I begin by paying my respects to the Ewamian People, who are graciously hosting BushBlitz 2022 on their lands. For the next week I will be living, sleeping and working in Rungulla National Park, which is a small part of their cultural home. I pay my respects to their past and present elders and acknowledge that this is a special place with many sites that connect them to the land, their cultural memories and the Dreaming.
What an intense first day! We drove 8 hours to get here yesterday from Cairns, so today was our first taste of scientist life. We were up at 6:30 AM, which is dawn in this part of the world. Breakfast was over too soon as we began our safety briefings for working in remote, isolated areas. There is a lot involved in making sure we are kept safe; GPS tracking, routine check-ins, UHF radios and so much more.
After that we were fortunate to have JR, a local Ewamian man, take us to a rocky overhang with evidence of Aboriginal occupation up until contact with white colonists. We saw grinding stones, axes, rock art and hand prints, and even and old digeridoo! JR told us how all these items were left when the site was vacated in a hurry in the last couple hundred years, but occupation on this land goes back many thousands. We then had the honour of walking with these Ewamian men on their country as they searched for lost cultural sites. It was an amazing privilege to be present as at least three sites of cultural importance were rediscovered.
What was also really cool is how we have been getting around Rungulla - helicopter! We went for three flights today, and we are scheduled to for many more! After our morning with JR and his colleagues, we flew to a site where our expeditions mammalogist (mammals), arachnologist (spiders), herpetologist (reptiles and amphibians) and ornithologist (birds) were setting up to camp overnight with traps. I'm deathly afraid of spiders, but I chose to face my fear and asked to work with the arachnologist - and it was fascinating and unnerving at the same time. I managed to spot or catch at least 10 different species in a single site, and I was witness to some truly bizarre capture techniques. I saw a man singing to a spiderweb, in the hopes that his voice vibrations would lure the crawly critter out. When that didn't work a range of odd tools were used, including an electric toothbrush, a back scratcher, a chisel and a ladle. The spider was eventually caught, after many laughs.
I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!