Issue 7 - 6 August 2013 enews home

Students take 2500km field trip

By Patrick Nelson


Dr Christine Schlesinger (right) assists Marisa Stone, Camilla Brent and Nikkela Williams identify a plant in Simpson’s Gap National Park

Thirteen ecology students explored and measured the physical, biological and human environments at selected spots in Central Australia, the Top End and in between, during an 11-day field trip along the Stuart Highway recently.

Alice Springs based lecturer in ecology Dr Christine Schlesinger said the diversity of tropical and desert landscapes made the Territory a fascinating case study for environmental science students.

“We measured changes in vegetation structure and composition and explored how hydrology, soils and vegetation interact,” Dr Schlesinger said.

“Students learnt and applied field techniques for assessing physical and biological characteristics and functions of landscapes.”

Guest speakers added depth and variety to the program, including NT Government speakers who discussed pastoral and fire management, an Indigenous traditional owner, a CSIRO scientist, a Landcare representative and rangers at national parks in the West MacDonnell ranges and Nitmiluk.

“In presenting an outline of the various environmental issues they face and value, the guest speakers also demonstrated how different stakeholder groups manage natural resources in their region.”

Dr Schlesinger said the 2500km field trip encompassed much of the Territory’s ecological diversity and showcased some of its iconic scenery.

“Observing and understanding patterns and processes within landscapes at regional and continental scales broadens students’ perspectives and helps them to better understand local processes within the wider context.  It also helps us to better understand how climatic change is likely to affect ecosystems in northern Australia in the future,” she said.