Bush Blitz Symposium 2013

Old Parliament House in Canberra was the setting for this unique conference. No pollies to be seen, but there was a high concentration of ecologists, taxonomists, zoologists and related environmental bods.

BushBlitz is a national bio discovery program that has been running for 4 years with $10 million worth of funding. The aim of the program is to continue the quest to discover new Australian species and add to our knowledge of existing species. There have been 17 BushBlitz expeditions that usually involve 15-30 research scientists and support people descending on a remote area to search for specific targeted taxa.

Astoundingly they have discovered 650 new species! Most of these have been invertebrates and the search continues. The program has been funded for another 4 years and will run about 5 expeditions each year.

Two members of the ‘Engagement and Attainment’ portfolio group for NSW Environmental Education Centres travelled to Canberra on a fact finding mission. Mark Attwool from Rumbalara EEC and Steve Body from Brewongle were aided by our resident biodiversity expert Ross Wellington.

We were keen to see if we forge a partnership with the BushBlitz program to engage students and teachers to explore, understand and be a part of scientific discovery.

BushBlitz with the Earthwatch Institute took part in a ‘Teach Live’ pilot program recently. 5 teachers went along on an expedition and wrote lesson plans, increased their own professional knowledge, and blogged and skyped their discoveries with students back at their schools.

We spoke to one of these teachers who was bubbling with praise about BushBlitz and all the things she had learnt and was now implementing back in her school.

We heard from some great presenters with incredible skills in their chosen areas who had participated in various BushBlitz expeditions. Gerry Cassis from the Uni of NSW enlightened us on the new invertebrate discoveries especially in the taxa of heteroptera or true bugs. Insects make up 60-70% of the worlds species and we are still scratching the surface of knowledge of these creatures. BushBlitz uncovered 10000 bug specimens of which 468 were new species!

Did you know that there are over 1000 different species of native daisy and that certain people consider land snails to be key environmental indicator species? Each researcher was very passionate about their area and we now all know a lot more about various taxa including liverworts and mosses.

We made some key connections with people from BushBlitz and the Earthwatch Institute and will hopefully now have some new partnership opportunities for EEC’s and our regional teachers and students.

David McInnes and Caroline Bayer from the Earthwatch institute are very keen to create partnerships with the NSW EEC’s and Mark Attwool invited David and Chris Gillies (head of Earthwatch) to meet with our portfolio team to discuss our involvement with Climatewatch or other Earthwatch program’s.

Jo Harding of BushBlitz was also keen to discuss ways that we could link students and teachers into the expeditions and program’s.

We will be recommending several possible initiatives to our portfolio team that could be used to create partnerships and increase engagement and attainment of teachers and students.

1. Engaging EEC’s and regional schools in setting up Climatewatch Trails and using the Climatewatch smartphone app. Possibly having a target species to create and maintain interest.

2. Professional learning for EEC staff using BushBlitz expertise in biodiversity monitoring that could be then passed onto schools.

3. EEC’s engaging in local BushBlitz style events through local connections with scientists. Not a true bush blitz but something similar to the Bio Blitz run near Bournda EEC.

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