it – at least it does for me – as it requires spending part of your work hours outdoors and the direct outcomes of your work, both in the field and in the office, can have meaningful impacts on the preservation of species and ecosystems. However, it is not for the faint hearted. We spent most of our field work this summer working amongst some of the densest, rarely visited areas of the Cape, and it was wild!

Navigating our way to cameras through a variety of terrains using GPS, we faced razor-sharp Saw-Sedge, Prickly Tee Tree, and extremely dense understory growth of young trees, as well as walls of Spreading Rope-Rush and Slender Dodder-laurel so thick that at times it felt as though the bush would never let you go. Nonetheless, we did escape the clutches of the famous Wet Heath each day and returned to the CEC office to analyse the data over a well deserved cup of tea.

White-throated Tree Creeper calls started to sound like an old friends’ laughter and some important little native mammals, such as Long-nosed Potoroos made an appearance on the big screen. We look forward to the vegetation surveys coming up in spring, including the endangered Greenhood Orchids, as well as some potential fungi and snail surveys this autumn/winter.

With the rains and cooler autumn weather finally setting in after an unusually dry summer on the Cape, we are bracing ourselves for increased encounters with leeches and wet conditions in the field… and of course many more cups of tea in the office processing essential information for apt conservation decision making. Thanks everyone for your contributions so far, what a colossal team effort!