Mentor Report January 2006 Earthwatch Trip to St Bees

The weather proved better than expected, cooling showers, onshore breezes, glorious sunsets and a calm boat trip back to Mackay.  Sleeping on the beach was an advantage however as those breezes didn’t last all night.

Our small group of eight was a bonus for the kitchen team, very creative meals; but often meant tracking teams of only two  As of old, there were always koalas who liked stuffing themselves into vines or dense bushes, but once found they were very close to photograph and observe.

Returning to St Bees means meeting up with old friends - the koalas, the curlews, the clams and, of course, Peter and George.  Some of us went fishing, fresh coral trout for dinner!!

A midday high tide enticed the volunteers over to Honeymoon Bay, to swim and sunbathe and contemplate the long walk back over the sharp rocks on their day off.  It’s amazing how fast the depth changes on that large flat area.  The black tipped reef sharks were having a great time hunting fish in the shallows.

Tracking the koalas every day showed how different individuals spend their time.  Some just went from cool rainforest shade to nearby feeding trees.  One male (Cameron) did a grand circuit of his territory; we followed him day and night. A female (Olivia) seemed to be trying to catch up with him.  Young koalas were seen with their mothers at first, later they were seen in the same tree, then another tree or not at all.  It was wonderful to spend time just sitting and watching a koala, especially one with a persistent itch.

The summer trip is always quieter, no koala catching but we had our excitements.  The bonfire set a coconut palm alight, very spectacular; the water ran out twice and the boat trip over was rather rough, but I still think the spiders are the winners in the scream stakes.  We were a small group of very diverse people but we managed to have a great time together in a very special place.

We tracked our collared koalas each day and several nights, with the exception of 'Utopia', (most inappropriately named for those of you with personal experience – an advanced version of Marcus for those of us with prior experience) who managed to avoid being tracked on a daily basis.  Alistair, with some volunteer help, surveyed canopy and ground cover vegetation at three separate locations collecting data to verify the correlation between the two parameters.  Delma’s temperature recording equipment showed some success but was still experiencing software 'glitches' and she was planning to return to the island in the near future to rectify those problems.

It was difficult to try and limit Gail to a more relaxed role on the island and everyone except Gail was worrying about how difficult and tiring it was for her.  We all shared her sadness as she said goodbye to her beloved island for a while and we also laughed as she theorized about baby slings that could be used while climbing steep slopes – although I’m not sure she wasn’t serious about that?

In general, a successful trip with all targets achieved and on a personal level a great experience with good friendships renewed and new ones forged across the globe, which I hope will be maintained.

Jo Lawrence



Tea - Abby - Marina drawn by Jo Lawence while on St Bees

Congratulations to Gail and Paul on the birth of their son, Benjamin Scott
He was born on Friday, 13 January 06


Report from recent Steering Committee Meeting

The first meeting for 2006 was held on 13 February.  There were six members present.

Alistair welcomed all and wished us a very happy new year.

Shirley presented the Annual Statement, a copy of which you will find on page 3. I think you will all agree that this is a most comprehensive report from our treasurer.

Nick informed us of the visits to our web page and how to access them.

Alistair gave some details of the recent trip to St Bees.  The next trip to St Bees will be in May.

A lady from Chicago has taken up the Postgraduate Scholarship and we will meet her in March.  Arrangements will then be made for day trips to various koala habitats in the local area.

The chocolate drive will be the main fund raising event for this year.

Our next meeting will be on 10 April



The Annual Financial Statement forms part of the Newsletter and I am happy to answer any queries.

Our small group of members did a great job in making a Working Account.  Our major fund raiser was our Koala Chocolate Drive raising $1 800 and the remainder, receipts from our Koala Calendars $734.43 supported by our regular annual events.

Fund Raising

At our February meeting, it was decided to again run the Koala Chocolate Drive in June, July and August.  Members out of town are encouraged to sell a carton (27 boxes) to friends and colleagues – free delivery can be arranged from Bli Bli.  The chocolates are great quality, very yummy and make an excellent gift in an attractive box. 

Other fund raising ideas include: Sale of aluminium cans; Koala postcards; Arts in the Park – an ABC radio community day; Multicultural Fair at CQU; Sausage Sizzle.

Carmen Drake has an idea for a pocket sized diary featuring coloured prints of paintings by CQK Volunteers and their friends.  Costs and other queries on this idea will be brought to the next meeting.

NB  Members outside our area are encouraged to let us have their fund raising ideas please.

As Treasurer, I suggested that our first annual payment of $5 000.00 for the PhD Scholarship be made from our Working Account and keep our Term Deposits intact.

I also suggested that our banking be transferred to the Capricorn Credit Union where increased interest on both our Working Account and Term Deposits are available.  This suggestion was favourably received and will progress in the near future. Shirley Hopkins

One of the many wonderful sunsets seen on the January St Bees Trip



Nick found this website put together by Richard & Jo (skroll down the page) during a tour of Australia and read about their trip to the Rockhampton Zoo – it's a bit old – 2003 – but still worth the read.  The following is an extract from their visit to the Zoo:

Rocky has a fantastic zoo and even better, it's free.  We spent a great afternoon first of all watching the hundreds of little turtles, ducks and geese in the lake outside and then the rainbow lorikeets, roos, wallabies and saw that rare and odd bird the Cassowary.  We'd seen lots of signs to watch out for them on the roads like the one near Cape Tribulation but we'd never seen one in the flesh. 
But, of course, the reason we went to the zoo was to see our first koala.  These wonderful cuddly creatures that spent most of their days half asleep munching eucalyptus are soooo cute that we took far too many pictures of them but they are really photogenic.

Taken by Jo & Richard

Taken by Jo & Richard


January 2006 Earthwatch trip to St Bees Island

Thanks to Sian, Claudia and Delma for the photos in this story.

The trip ran from Australia Day 26 January to 7 February. Jo Lawrence was the mentor. We were joined by six volunteers.  These were Steve Barden (Windang, NSW), Sascha Lin (Fairfield, California, USA), Nuzrath Hameed (Mount Lavinia, Sri Lanka), Claudine Williams (Chester, UK), Arissara Tansutapanich (Bangkok, Thailand), Sian Edwards (Swansea, Wales). Delma Clifton (CQU lecturer and PhD student) joined us for one night to collect data for her studies.

Earthwatch team January 2006
From back left: Alistair, Steve, Jo, Sascha, Claudine, Arissara, Sian, Nuzrath. Delma took the photo

We travelled over in quite rough conditions with no serious seasickness although it was a bit of a bumpy and damp ride. Weather conditions during the trip were difficult but normal for this season. It rained for the first two days, was generally hot and humid but somewhat relieved by winds on most days. The island has missed out on seasonal rains so there were no rainforest streams to recover in at the end of the day. However, exceptionally high tides provided some excellent swimming.

Despite the difficult weather conditions we gathered some good data. The team surveyed the ridge to the north of Vincent Bay, located nine koalas and measured the vegetation cover of the forest in intermittent rain all day. Subsequent days saw the vegetation cover of the Knoll and Honeymoon Bay north ridge measured, 70 koalas sighted, 153 day radio tracking records made, 317 trees measured, 15 koala faecal pellet samples collected and 7 skeletons collected. From the observational data we estimated the island population to be about 124 animals – roughly the same as in previous years. As on previous trips, koalas used different trees by day than by night and on the Honeymoon Bay and Vincent Bay ridges most koalas were found in the dense shade of Ebony (Diospyros geminate) shrubs. This provided excellent opportunities for up close views of wild koalas without having to catch them.

Steve Barden collects fresh koala faecal pellets for diet analysis

Lots of fun was had tracking a select number of animals by night, enjoying the night sky, avoiding the spiders and searching for koalas in dense canopies. Two old favourite koalas died – Andrew and Lolipop. As usual there were no signs of disease and no significant tooth wear on these two old koalas. Others, however, (including Gizmo, Veronica, Olivia, Tea, Cameron) are carrying on from strength to strength. It was still the end of the breeding season. Male koalas were calling fro the hills overnight (but not during the day as in October). We saw a couple of koalas apparently wean their offspring and visit gentlemen and, from time to time, heard the sounds of mating activity. The newly independent koalas appear very vulnerable. I found one skeleton from such a small koala so all do not make the transition to full independence.

The island has missed the wet season and all the fauna and some flora seemed stressed. Goats were feeding on the beach and have denuded the gardens around the houses. They are eating the coastal scrubs – stripping the bark of many trees. Some Swamp Wallabies were weak and slow moving. There were no indications of joeys. A number of Blue Gums (Eucalyptus tereticornis) seem to be defoliated by koalas and a couple of koalas seemed to have swollen eyes.

The next Earthwatch trip is in May and it will be interesting to see how the island and its wildlife are standing up to the ongoing drought conditions.

Alistair Melzer

Nuzrath up close with a St Bees Island koala. Many St Bees Island koalas take 'refuge' in dense canopy shrubs and small trees in summer

Sian and Alistair measuring overstory foliage cover

Central Queensland Koala Volunteers

CQ Koala Volunteers seek the conservation of the koala and other tree living mammals in Central Queensland by
+Supporting research into koalas, other arboreal mammals and their habitat through (a) providing volunteer support to research projects, and (b) assisting in the raising of funds for research and the volunteer teams;
+ Developing public awareness of the needs of koalas, tree living mammals and their habitat requirements generally;
+ Fostering community support for koalas and tree living mammals generally;
+ Encouraging and assisting with the development of habitat rehabilitation projects where necessary through the region;
+Supporting the rehabilitation and release of sick, injured or displaced koalas and tree living mammals.

The Central Queensland Koala Volunteers are not about stopping development. They seek to encourage planned development, which allows for the co-existence of koalas and other tree living mammals with human activity.

Funds are used to buy equipment for the researchers, to fund volunteer field teams and provide limited support for animal carers. Donations may also be made to the Koala Research Centre of Central Queensland and are tax deductible.

Office Bearers
Alistair Melzer, signatory, Chairperson
Carmen Drake, signatory, CKQV representtative on Koala Research Centre Board
Shirley Hopkins, signatory, Treasurer
Gail Tucker, Minute Secretary
Doreen Lovett, Editor
Nick Quigley, web designer

Direct correspondence to:
Central Queensland Koala Volunteers Email
PO Box 1489
Rockhampton 4701
or call Denise on 0749309944 and leave a message


Taken by Jo & Richard