Location: Kuranda Rainforest
Upon waking up, the group gathered at the usual breakfast place to start the day with energy. We had mostly the same foods as the day before, including croissants with off-brand Nutella and an Australian cereal called Wheat-bix. Today was going to be a hard day, as not only did we have draining fieldwork during the day but also frog monitoring during the evening. The bus, which we had all to ourselves, came a few minutes early, just like yesterday. We hopped on and, after a roughly ten-minute ride, arrived for the 2nd time at EnviroCare. Our Boomerang-slinging guide from the previous day, Lance, was not there today, to many people’s dismay. Instead, Andrew was there to guide us through the tree-planting process, which was a fair consolation to the loss of our deeply Australian friend. After leaving our stuff in the area where we had lunch, we walked to a treeless area that had once been a cattle grazing area.
Andrew explained the fairly simple tree-planting process (Dig a hole, put the plant in, close the hole, make a bowl for water) and sent us to the surrounding area to plant all the seedlings set up by the EnviroCare group. Tree planting turned out to be fairly rewarding work, and the roughly 45 trees in that area were planted within an hour and a half. We then moved on to watering, which was a complicated process that consisted of filling up a bucket and dumping water on the plants. One of the highlights (for me personally) was seeing all the biodiversity in the top layer of the earth—everything from earthworms to beetle grubs to spiders and even a (highly invasive) Cane Toad. After the planting was done, Andrew took us on a walk through the rainforest and explained its history. It had once been a cow grazing paddock, but EnviroCare reforested it over 15 years and turned it into a home for over 60 bird species, tree-kangaroos, and the highly endangered and endemic Kuranda Tree Frog, which the whole project was based on. Andrew explained several more interesting plants we came across, which I won’t list here because I’d get carried away and write a whole novel.
After a short break for scones and sandwiches, we boarded some of the volunteer’s cars and headed to our 2nd, more remote tree-planting destination. It was 5 minutes car ride away, but we also had a hike through the jungle that led to a small clearing with various saplings laid out in a similar fashion to the first site, only with far less blazing sun and far more cool shadows next to the Barron River. The group split up into a tree-planting squad and a group that cut invasive choker vines. The tree planting group had a similar task as the previous site, only with more roots in the way and a steeper incline. As for the choker vines group, they used shears and other tools to remove invasive vines that were prevalent in the area. After finishing our jobs, we went on another walk through the jungle, once again getting interesting tidbits from Andrew, and then boarded the cars back home. When we got home, we swam in the pool (only for a short while; it was cold) and headed to an early dinner at 6 to prepare for frog monitoring at 7:30. It was a very yummy Asian noodle dish with vegetables and chicken. Once the time came, we met Cathy from EnviroCare and began our night walk through the jungle. The walk was through a railroad track, and we saw faint glimmers from the flash of our headlamps that turned out to be little huntsman spiders! The walk was full of wildlife and sounds, and after a few minutes of walking and hearing a tiny kangaroo in the underbrush, we arrived at our frog monitoring spot. We turned the lights off for 10 minutes and listened for around nine species of frog, and then counted how many of each we heard. This kind of data collection is essential to understanding the habitat and weather preferences of the Kuranda Tree Frog, which is endemic and critically endangered. This made doing this kind of work very rewarding and satisfying, aside from being pretty fun. After the monitoring, we kept walking through the jungle and followed Cathy to a spot where we could possibly see a Kuranda Tree Frog. After following its sound to a bush, we spotted a tiny male frog relaxing on a leaf stalk! It was very exciting to see such a rare and restricted species in the wild, and everyone was excited to get a look at it. We began walking back to our beds and, after seeing an adorable Long-Nosed Bandicoot, made it back to our beds and went to sleep for the night.