I’m the lecturer for ecology
and fauna at the Center for Rainforest Studies here at The School for Field Studies. This is one of many centers of The School for Field Studies where undergraduate students from the
United States can spend an entire semester. They learn about the local environment
here in Australia. They get to know the community and they
get involved in the conservation aspect of this area. Some of my students work on the
Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroo which is an endemic species…very special
iconic species. for this environment and very important
for the community because it it takes a lot of visitors.
But we don’t know much about this animal and the tree-kangaroos always are very strange animals, I have to say, because they are kangaroos indeed but the tree-kangaroos are different so
they belong to the same group but they’re different. Anatomically they’re
different because they have longer front legs, shorter hind legs…so
they’re designed to climb up the trees so they’re living in
the canopy of our rain forest. The two students I had last year, Wes Hauser and Erin Emmons, they
ventured out to look at the distribution of the Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroo and it was amazing. They just bought up such a nice project with beautiful maps that can tell
us a lot where these animals are. it is my pleasure to introduce to you Erin Emmons and Wesley Hauser. Student Erin Emmons: This red box region that you see is the wet tropics bio region where we were living and where we focused our research. They’re a variety of environmental threats now facing that region due to land clearing for agriculture, logging,
and mining, and as a result the area was declared a
World Heritage Site. Student Wesley Hauser: So now let’s dive right into our research. What did we do while we were there. And to do that to begin, I’m excited to
introduce Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroo. As you can see there it’s very
charismatic. It’s classified as an arboreal… Student Erin Emmons: So, the focus of our Directed Research project was putting Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroo on the map and using distribution patterns and
habitat preferences to predict areas where the Lumholt’z tree-kangaroo could be inhabiting but haven’t yet been identified by surveys. So we were able to use the habitat
features that are most strongly linked to LTK presence to identify predictor variables of where LTKs may be inhabiting but
haven’t yet been identified for future surveys. Student Wesley Hauser: And on that note the really cool thing about our research is that it wasn’t being conducted in a vacuum. There were tons of implications for conservation. This information will help inform
conservation status of the species for the future. And that’ll help determine what types
and levels of protection are instituted to ensure its survival. We were immersed in this culture and in this local community. It was a phenomenal experience and so
for me in particular that local community connection very much influenced my study
abroad experience. The Australian communities that I had talked with about
some of this very pertinent research very much
grabbed a hold of our ideas and get some of these research results into some practical applications. And that very much showed me that what we’re doing is relevant and what
we’re doing is empowering. Student Erin Emmons: It was just incredible to be sitting in the classroom one day learning about some aspect of an ecosystem in the Australian
rain forest and the next day to hop in the van and drive somewhere on the Atherton Tablelands to actually see that in the environment around us but also just in your walk from your
cabin down to breakfast in the morning you got to actually see
the things that you were learning about It was an incredible hands-on visual
experience. Dr. Heise-Pavlov: So they did an amazing job with providing this baseline for future research. And in some areas we
know there’s good habitat but we haven’t got any records from the tree-kangaroo. So this is now the next step with the next students I go there and I see Are tree-kangaroos there? We simply haven’t seen them. There are rarely any people in these areas. If not, what is missing? What factor is
missing? And then we can also translate it into research for the future.