Australia Blog

Australia introduction

From the desk of Professor Chris Walser, Biology Department, The College of Idaho

In just 3 weeks, 13 students (Biology and Environmental Studies majors), two College of Idaho faculty (Dr. Mark Gunderson and I) and Teaching Assistant Emma George (2012 College of Idaho alum, 2010 Australia Expedition participant) will continue the Biology Department’s 50+ year tradition of off-campus field study. Our destination for Winter Term 2013 is Australia—where summer will be in full swing! Described as one of the lowest and flattest continents, Australia is home to many species of plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth! These unique animals and plants will form the basis of our field research. 

The course (Field Biology-BIO 346) begins on January 2, as we depart Boise for Brisbane, Australia. After a few days in the big city (Brisbane), we will travel to Lamington National Park and it is here where students will study tropical rainforest ecology. During our time at Lamington, students will produce (among other activities) their own wildlife documentaries.  The wildlife films will highlight four native and charismatic animals found in the tropics of Australia—including the carpet python, Lamington crayfish, satin bowerbird, and the monitor lizard. The students have been working diligently during Fall Term to create their film scripts and storyboards while learning the ins and outs of the video editing software. We look forward to sharing the making of these films (and the final product!) with The College of Idaho community when we return. Students will also have the opportunity to submit their films for possible entry to the International Wildlife Film Festival (Missoula, Mon., May 2013)! 

Upon departing Lamington, we continue our expedition via a half-day train and bus transfer to Fraser Island (home of wild dingoes).  Here students will have the opportunity to explore the many different types of ecosystems found on the island (from mangrove forest to freshwater lake to sand dunes).  

The final leg of our adventure includes a 10-day visit to the Heron Island Research Station (Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef).  Home to thousands of seabirds, nesting sea turtles, and hundreds of fish and coral species—Heron Island is a field biologist’s DREAM.  I can think of no other place better suited for studying marine ecology than Heron Island.  In addition to attending lectures, keeping a detailed field journal, and participating in group field activities (YES—this does include snorkeling), students must design and carry-out their own field-based research project. It is my hope (actually, it is a course requirement) that students present their Heron Island research at The College of Idaho’s Student Research Conference in April 2013.

What I have described above is just a small taste of what students will encounter during the 4-week course.  Throughout our travels, we will be posting journal accounts, photos, and video via this blog.  I hope you can find the time to follow us as we explore a truly magical and beautiful place!

Until we report from the Southern Hemisphere, I leave you with some photos, video, etc. from previous Australia courses, and visit www.collegeofidaho.edu/australia for more information about our Australia Expedition!  

Best,

Professor Walser

NPR reports on The College of Idaho (then Albertson College of Idaho) 2006 Australia Expedition

Wildlife Documentaries, 2010 Australia Expedition

Photo Galleries