Future ecosystem scientists get hands-on in the tropics

In July this year, 16 students from Carey Baptist Grammar School in Melbourne left their science classrooms far behind and journeyed to far north Queensland’s Daintree region for some hands-on ecosystem science.

The high school students travelled to the FNQ Rainforest SuperSite, which is part of TERN’s Australian SuperSite Network, and participated in the collection of a range of data designed to profile rainforest structure, the growth rates of rainforest tree species, the species composition of bird populations in the rainforest, and the distribution and abundance of fungi.

They used the specialist infrastructure available at the Daintree Rainforest Observatory, including the canopy crane.

The data they collected will not only be used for completing school assignments, but will also be added to the greater collection of data for the site through the Australian SuperSite Network data portal. Ecologist David Tucker of Queensland University of Technology assisted the students during their field work.

‘What the students are doing is really important for ecosystem science. Even though they mightn’t have formal training, they are scientists: citizen scientists. The work they are doing can be replicated by other researchers to further understand the complexity of the rainforest,’ David says.

The motivation and passion shown by the students towards their work is an encouraging sign for the future of ecosystem science in Australia.

‘I felt like I was doing something important that’s going to be helpful to other people, to other sciences in the future, and especially for this area, the Daintree Rainforest, a very important area for Australia. I felt like I was doing something really helpful and it felt really good,’ says Isabella Nicholas, a Year 11 student.

Classmate Gabrielle Kloppers says: ‘Not only was it an incredible experience, but also one which will be very beneficial to the world we live in. Through the measurements we did … we will have more information about how to combat climate change, making this trip truly worthwhile in the long run. In the short term, it was an amazing opportunity for us as students and world citizens.’

The students are already planning their next trip to FNQ to finish their project and also to squeeze in some investigations of the Great Barrier Reef. If the inquisitive, committed and eloquent students of Carey Baptist Grammar School are Australia’s future scientists, we should all feel enthused and confident we’re in good hands.

*video no longer available


Parts of this article were adapted from Inspiring Australia and from a Carey Baptist Grammar School newsletter.

Published in TERN newsletter November 2013

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