An important initial focus of the Artesian Range science program is to generate a comprehensive inventory of the species present within the sanctuary. To this end, AWC field ecologists have been employing a range of survey techniques (including standard trapping, hair tube surveys, camera trap surveys and track and scat observations). Each survey represents a major logistical challenge as most parts of the sanctuary are accessible only by helicopter, the area is largely unexplored and there are a range of challenges (saltwater crocodiles, tropical insects and extreme heat and humidity!).
AWC ecologists also undertake more than 4000 live trap nights and greater than 5000 camera trap nights each year to measure more than 20 ecological health indicators including:
- The diversity and abundance of key faunal groups such as small to medium sized mammals, seed-eating birds and ground-dwelling reptiles.
- The extent of rainforest patches and fire-induced mortality of white cypress pine (Callitris columellaris).
- The impact of key threatening processes: fire, introduced herbivores, introduced predators and weeds.
Two important scientific research projects are also underway:
- Rosie Hohnen (PhD student at the University of Tasmania) is studying the Artesian Range mammals and how they are impacted by feral cats, fire and feral herbivores. Rosie has completed five two-month sessions of fieldwork in the Artesian Range, collectingexceptional data on the movement and habitat use of the Golden-backed Tree-rat and Wyulda.
- Joey Clarke (Honours student at Charles Darwin University) is studying the endemic Black Grasswren. His project is assessing how grasswren distribution and habitat use respond to fire patterns. Joey has been walking transects through the heavily dissected sandstone areas of Artesian Range to map the grasswren occurrence and vegetation relative to fire patterns. This project is the first to successfully capture and band Black Grasswrens.