Makuru Season (June - July 2022)
Turtle Watch Update
We celebrated the safe arrival of the southwestern snake-necked turtle hatchlings from eggs that had been collected at Walliabup (Bibra Lake) during the 2021/22 nesting season. The hatchlings are now a part of a research project at Murdoch University.
Potentially hundreds of native freshwater turtles were saved from death during the season by our Turtle Tracker vollies. The yaakan, booyi or choonya, as they are known in Nyungar, eggs were collected by researchers and City's Turtle Tracker vollies. Four have hatched so far, including an egg recovered from a turtle killed by a car. Hatchlings will soon be released into the lake once they are deemed healthy and fit to take to the waters.
The Turtle Tracker squads of vollies together with the City's Environmental Team are on the ground helping reduce the near-threatened species’ mortality rate by protecting nesting females and their eggs. For six weeks during peak nesting season between September and November 2021, 14 dedicated trained volunteer Turtle Trackers conducted twice daily shifts and were on call during mass movements to record turtle and nest sightings including mortality and predation.
They protected females on the move by guarding their egg-filled nests with temporary mesh coverings. At Walliabup Bibra Lake alone, they saw 124 turtles on the move, found 34 nests (12 of which had been predated), covered 26 nests with protective cages and four others with temporary mesh.
Populations of the semi-aquatic southwestern snake-necked turtle (Chelodina oblonga – prev. C. colliei) are active throughout Cockburn including Wallibaup, Yangebup Lake, Harmony Lake, Manning Park, and many other lakes and wetland areas around Perth. City of Cockburn's Environmental Education Officer Vicky Hartill said climate change, increased predation by birds, dogs, foxes, and cats plus human activity are threatening their existence in areas where the turtles once flourished. “Turtle Trackers” is the brainchild of the City and Murdoch University with PhD student Anthony Santoro. A pilot program was developed with the help of WA Wildlife and The Wetlands Centre Cockburn in 2019 and it has proven very effective so far.
Supporting data was logged on Australia’s citizen science TurtleSAT app to help build a picture of the health of our turtle population in Cockburn.
Here's the 7NEWS Perth report on the Turtle Hatchlings!
Get involved in this year's nesting season! Become a Turtle Tracker and help protect our precious and near-threatened turtles. Look out for more information in our upcoming newsletters and social pages. Starting soon!
Mosquito Study undertaken at the Centre
Ashleigh Peck is a PhD student from Murdoch University who is currently studying and collecting data on mosquitoes found in and around Perth, including our Centre. Here’s a gist of her unique project in her own words:
“Although you may see mosquitoes as a pest, to researchers, they can be a goldmine of information. Mosquitoes provide researchers with a non-invasive way to identify which host mosquito species prefer and of potential disease outbreaks. Think of mosquitoes as flying syringes that contain the DNA of bloodmeal hosts and any infectious diseases that are currently in transmission.
Mosquitoes are used for surveillance of human diseases, including Ross River Virus, Murray Valley Encephalitis Virus, and the potential spread of Japanese Encephalitis Virus from Eastern states. However, not only do mosquitoes pose a risk to human health, but they can also put your furry friends at risk. Of particular importance is Dirofilaria immitus, more commonly known as the dog heartworm. This parasite is transmitted by mosquitoes from an infected host to susceptible dogs and foxes. So, although domesticated dogs are protected through regular heartworm treatments, foxes provide a potential reservoir for this parasite which may be transmitted to untreated pets. Urban expansion has decreased natural bushlands, however, some animals, especially foxes, are cunning and have adapted to suburban life.
To investigate human and animals’ risk to mosquito-borne infections, a PhD student from Murdoch University, Ashleigh Peck, will be conducting mosquito trappings around Perth’s urban and peri-urban areas. This study will include the collection of mosquitoes from various locations (including Bibra Lakes), which will be identified to a species level, and potential infectious diseases will be identified through biomedical techniques. This student has found, through published literature, that different mosquito species have varying potentials to transmit various diseases. However, minimal investigation has been collected on Western Australian mosquitoes. This study will allow them to expand on current knowledge of disease transmission, which may help with future mosquito management programs to increase understanding and reduce disease transmission.”
What's that contraption?
When you visit the Centre next, you may notice some gizmos up on the roof of the centre and on the nursery. If you're wondering what's up... well, there is an exciting new project underway! We've installed micro weather stations around the centre to monitor wind speed, wind direction, temperature, relative humidity, rainfall and pressure. This setup will utilise the latest in IoT (Internet of Things) technology and state-of-the-art sensors in getting accurate, real-time weather data. These automatic weather stations are fully autonomous and use mobile networks to feed into an online system that will be accessible remotely through phones and computers to manage our nursery and irrigation systems more efficiently. This system, however, has a lot more potential than just nursery management, and we plan to open it up to future partners and researchers interested in running landcare and environmental projects around the Centre.
Caution: Work in Progress
The Centre's sturdy old main building has stood the test of time—nearly 30 years in service. It has hosted our community all this time and has been such a familiar setting... to so many of us who come down to this beautiful place every now and then, it almost brings about a sense of coming home. Now, it is time to renovate! In the coming weeks (very shortly), capital works will begin at the Centre, which, in tune with our newly extended buildings, will be modern, innovative and ready to take on the next 30 years and more! We are pretty excited to see some fresh ideas take shape and reform this space into something more than just an environmental centre. We're starting with the flooring and layouts. There will be a new kitchen too!
Once completed, we aim to turn every visit to the Centre into an experience—of nature, of learning, of culture, of connectedness and of belonging!
We do not want to see our old kitchen cabinets and fixtures turn into rubble. If you are interested in reutilizing some of our decent cupboards and cabinets, drop us an email or walk into the Centre and ask us to show you what we have. But this offer won't last too long, so please let us know at the earliest.
Please note that access to the Centre will be limited due to the ongoing capital works. Due to construction hazards and the risk of exposure to undiscovered or potentially present contaminants such as asbestos, Centre operations will be running at limited capacity. Although certain sections will be open, we request that you schedule any visits or bookings well in advance to avoid disappointment. The works are expected to begin mid-June and last until mid to late August 2022.
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