The week passed in a blink of an eye. Our students, and therefore we, were incredibly busy with their natural resource management field exercise. The students go through a field exercise with all three professors in the three different subjects in order to get experience with research in their fields, and also to give them an idea of what doing directed research in those fields would be like. As the last in the field exercises, the students were somewhat excited about the prospect of the research, and were mostly excited to have the last of their major assignments out of the way.
The natural resource management course primarily focuses on forestry and issues of forest revegetation, invasive plants, and patterns of succession following logging. I had my day off on the first day of their exercise, so while I read my book and re-watched parts of the second season of Downton Abbey (I am pining to watch the third season, and wanted a quiet day), the students went out in the blazing heat to look at canopy cover, tree size, and ground cover. The students returned hot, dehydrated, but euphoric at having experienced a long day in the field.
The next day was astonishingly different, at least in terms of weather. Where it had been hot and dry, by Wednesday it was humid, drizzling or raining, and cool. We tromped around Lake Eacham looking for invasive species. Coffee, the primary species we were looking for, is indeed an invasive plant in this part of the world; it is in a class of invasive species that are allowed to be cultivated domestically and agriculturally, but upon being consumed by animals, may seed other areas, resulting in large “mother” plants that produce baby coffee plants. The presence of these plants may prevent other, endemic species from being able to successfully grow, and even if they sprout, they may be choked out and not be recruited to their adult stage. As a result, our students ran transects into the forest in order to examine weed cover. Fortunately, coffee was not prevalent; the rangers are keeping an eye on it, but are reassured by the lack of the plants at this time.
The rest of the week passed in a blur after the field exercise. The students swung right into working on their reports for the field exercise, and everyone felt a very pleasant sort of tired. I remember coming back from field exercises in Mexico and being exhausted, but also elated by everything that happened. It’s the sort of feeling that affirms the students’ belief in being here, in having chosen to come here, and it’s exciting to see in them (even if, unfortunately, I may not share their enthusiasm). They are coming to love the land, to feel proud of working in it, and it’s a tremendous thing to watch.
The big news for Friday was that, at long last, I applied for my Queensland driver’s license! Because we are here for an entire year, our US driver’s licenses are not sufficient to continue driving, and as a result, I will hold a driver’s license for Queensland. I am really excited to hold a driver’s license in another country, even though I took no tests to earn it.
The major excitement of the week finally came round this weekend, when we all packed up our tents and our things and headed to the Tablelands Folk Festival. Every year, there’s a folk music festival held in Yungaburra, and it seems to attract a small, but exceptional crowd of performers. I volunteered for eight hours over the course of the weekend, which often made it difficult to see performers, but I got to see two groups that I was incredibly excited about. I spent all eight hours working in the children’s part of the festival, where I painted faces. The children were incredibly cute (particularly with their little Aussie accents!), and it was a lot of fun to spend time with them. It was incredibly warm on Saturday, but fortunately we were in a covered tent, so I was able to avoid most of the heat. After I finished my shift with the kids, Ash and I met up and were able to see Grimick, one of the bands that played. They were an incredibly dynamic and talented group, and it was a joy to listen to them. After them, we heard one of my favorite groups, The April Maze, which is a husband and wife duo. The woman plays the cello and sings, and the man plays the guitar and sings. They are such entertaining, wonderful, and enthusiastic performers, and I loved listening to them. The day closed with a fabulous concert by the incredibly talented Lily + King, a duo who plays (between the two of them), the djembe, a snare, a toy piano, a trombone, the upright bass, the guitar, and the tambourine. They were so rousing, and it was a great set to dance to. They were really charismatic, and the day was just completed by getting to hear them play live.
The next day was more of the same; Ashley and I ate a fantastic breakfast at the Whistle Stop Café before we both headed off to volunteer for most of the early afternoon. We listened to some more music in the afternoon (including listening to The April Maze again!) before we finally reconvened with the group and headed back to the centre. It was a fantastic way to spend the weekend, and I’m so thrilled that I got to hear some local music and spend time in town. As for this week, we have two days of class before we head off on our mid-semester break! Adventures lie ahead!