Saturday, April 20, 2019

Where Arts meets Science - Part 4

Continuing on from my previous post.....

Day 4 of the Art-science BioBlitz at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve

The Sunday dawned without a cloud in the sky, absolutely gorgeous!

My tree for this final day of the BioBlitz was Tree 3 - 'Mook Mook', Jinibara language for 'Ghost Tree'.

It was very busy around the base of the tree, as it was one of the trees setup for climbing that day.  To get close to the tree, I had to wear a hard hat and keep away from all the noise and activity.   This forced me to look closer at the soil and around the roots, with my drawings focussing on the beautiful fungi sprouting from the strangler fig roots.

The rest of the morning was spent back at BioBlitz HQ working with the other artists.  We were all a bit frantic at this stage, trying to get as much done as possible before it was 'brushes down!' and time to go for the closing ceremony.

We all had a fabulous time, it was a highlight to work with both scientists and like-minded artists.  I feel like I've established some new connections that will enhance my art practice and help me to spread the word about forest conservation and the importance of retaining biodiversity.

The 5 visual diaries were handed over to the Reserve staff, to be scanned and documented, and then put on show at the Reserve until 25 August.

Wearing a hard hat whilst sketching at the base of
Mook Mook,  something different!

Beautiful fungi, captured on toned paper with

My watercolour kit, wet and muddy and well used

The art team at work at BioBlitz HQ - me, Kim, Jono, Jason and Leisa
(left to right around the table).  Paula was out in the forest at the time
this photo was taken.
At the closing ceremony, still working on our diaries!

My favourite drawing from the 4 days of BioBlitz -
the Bat Fly!  AMAZING!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Where Arts meets Science - Part 3

Continuing on from my previous post.....

Day 3 of the Art-science BioBlitz at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve

Saturday's weather was showery and humid but at least it wasn't continually raining, so presented more opportunities to get out into the forest.

My allocated tree for the day was Tree 1 - Gureya, the Jinibara name for 'fig', another beautiful and awe-inspiring strangler fig. 

However, I was keen to spend some time with the Entomologists - Dr Geoff Monteith and Dr Kathy Ebert.  They were doing studies of native dung beetles, collecting specimens around the trees, as well as at different levels up into the canopy.  They were very helpful and knowledgable, keen to share their scientific methodologies and findings with us.  I was able to spend some time examining dung beetle specimens through their microscopes, its amazing the detail and beauty of these little insects that play such a vital role in recycling forest nutrients.

I also went out into the forest with Geoff and Kathy as they checked their insect traps.  I made sure I recorded their activities and insects collected in my visual diary.  I managed to escape the leeches though I noted that Geoff had several hanging off his leg at one stage....!

During the afternoon,  I spent some time at the base of the Gureya tree, sketching the blackbean pods that had fallen within Gureya's dripline.  Due to an approaching storm, I had the tree to myself, its a lovely experience to be sitting on a low stool alone in the forest, with the drizzle of rain filtering through the canopy.  Finally though the thunder and a need to dry my watercolour washes drove me back into BioBlitz HQ to work some more with my gelli plate and paints.

After dinner, Leisa and I returned to BioBlitz HQ to see the insect light traps that Geoff and Kathy had erected.  There were some very interesting looking moths attracted to the lights.   We also enjoyed the song of frogs in the nearby pond.

Dr Kathy Ebert studying and identifying dung beetle specimens

I'm using a magnifier to sketch some of the insect specimens

The view through the magnifier...needless to say I now have one too!
Out with Geoff and Kathy checking the
insect traps.

Nighttime insect light trap.

Next Blog Post:  Day 4 - the final day to record the forest!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Where Art meets Science - Part 2

Continuing on from my previous post.....

Day 2 of the Art-science BioBlitz at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve

Fortunately, the rain eased overnight and was just showery, so we all were able to get out into the forest more and work with the trees.

My tree for Day 2 was Dala (tree 4).  Dala is the Jinibura name for Staghorn, and the tree certainly had quite a few epiphytes that could be seen from the ground.

I spent the morning drawing at the base of the tree.  I also watched Ann Moran and her team doing a plant survey, identifying and counting the plants around the dripline of the tree to establish what sort of species germinate and live there which also reveals bird movements (given their role in spreading seed).

After lunch, it was my turn to 'go up a tree'.   I had the awesome privilege of being hauled up Tree 3 (Mook Mook), the Ghost Tree.  I'm not fond of heights and had some reservations as I went up, but it was so amazing I was quickly distracted from the fact I was dangling at over 40metres up.  Plus I knew I was in the very capable hands of the tree climbers so I could literally sit and relax in my harness.  I took lots of photos but spent most of my 20 minutes up there enjoying the view.

Looking the part....

Hanging on, though I'm actually sitting in a fork of the tree

a Bird's Nest fern halfway up, I stopped for a good look

I couldn't actually see the ground as it was hidden by the canopy
of the rest of the forest, so that made it really easy to ignore how high up I was.

My climbing chaperone Matt climbed up further to get this wonderful photo,
almost makes me giddy looking at it!

Next Blog Post:  Day 3 of the BioBlitz

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Where Art meets Science - Part 1

How long has it been since you were up a tree?  I mean, like REALLY up a tree.  Recently I had the privilege to sit in the canopy of a 48metre strangler fig in the middle of a rainforest.....

It was all part of an art-science BioBlitz at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, which is an island of rainforest in the mountains in the Sunshine Coast hinterland (an hour from my home).  Ok, so they really aren't mountains like some cities have, but in flat coastal Queensland they're pretty impressive.

I was selected to be one of six artists-in-residence for the BioBlitz, held over 4 days.  Five huge Stranger Figs were chosen as our focus of the project.  We worked alongside tree climbers, scientists and lots of like-minded volunteers - a wonderful opportunity for collaboration and 'to look over the shoulder' at science methodologies and discoveries.

My fellow artists and I had a job to do though - each fig had a blank visual diary assigned to it, and our job as artists was to respond creatively in each book to the tree, its surrounds, its biodiversity, and the activity of the BioBlitz.

I've got so much to share with you, I'm going to blog about it in several posts.  I wasn't able to blog during the BioBlitz as I was busy focusing on the job at hand, and enjoying the amazing forest!

Day 1 
On the first day, it rained and rained and rained.  Wonderful because we seriously needed the rain and the fungi scientists were ecstatic.  Not so wonderful as the BioBlitz got off to a slow start due to safety issues. 

I managed to escape into the forest in the afternoon.  My first tree was BarrBarr (Tree 2).   This was a tricky one, involving a log crossing over creek, then through the tangle of forest for 20 metres.  I spent a rewarding couple of hours in the rain, sketching at the base of the tree, before heading back to BioBlitz HQ to use my mini gelli plate to work in my visual diary.

The BioBlitz team

Standing in the rain, checking out the trees on
the first morning.
Leeches were an issue, they kept dropping
from the trees above us!

Misty in the rainforest.  Its the first time I've
walked through a rainforest in the rain - beautiful!
(except for the leeches)

Selfie with BarrBarr

Drawings, watercolour and gelli prints inspired by
looking through a microscope at mosses


A double page spread in the visual diary
using leaves from BarrBarr - gelli prints and drawings

Next Blog post:  Days 2 & 3 of the BioBlitz