AUSTRALIA PROJECT: TASMANIAN WILDLIFE AND WILDERNESS
The Tasmania project provides a unique opportunity to engage with one of the most remarkable island ecosystems on the planet. It is a place often described in superlatives: spectacular, magnificent, striking, and one of the last regions in the world to contain areas which may be deemed as “true wilderness”. Indeed, “Tassie” is a special place on earth.
Tasmania’s diversity is as staggering as it is contrasting. It offers glaciated alpine landscapes with volcanic dolerite peaks to deep limestone cave systems; towering ancient rainforests with the world’s tallest tasmania coastlingflowering plants to native grasslands, meadowlands, grass marshes and heathlands; storm-battered mountains in the southwest to serene stretches of sandy beaches in the northeast; pristine waters and wilderness to valleys ravaged by overzealous industry; and abundant wildlife ranging from charismatic penguins to the enigmatic yet threatened Tasmanian Devil.
The polarity extends to the human and social arena: the region has a rich colonial history marked by convict settlements and ruins, but which equally tell a story of Aboriginal displacement and annihilation, with only fragments of fading language and culture remaining. Nowadays, we also find a Tasmania divided along the lines of those who pride who themselves on their ‘green’ lifestyles, and those who remain staunchly pro-industry which, in the case of the logging of old-growth forests, continues to fuel emotive public debate and political controversy.
We will embark on a hands-on exploration of the wonders Tasmania has to offer. Our journeys will take us from the coastal islands adjacent to the capital city of Hobart to the inland mountains of some of the Tasmania’s famed wilderness areas. This provides us with a unique opportunity to immerse ourselves in the region’s ecology, and to learn research methodologies that will enable us to practice a range of field observation skills and flora and fauna surveys. Field studies may range from coastline monitoring of seashells and shorebirds to mountain geology and forest dynamics. We will become familiar with some of the iconic wildlife, their behavior and their interactions with each other and the ecosystem. In particular, we will work alongside biologists who endeavor to save the Tasmania Devil. We will discuss the merits, impacts and controversies surrounding the translocation of endangered species and the eradication of invasive species.
We will explore Tasmania’s vitally important production landscapes. The fertile volcanic soils support a range of agriculture and the cold temperate waters allow commercial fishing and aquaculture to flourish. We will seek to understand the long-standing feud between conservationists and foresters on the island and the trade-offs between economy and ecology. We will also identify where synergies may be found – such as in the case of a hunting lobby which may support conservation agendas. We will examine the impacts of tourist access to pristine and fragile areas as Tasmania asserts itself as a prime growing ecotourism destination. Aboriginal and colonial cultural history, and their combined influence on present-day environment interactions, will be covered in detail.
Throughout our field explorations, we will gain hands-on research experience as we examine conservation issues, land use practices, and management policies that influence Tasmania's future. Our on-site field studies and research projects will allow us to assess opportunities and challenges affecting the quest for resilient social and ecological communities while we interact with like-minded peers, explore new horizons and develop personal passions in the sphere of conservation and sustainability.
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