What is a Bioblitz? A BioBlitz is an intense period of biological surveying aiming to record the living species within a designated area.
Some FINIA members might have taken part in the first K’gari Bioblitz in 2016 with John Sinclair. Due to restrictions on K’gari, subsequent Bioblitzes were held at Rainbow Beach, always regarded by John Sinclair as a sister area and part of the same Cooloola Sandmass. One of John’s unrealised ambitions was to see Cooloola National Park added to K’gari on the World Heritage list. The three Bioblitzes held there in 2018, 2019 and 2021 prove biodiversity treasures are waiting to be documented in that unique region.
A group of enthusiastic volunteers took part in the latest BioBlitz based at Rainbow Beach from Friday, May 13 until Sunday, May 15. Groups of scientists, naturalists and volunteers conducted intensive field studies with more than 136 people of all ages involved. As well as documenting the presence of the area’s plants, fungi and animals, another Bioblitz goal is stimulating public interest in biodiversity. This was also successfully achieved at the latest Cooloola BioBlitz with interest from tourists and locals.
The BioBlitz of 2018 based at Rainbow Beach and focussed on sites in Cooloola National Park caused quite a stir in scientific circles when 39 species of spiders, previously undescribed by science, were documented. Sadly in 2020, the BioBlitz had to be cancelled due to COVID 19 restrictions. However, it has come back strongly in 2021 under the guidance of dedicated team Lindy and Randy Orwin. Randy is currently president of Cooloola Coastcare, and Lindy is its project officer.
Along with their dedicated volunteers, the organisers were thrilled to welcome many new participants to this amazing citizen science project. People registered online and met on the Friday afternoon of May 13 at the Rainbow Beach community centre. An afternoon presentation by a new presenter this year, artist Dion Dior, was well attended. Dion ran a course in nature journaling and guided participants in drawing as a tool for making visual records of the species that they observed. This course was so popular that it was booked out within days of being advertised. Shortly before the final cut-off date, organisers were thrilled to announce that all the positions offered for the entire BioBlitz were filled (a fabulous commitment and enthusiasm for citizen science)! People came from Brisbane and further afield to devote their weekend to the cause.
Once they arrived at the venue, volunteers added their names to a list of names for their chosen team leader, with experts in various fields, such as fungi, insects, spiders, or various vegetation types. This year there was also a specialist on ecosystem interconnections. Participants were thrilled to visit the big Blackbutt tree along Pettigrew Road past Milo’s camp with team leader Christopher Deane.
After the day’s activities, participants returned to the Rainbow Beach community centre, where they shared their photographs and observations. This year, many observations were added through the iNaturalist app, which all contribute to science’s understanding of the region’s unique ecology. In addition, there were interesting evening excursions on offer with frog walks and parties going out to listen for rare birds such as the powerful owl and the elusive ground parrot. Fellowship was maintained by supplying dinner to participants in the hall where local cafe Brent’s Burgers offered tasty meals to participants at reasonable prices.
On Saturday evening, those who wanted to pass up the evening adventures stayed at Rainbow Beach Community Centre to hear eminent scientist Don Sands deliver a presentation about the interrelationships between specific insect-pollinators and plants of the Cooloola Sandmass, particularly the boronias. Another presentation added colour with some of the artists who participated in the Wildflower Women 3 exhibition, which ran at Gympie Regional Gallery during 2020. They wore costumes representing the yellow bells of the fens and the yellow pea flowers that are widespread throughout the wildflower fields of the wallum. Finally, Zela Bissett spoke in remembrance of John Sinclair and his unfailing dedication to citizen science.
Lindy Orwin of Cooloola Coastcare felt very thankful after the event, “Thank you to all these citizen scientists at the Cooloola BioBlitz 2021. We had a fantastic weekend. Perfect weather. Great people. Great science. So much learning. Great economic input to the small town of Rainbow Beach. With thanks for the support from a Queensland Government Citizen Science Grant.”
The presenters also had a good time! Joel Fostin, team leader on the Pandanus Dieback investigators, remarked, “Thank you to organisers, volunteers and all who came along. So inspiring!”
Nature illustrator Dion Dior also provided positive feedback, “The Cooloola Bioblitz was an amazing experience. Looking at the environment and its scientific nuances through the eyes of artists and illustrators was an unmatched experience. So beautiful and amazing.”
People are already planning for next year! First-time participant Greg Tasney reported, “I am already looking forward to next year where I will make sure that I stay for the whole weekend, get to more sites, talk to more people and improve my macro photography.”
And, it seems, the discoveries keep on coming. Youthful first-time team leader Ethan Yeoman suggested, “I was very surprised and impressed at the number of spiders we found at Seary’s Creek yesterday. We found 15+ new species, which was very unexpected!”
For all residents of South East Queensland, the BioBlitz on our doorstep is a wonderful opportunity to learn about local biodiversity, get out in nature and make new friends, so put it in your calendar for 2022!
Contributed by Zela Bissett, Fraser Island Defenders Organisation