BLUE a new film about our oceans, and what we can do to help

The Ocean – mother of life on our planet – big problems but opportunities for us to make a difference. Join us for this exciting screening on Sunday November 5th in Merimbula, Saturday November 4th Narooma. Stunning footage from great filmmakers and a Q & A session after the screening. Have a look at the trailer for BLUE

Zombie animals, brainwashing bugs and bacteria

Come and listen to Dr Crid Fraser ACT Scientist of the Year, at Oaklands on Saturday May 13th 6:30pm for 7pm.

This is the first 2017 “Hub in the Pub” event of the Sapphire Coast Regional Science Hub and everyone is welcome to delve into the science of mind and mood altering bacteria and bugs.

Free finger food and a great atmosphere in the Longstocking Brewery at Oaklands.

Local photographer takes international prize

Sam Nerrie, long time local nature photographer has just won a 3rd place(Macro)  in the International Photography awards with this image of two Common Bluetail (ischnura heterosticta)

Damselflies. It’s a great image, taken in Bournda National Park, but she is a bit confused as she thought the female of the species should be brown. Any ideas anyone?

Sam is offering to run a Macro Photography course in the next school holidays, probably at Wallagoot Lake and Manna Park.

Sunday 23rd April 9:00am – 1:30pm. Best photos are in the morning and it is low tide at noon.

The cost will be $120 pp, Atlas members 10% discount. Includes morning tea. There will be a limit of 10 people so please let us know if you are interested.

These two damselfies were seen at Bournda National Park, NSW, Australia. It had been a bumper damselfly and dragonfly season and they were easily seen near waterways.

These two damselfies were seen at Bournda National Park, NSW, Australia. It had been a bumper damselfly and dragonfly season and they were easily seen near waterways.

Great chance to learn from an expert, and it will help improve your sightings records on the Atlas too!

This close-up adn macro photography course will examine how to bring out the best in your little creature or flower. Take stunning photos of the micro world of creatures with great tuition from internationally awarded phtographer, Sam Nerrie. Courses running on the Sapphire Coast and Canberra.

This close-up adn macro photography course will examine how to bring out the best in your little creature or flower. Take stunning photos of the micro world of creatures with great tuition from internationally awarded phtographer, Sam Nerrie.
Courses running on the Sapphire Coast and Canberra.

Sea Slug Census coming to our coast

We have been invited by Prof. Steve Smith, Director of the National Marine Science Centre at Coffs Harbour to co-ordinate a hub for a Sea Slug Census along our coast. Here’s what he said on ABC News today:

Scientists watching southerly migration of tropical sea slugs to chart climate change
ABC Coffs Coast By Helen Merkell
Posted about an hour ago

PHOTO: Hypselodoris bennetti sea slugs photographed off Muttonbird Island at Coffs Harbour, NSW in 2016. (Supplied: Professor Steve Smith)

PHOTO: Hypselodoris bennetti sea slugs photographed off Muttonbird Island at Coffs Harbour, NSW in 2016. (Supplied: Professor Steve Smith)

Blue and yellow Hypselodoris bennetti sea slugs mating, near Muttonbird Island, Coffs Harbour.

The National Marine Science Centre at Coffs Harbour is looking at whether the southerly migration of tropical sea slugs is an indicator of climate change.

According to researchers, south-east Australia is a recognised global climate hotspot and southward shifts in distribution have already been documented for several species.

Evidence suggests more tropical species heading south

Centre director Professor Steve Smith said colourful sea slugs were now being found up to 1,300 kilometres south of their known range.

“We’re very confident about that because these are such colourful organisms that they’re always seen by divers if they’re around,” he said.
“We know there’s been a documented increase in global seawater temperatures [and] we’re seeing changes in oceanographic conditions in different parts of the world.

“We know there are predictions for major changes in this part of the world.

“Certainly the evidence at the moment is suggesting that we are getting more tropical species moving further south.”

PHOTO: Miamira magnifica sea slug at Woolgoolga Reef, north of Coffs Harbour NSW, 2016. (Supplied: Professor Steve Smith)

PHOTO: Miamira magnifica sea slug at Woolgoolga Reef, north of Coffs Harbour NSW, 2016. (Supplied: Professor Steve Smith)

Multi-coloured Miamira magnifica sea slug on the reef off Woolgoolga, north of Coffs Harbour NSW.

Professor Smith said researchers are concerned about whether or not the species in the receiving waters were able to cope with these “invaders”.

“At the moment we don’t really know what the ecological consequences are,” he said.

“We do know high water temperatures can encourage rapid spread of introduced species [and] we’ve got a classic example with sea slugs.

“In three years, they have spread from central Queensland all the way around to Adelaide.”

Professor Smith said migration of sea slugs was not necessarily the ‘canary in the coal mine’ but was an indicator of warming ocean temperatures.

“Sea slugs are one of the most popular marine invertebrates among divers and rock pool ramblers,” he said.

“Because they have this capacity to be very useful indicators of environmental condition, we’re currently putting together a program which works with volunteers to document the distribution of these species.

“So, we can use them as a monitoring tool for climate change and any other environmental change.”

Sea Slug Census harnessing citizen scientists

The Sea Slug Census, which started in Port Stephens, is now running in three centres after Sydney and the Gold Coast joined up.

“We plan to include the South Coast of NSW sometime in March,” Professor Smith said.

“Then we want to extend it across the country to include WA, SA and Victoria with the long-term goal to have an international program.

“It’s incredibly popular with underwater photographers and we use all of that information to document the distribution of the species — there’s a huge variety of them.
“The largest [sea slugs] can be up to 50 centimetres, possibly even bigger. The big Spanish Dancer we get off Coffs Harbour.

“The smallest are so small it’s frustrating. You know they’re there but you can’t see them, so just a few millimetres in size.

“Some are highly cryptic, coloured the same as the habitat they live in [and] then you’ve got the flamboyant ones that are so popular.”

PHOTO: Goniobranchus splendidus, photographed by Professor Steve Smith off Nelson Bay NSW in 2016. (Supplied: Professor Steve Smith)

PHOTO: Goniobranchus splendidus, photographed by Professor Steve Smith off Nelson Bay NSW in 2016. (Supplied: Professor Steve Smith)

A white with red spots sea slug Goniobranchus splendidus taken at Nelson Bay, NSW.

Atlas/Four Winds BioBlitz registrations open now

Harrison getting up close and personal with a Mustard - bellied snake

Harrison Warne and a Mustard bellied snake at last year’s BioBlitz

We’re getting organised now and you can choose your surveys and register for the Four Winds BioBlitz November 11/12th. This year our BioBlitz will be a festival of nature with music and art mixed in so it will be a lot of fun for everyone. See this website for more details and go to the Four Winds website to sign up for the  music concert and photography/botanical illustration masterclasses.

Try our new Atlas recording platform

Click here for the link to our new recording database NatureMapr.

You can download the easy to use app for your phone or tablet and see all our sightings as they happen. Do give it a try and tell us what you think. feedback so far is that everyone thinks it’s great – many thanks aaron Clausen the software developer who created it.


NatureMapr copy

Over 400 moth species recorded at the Wallagoot Catchment BioBlitz!

Many congratulations to Glenn Cocking(ANIC) who undertook moth surveys at our last BioBlitz in December.

This is an amazing total and a really good species list for this area.

Glenn’s comments:

“I have now sent the final moth report from the Wallagoot bioblitz. I think it gives a good account of the adult moths active on the nights of the Bioblitz, and a few of the Lepidoptera flying in the daytime (some moths aren’t attracted to light, and the daytime observation effort wasn’t extensive).

There was a total of 401 species observed, with 321 of them at Bournda field hut, 128 at Turingal LALC, 82 at Wallagoot West LALC, and 176 at either of the Aboriginal Land sites.


Please note the final line “Unidentified Oecophorinae” with a total of 21 species spread across the three sites. I’ve kept this line separate at the bottom so it shows these species in the site totals, but I don’t think it would be helpful to add a further 30 odd “Oecophorinae unidentified” sighting records to ALA (other opinions are possible). The Oecophorinae are a particular challenge to identify because there are many thousands of species, many are superficially similar, and a significant number have not yet been assembled into species groups at ANIC, let alone described. They are particularly important here in Australia where many of them feed on leaf litter and help decompose it before it burns, and the Australian species are the majority of the world fauna for this family. “

Everyone at the Atlas of Life would like to thank Glenn
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Glenn preparing specimens for ID at the Wallagoot BioBlitz 2015

Glenn preparing specimens for ID at the Wallagoot BioBlitz 2015

IMG_0721 for his great contributions – I would like to say a personal thank you for being allowed to be part of the surveys – they were spectacularly interesting. Glen also attracted much interest from school students and other BioBlitz participants as in the mornings of the BioBlitz he prepared the specimens he needed to take back to his lab for identification.

First field naturalists meeting minutes

Here are the minutes of our first meeting on February 9th 2016

Present: David Jackson, Libby Hepburn, Liz Allen, David Jones, Barbara Jones, Maggie Clowes, Nick Yee, Linda Churchill, Denise Krake, Graeme Krake

Expressions of interest but not able to attend this meeting: Grant Brewer, Danie Ondinea, Paul Whittock, Diane Whittock, Kerry Vance, Olivia Forge, David McCreery, Angelika Erpic

David welcomed everyone to this first meeting to discuss the interest in establishing a regional field naturalist group. He spoke of his experience with similar organisations including the Victorian Field Naturalist club and the South Australian Field Naturalist Society. David described the activities of a farmer in SA who had become interested in invertebrates and had become sufficiently expert to write a book on Ants of the genus Camponotus. David also spoke of his experience of establishing a FNSociety in Broome – The Kimberley Field Naturalist Society, which may still be in existence today.

Field work at Narooma

Field work at Narooma

The group was invited to talk about their thoughts on this suggestion and their own interests. Maggie said that BioBlitzes were great, but only carried our over a couple of days and that serious scientific investigations will need repeated surveys of chosen locations if they are to be really valuable in answering many important ecological questions. She described the Eurobodalla Natural History Group which is of long standing and has regular monthly meetings as well as producing an annual report of sightings observed by members.

Graeme and Kate talked about their work with the Healesville wildlife sanctuary and would be happy to be part of something locally here. Graeme suggested not setting up another group but meeting informally at least to begin with.

Barbara cautioned about the activities seeming too scientific for ordinary people. We need to offer things at a level that will attract the general community.

Linda’s interests are soils including microbiology and she would be interested in coring the beds of local estuaries. David jones would like to see regular botanical surveys of Bournda Nature Reserve. Maggie knows of a property near her own, at CooribarNP which is of difficult access, but which has a different rich diversity of birds to her own property. It would be interesting to compare the two.

Other suggestions for possible activities of a FNG: • short courses on survey methodologies to develop the skills base of the group

• regular visiting speakers such as the Canberra Ornithological Group when they come for their regular surveys, or Steve Sass & colleagues

• Danie Ondinea suggests seagrass surveys of our estuaries using a dronePat Hutchins 1980’s surveys of invertebrates in Merimbula Lake could be revisited

• Maggie’s land surveys • Four Winds have requested Atlas of Life help to develop baseline data for their property

• surveys associated with the Bundian Way Discussion around how best to establish a group.

No one had enthusiasm for setting up another organisation at this stage, so it was decided that David Jackson and Libby would put together a calendar of activities for a year and we would see from the levels of interest and engagement what we might do in the future. For the moment the group will operate under the auspices of the Atlas of Life and a further meeting on the subject of the establishment of a FN group was not scheduled at this time.

We salute a great scientist who will be sadly missed

At our “Celebration of Science” in 2013, organised by the Atlas of Life in the Coastal Wilderness, CSIRO colleague Jim Peacock, a former Chief Scientist of Australia and a past President of the Australian Academy of Science, told the audience that they probably didn’t recognise just how good a scientist Dane was and that in our midst was an outstanding scientist with an international reputation; Jim is certainly well qualified to make that assessment and it did open our eyes to some of the achievements of this humble man.

Brads picsFeb5th05 020

Dane’s initial interest in science and botany were stimulated by childhood rambling around in bushland on the small farm he grew up on near Northmead in Sydney. He couldn’t do biology at school as he was already doing physics and chemistry so his initial contact with the biological sciences was during university when he was able to study botany and zoology. At the end of 1956 having finished final exams at Sydney University, Dane Wimbush and Jim Peacock took a holiday student’s job in the Snowy Mountains at Island Bend, assisting Dr Alec Costin with his ecological work. Dane stayed on with Alec after graduation and joined the Alpine Ecology Section in the CSIRO Division of Plant Industry.

Initially Dane’s work concentrated on the damage that had occurred to alpine and subalpine ecosystems over a century of grazing and autumn burning. Concurrently a study of the hydrology of sphagnum bogs was undertaken and this led to a master’s thesis, submitted in 1970. Among other things the work involved monitoring the recovery of vegetation after grazing and burning ceased in 1958, and included sediment sampling from the bottom of Blue Lake. The impacts of grazing were clearly reflected in the increased sedimentation rates, established using carbon dating of the sediments. Other studies included: runoff and soil loss from alpine and subalpine vegetation; snow surveys within the Guthega catchment; grazing trials; and surveying for, and co-authoring Kosciuszko Alpine Flora, which is now in its 2nd edition. His last seven years before retirement involved a co-operative study with the CSIRO Division of Wildlife on the effects of rabbits on snowgum woodland & subalpine frost hollows near Kiandra.

Dane had an exquisite understanding of the vegetation dynamics and ecology of the high country and he never stopped working to protect our fragile alpine environments from the damage caused by wild horses and other impacts. Dane was a firm opponent of the reintroduction of alpine grazing; decades of field work and monitoring meant he fully understood the destruction that would ensue. One of the great benefits of Dane’s precise and accurate long term studies of Australian alpine vegetation is that we have a magnificent baseline data set to assess the impacts of climate change on the alpine area.

After retiring he undertook vegetation mapping from satellite imagery across the southern half of NSW for the NPWS and later acted as a consultant on the Snowy Water Enquiry. Another smaller job was to search for threatened and endangered species along the Alpine Way below Dead Horse Gap. In most of this work his wife Robyn assisted; in all things they were great partners.

During their life at Waste Point, they both learned to fly and took great delight in showing friends the Alps from above. Jindabyne Dam started filling in about 1966 and they started sailing dinghies on the rising waters. Dane became Commodore of the Lake Jindabyne Yacht Club and raced against Robyn, each with one of their two kids as crew. This started a long love affair with boats, culminating in buying a cruising yacht and sailing to Tasmania and the Whitsundays before down-sizing to a trailer sailor.

In recent years Dane was involved with the Atlas of Life in the Coastal Wilderness, and catalogued many plant and animal species encountered on the Far South Coast. He also acted as a moderator, ensuring the integrity of data flowing into the CSIRO Atlas of Living Australia. Dane supported environmental education activities and established a herbarium for Bournda Environmental Education Centre; he also participated in the digitisation of that resource which is now online.

Dane was a committed conservationist who devoted much time and energy into the long term campaign to protect our natural heritage. He brought to that work a fine analytical mind and wealth of scientific knowledge.

As a man of science, he helped us to understand better our precious alpine areas. His work is influential and substantial and will continue to inspire others.

Dane was a lovely man and a great contributor and will be sorely missed by Robyn, his family and his friends throughout the world.

A tribute written by Doug Reckord and echoed by all of us who were fortunate to know and work with Dane – a good life – lived to the full.

For the Atlas, Dane was a great contributor and moderator – a scientist who shared all his passion and expertise with his community of friends.

search for Peacock Spiders at the BioBlitz

Tiny, charming & elusive, the Peacock Spider is dancing up a storm on the Sapphire Coast.
Known for their brilliant blue colours and elaborate courtship dances which can last up to 2 hours, the male Peacock Spider is a creature we’re hoping will make an appearance at Wallagoot BioBlitz on December 4 and 5th.

The species is endemic to Australia and part of the jumping spider clan, but at 4 to 5 mm, it’s so small that most of us don’t see it.
Canberra man Stuart Harris has been chasing them for years after snapping one while bushwalking in Namadgi National Park. The photo attracted the attentions of global specialist Dr Jurgen Otto, who believed it may be  a new species.  Fast forward, and Stuart is a pioneer researcher of this remarkable little arachnid. He’s one of around 40 experts leading bound for Bournda National Park to lead expeditions to survey wildlife and celebrate citizen science.

Liz gets right down to her fungi recording

Liz gets right down to her fungi recording

The nature of citizen science is that anyone can join in and team up with experts to broaden our knowledge of the world around us.
It’s fun too, you can learn ways to study animals up close without harming them, lure them with pre-recorded calls, make various traps to record prints or hair and good old fashioned foraging.

Expeditions will target reptiles, shorebirds, mammals, birds and frogs at all hours of the day and night. Basecamp will be set up in the heart of Bournda National Park.

Identifying a frog - at the Panboola Bioblitz - Harrison Warne

Identifying a frog – at the Panboola Bioblitz – Harrison Warne

Organiser Libby Hepburn said the far south coast arm of the BioBlitz movement, Atlas of Life in the Coastal Wilderness, is at the forefront of BioBlitz’s in Australia. A similar event at Mimosa Rocks last year recorded 1008 species pushing the database to over 11,500 since it was created four years ago.
“(Bournda) in between Tathra and Merimbula, is a important site for the history of our region. We will also be searching for sea centipedes and other marine creatures, birds during the morning chorus and spotlighting during the evening for gliders and frogs.”

Flora Survey at Green Cape where all ages enjoyed the event at Science Week.
Ecologist Steve Sass (On the Perch aviaries at Tathra) is the key ecologist for the BioBlitz and will lead the mammals, birds and frogs expeditions.

“What makes Bioblitzes such inspiring events for everyone who wants to learn more about the mysteries of nature is this special chance to work with people who are both knowledgeable and passionate about their subjects,” Libby said.
“Interested people can register for surveys online, and we’d love to welcome you to explore, enjoy, learn lots and make a valuable contribution all at the same time.”
Browse and register for surveys

Thanks to Sarah Chenhall for this blog from Sapphire Coast Tourism