A fitting end to the 2013 ‘Up Close’ events: Bugs n Slugs program educates more than 2000 people in a week!

A fitting end to the 2013 ‘Up Close’ events: Bugs n Slugs program educates more than 2000 people in a week!

Carnivorous snails, one of only four types of social spiders in the world, ground ‘roaches that help turn wood into soil, our rare Red-tailed Black Cockatoo….South East SA and far South West Victoria has it all, and it’s thanks to deadwood and its connection to invertebrates.  The 2013 Biodiversity ‘Up Close’ events ended on a high- and slightly slimy- note on Sunday 23 June with activities celebrating the often forgotten world of Life in the Deadwood at the Mount Gambier Library.

Getting up close to the native Giant Panda Snail from the Gold Coast area

The day ended a massive week for Kris Messenger from Bugs N Slugs,where she took her live insects, snails and other creepy crawlies (yes, that includes a tarantula) and educated more than 2000 (!) students, their teachers and parents across the South East region about this often forgotten world, by having them think like scientists, plus get up close to her amazing collection.

Kris from Bugs n Slugs handing over a stick insect for the kids to hold

70 children, parents and everyone in between came along to the library on the Sunday, and across two sessions learnt how the invertebrates (animals without backbones) we often overlook underpin the variety of life on the planet, making up 99 % of animal diversity, are key in the food webs of practically every living thing,  and the important role deadwood plays in all this. Biodiversity has been shown to increase by up to 80% where deadwood (fallen logs, dead standing trees, etc) is present!

Dr Oisin Sweeney putting life in the deadwood into both a global and local context while the insects look on (can you find at least one stick insect on the branch?)

The first session saw Dr Oisín Sweeney, Habitat Conservation Ecologist with the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources talk about life in the deadwood at a global scale, and the value of invertebrates and their connection to deadwood to all matter of wildlife. This included their important role in helping form the hollows that become homes for some of our more charismatic wildlife such as mammals (bats, gliders, possums) and birds such as the iconic South eastern Red-tailed black cockatoos.

Sustainable, locally grown firewood and local native seedlings care of Peter Feast from Mimosa Farm Trees

Peter Feast from Mimosa Farm Trees (and past winner of the National Tree Farmer of the Year Award for sustainable farming practices), then told his fascinating and pioneering story of converting his treeless paddocks into a farm with more than 10% tree cover. This has led to an increase in production thanks to the paddock pasture now being sheltered and a diversification of income, including the eucalyptus woodlots he grows and sells as sustainable firewood.

Pete told us how easy it is to grow and manage your own woodlot for firewood as well as undertake long term biodiversity plantings. These are both great ways to help ensure habitat for all living things, by directly providing a place to live or find food, or in the case of the woodlots, provide a sustainable alternative to source firewood instead of cutting up deadwood from old paddock trees and native bush that is already performing important functions in that particular area (providing hollows and habitats, making good soil, keeping pests away, pollinate crops and native plants, providing food, etc).

Taking a closer look……

Kris Messenger from Bugs N Slugs  rounded out session one, and then took to the floor for the second session with her impressive collection of creatures, including Giant Panda Snails from the Gold Coast area, the beautiful native Rainbow Scarab Beetle, stick insects galore, spiders, a pregnant scorpion and so much more!

the native Rainbow Scarab Beetle

What a week it was, and what an amazing six months it’s been for the Up Close events. Thank to everyone who got involved and took advantage of exploring, connecting and understanding more about the amazing and unique part of the world we live in.

A big thanks to the following people for your generous support and assistance of the Life in the Deadwood events:  Natasha Dawson, the South East Environment Coordinator; the brilliant Kris from Bugs n Slugs; the wonderful staff at the Mount Gambier Library and the NRM groups from Natural Resources South East.

Making the most of a rare opportunity to get up close to these amazing creatures

Becky McCann