Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mud Puddings for Everyone! Have A Happy Muddy Christmas

Mud pies. Mud puddings. Mud chocolates. Mud ice-creams.

These are all things I made during my Christmas holidays. And now I play with mud for work.

With an unusually wet and cool summer in Australia, it is a great opportunity to get kids outside and into the mud!

Getting kids to play with dirt isn't just about getting covered with mud (and poor Mum/Dad having to clean them up after). They are actually learning a lot about soil and environmental science.

Soil Texture
Let them mix with their hands! Feeling the mud in their hands is exactly how a soil scientist works out the texture of the soil. The texture helps us to understand how much gravel, clay, sand, silt and loam makes up a soil.

If you ask your kids to decorate your mud surprise, they will probably run straight back into the yard. They will scavenge for cool nuts, berries, fruits and leaves. They will learn about where different leaves and fruits come from, and at what time of the year they can find them.

Soil hydrology/water
Most kids will get a bucket of dirt and add water when making their Mud Kitchen treats. How much water the soil can hold is all about soil physics and soil water holding properties. If they get two different soils for two different cakes, they can compare the difference!

Soil is important for life
Whilst they are busy digging up the yard, they will notice grass, trees and all sorts of plants growing in the dirt. Maybe they will even find a worm or two. Noticing that things are growing in the soil will help them to understand where food and fibre comes from and how important soil is in our lives.

Convinced that playing with mud can help learning?!?! 

Why not make them a Mud Kitchen! 

You can stock your kids Mud-Pie kitchen with kids gardening gear, your old gardening tools, old containers and kitchen equipment. Just make sure they have a bowl and spoon, or they won't be able to bake mud cakes!

Playing with mud does mean mess. But, soil isn't actually 'dirty'. Simple hygiene (washing hands with soap before eating) is all you need to worry about in Australia. And if you give them old clothes to frolic in, then you don't have to worry about them ruining their new Christmas outfits.

Merry Muddy Christmas!

Thanks to my Mum for letting me get dirty during my school holidays. And thanks to Jane Rawson @ The Conversation for inspiration, following the post 'Off the couch and out the door'. Check it out for other awesome holiday tips!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Strawberry Snatcher

Case: The Strawberry Snatcher

The Problem:
My box-garden is doing much better this year, after some good rain and a new position in the sun! However, I have had some of my foodstuffs stolen by a cheeky animal. Happy to share, but all my baby spinach?!?! I don't think so!

What has gone missing: 
Strawberries, basil and baby spinach

List of suspects:
Snails and Slugs

Investigation #1 - Check for Possums
I covered the pot with netting. Waited for a few days and checked. The basil and baby spinach still went missing. Unlikely to be a possum. 

Investigation #2 - Slugs and Snails
Put out some slug and snail deterrent (stuff that has done the trick before). No use; basil decimated! Decide that a bird is probably after the strawberries, but still not certain about the spinach and basil... 

So I give up and replant my seeds... and hope for the best.

Whilst at home one day... 
... I heard the rustling of leaves from behind my pots. And there the thief was! Caught red-handed was a blue tongue lizard! Mum did always say there were quite partial to a strawberry or two :D

My Mum-in-law also has problems with lizards and Cunningham's Skinks eating her rocket and other salad greens. I am guessing old Blue Tongue here likes basil and spinach too. 

I suppose I will just have to share; plant more and hope he doesn't eat them all! :D

The Case of the Strawberry Snatcher: Solved

Monday, December 5, 2011

Local Soil: Celebrating World Soil Day

We are very lucky in Canberra. I am sure there are very few Capital Cities in the world where you can walk out your back door and straight into a natural environment!

I thought a nice way to celebrate World Soil Day would be to share some photos and a bit of info on the soil and landscape of one of my favourite local walks.

Mt Ainslie is 842m above sea level, and is a popular walk for people who live in the Inner North of Canberra. I live just down the road from Mt Ainslie and try to walk up it (or its sister, Black Mountain) a few times a week.

As a function of routine, I often forget to stop and have a look at the soil on my walk. Today, this has been remedied! I have taken a few photos, stopped and pondered and looked up maps. This is (very roughly) what I found:

Some erosion at the bottom of the walk

Mt Ainslie is fairly steep and rocky, with underlying geology mainly "the Ainslie Volcanics are composed of Dacitic ignimbrite and minor volcaniclastic and argillaceous sediments" (thanks Wikipedia). Most of the soils on Mt Ainslie are shallow, rocky, have weak organisation of peds and few (if any) layers. They are likely to fall into the Great Soil Groups of Lithosols or under the Australian Classification as being Rudosols and Tenosols.

A plant struggles to survive in this rocky environment.

The start of the path up Mt Ainslie may have some Podzols (GSG), aka Chromosols (Australian Classification).

At the bottom of the Mountain, the vegetation is a Eucalypt woodland in a shallow rocky soil.

There is plenty of life in the soil. This ants nest was about 1m wide by 1.5m long!

The vegetation changes as we climb up! Now dominated by Casurina species. 

A healthier looking Tenosol, with some great organic material (Casurina needles) and an A and B horizon.

 A red Tenosol looking a bit washed out after our recent thunderstorms.

The view! I can see Parliament house (on the other side of the lake), the War Memorial and my house!

The view towards Black Mountain.

Soil, soil everywhere!!! Happy World Soil Day, everyone! 

More Info on Mt Ainslie and Canberra Soils:
Or Get Involved with Mt Ainslie Weeders

Friday, December 2, 2011

World Soil Day Celebrations in Canberra

The best day of the year... if you are a soil lover!

The Fenner School, ANU will be holding World Soil Day celebrations on Monday 5th December. 

There will be free morning tea, 'guess the pH' and bolus competitions. We will also be playing soil movies and displaying some latest research. There will even be some research by a Martian Soil Expert! 

The events run between 1030-1130am at the Frank Fenner Building Seminar Room (Linneaus Way, ANU). 

All public, children and adults welcome! 

For more information, please contact Zoe Read: zoe (dot) read (at) anu (dot) edu (dot) au

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Soil Myths #5: Do we need to aerate soil?

Have you ever wondered why you might see heaps of holes in the grass at your local park? You may even see the giant tractors rolling across ovals or through parks with heavy metal rollers with spikes all over them making holes all through the grass. This process of hole-making is to help the soil breathe; known as soil aeration. But does soil need this? And do you need to do this with your own lawn or veggie garden?

Why do we aerate soil?  
Aeration, or pockets of air in the soil, is important for drainage and soil health (biology and nutrient cycling) and root space and plant growth. Mechanical aeration of soil is often used on turf to help with drainage and limiting compaction or to improve plant growth in pasture and other environments (see diagram below).

It is the structure of the soil that counts!
The structure of the soil is what affects aeration. Structure is determined by soil biology, organics, salts and clay, sand, gravel and silt. Healthy soil, with plenty of biology and organics, will be able to make its own pores and breathe itself. Soil that is compacted, has poor soil biology and organics will have less pores, and thus will find it harder to breathe itself.

Is physical aeration of soil really necessary? 
Aeration of the soil might be done with tractors and spikes , through manual turning of vegetable gardens (see other Soil Myth), pitchforks, aeration boots etc. However, the weight of the machine in combination with the pressure of forcing holes into soil could possibly create compaction and disturbance. The disturbance can result in poorer conditions for soil biology and exposure of soil to the elements, and the increased compaction can lead to blocking of soil pores, and overall reducing aeration.

But, with really compacted and manicured lawn (turf, cricket pitches, heavily used parks, and playing fields), it may be essential to mechanically aerate the soil. When soil is as compacted as it needs to be in these places, it is hard for roots and biology to live and create good soil structure. In this case, physically aerating the soil might be helpful. The alternative may be no air or drainage, and flooding of fields.

Gardens, house lawns and veggie patches may be a different matter. As long as we look after our soil, it can take care of itself. Just make sure it has plenty of nutrients and organic matter*, and you will be rewarded with well structured, self-aerating soil!

For more information on mechanical aeration of soil, you can try this search on Google Scholar. Or if you are interested in maintaining natural aeration of soil, try this search.

*Tip - If you want a self-aerating lawn, try adding a good broad-spectrum fertiliser. This will help your soil biology flourish, your soil carbon increase and your structure to improve!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New Soil Videos!

After my recent (brief) post on environmental videos, I have been alerted to the Soil Science Society of Americas 'The Story of Soil'.

Very much looking forward to checking out these videos when I have a bit more time. They look pretty rad!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Interesting, Inspiring and Educational Environmental Videos

Finding inspiring and educational films is so important in training young environmental scientists and managers.

I am teaching Environmental Rehabilitation and Catchment Management this semester at the Canberra Institute of Technology. Quite often, we are unable to go out to sites to look at how things are actually being managed or implemented. This is when I rely on good videos to help teach my students.

Many videos that we have watched this semester, my students (and myself) have found interesting and even inspiring.

Hope in a Changing Climate is my all-time-favourite environmental restoration and rehabilitation film. If you want to be inspired about large-scale, long-term, sustainable change... then this is a must see!

I was delighted to find that the ABC has a great series of videos on the Murray-Darling Basin. We watched several in my class, including those on the views from the farmers, the politicians (both sides), the scientists and environmentalists. A really great educational resource with fantastic divergent views.

Searching on more environmental aspects of the Murray-Darling Basin, I found a Catalyst show called  Fire, Flood and Acid Mud. It is an excellent piece of up-to-date science, and very well communicated. It was most enjoyed (and debated, along with the ABC videos) by the class.

When looking for videos on mining, I was really focusing on finding some practical videos on different methods of mine rehabilitation. And they were quite hard to find*. Because of our geographical location, safety and other concerns, it is hard to get onto minesites and training videos are vital. The Eden Project has a short video on how their china clay pit was transformed into Biodomes. Whilst Barrick Gold discuss some of their rehabilitation practices at Pueblo Viejo mine. I also found an interesting video from Ecuador (via @pezrojizo) on the Yasuni-ITT focusing on alternative investments and initiatives in oil rich country.

*I would love any more fantastic videos people may have on restoration, mining, catchment management and other related topics. And if you know of any good ones, please send them through!

Monday, September 19, 2011

New Forum, New Land: 2011 Land Restoration Forum

What an awesome forum!! There was soil carbon, holistic farming practices, soil properties of shell middens and their significance, ISO 14001 environmental standards and biochar... all new awesome things in the story of land restoration.  

The NSW/ACT branch of Soil Science Australia held the first  Land Restoration Forum at the Fenner School, ANU. The day was packed with many different topics on the land degradation and restoration theme.

Broad topics on the day included... 
Vanessa Wong discussing some of the issues of acid sulphate soils and sea level rise, with particular issues of heavy metal releases. The controversial Sydney Barangaroo development even got a mention by Simon Leake regarding issues of soil nutrient and plant toxicity in its revegetation. Jane Aiken discussed the need to consider ecological frameworks within ISO 14001 environmental standards, including in the restoration of mined landscapes. Truffles and their likes and dislikes for soil properties was a tasty delight from Hannah Selmes. Whilst Roy Lawrie explained understanding soil properties of Indigenous shell middens and its importance in restoration and conservation.

By far, the Hot Topic of the day was soil carbon and sustainable farming...
Zoe Read discussed the potential of scalded soils to hold carbon, and that water-ponding as a remediation tool actually increased carbon contents further! Whilst Helen King presented some of the amazing photos from her fieldwork on understanding soil carbon under different grazing systems.  Martyn Noakes, a farmer from Bredbo, also brought some amazing photos of his farm before and after changing farming practices to more sustainable methods. There was more interest with carbon applications to soil. This included two honours students, Jo Seng and Sarah Hill, discussed their research into biochar applications to soil. Dr John Williams also gave a lecture on the need to think about holistic land management and the interface between soil, water and plants.

I gave a photo-filled talk at the end of the day on creative uses for old mines. Although I have written a technical abstract, you can find my article From Mine to Wine on The Conversation.

A great day was had by all, and some amazing research was presented. Looking forward to the next Land Restoration forum!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Waterfalls, lambs and tors: How I became a Scientist

I was completely delighted with the number of questions I got from the Year 8 science students I chatted with today. They thought about things, asked questions, told me what they were passionate about, were keen to learn... All signs of scientists in the making :D

Three scientists exploring Mt Budawang (photo courtesy of Helen and Vern)

Being asked to come and talk about how I became a scientist and what I study was pretty cool. I remember people who came and talked to my classes when I was the same age, and thinking about how cool they were. I remember the cool biker-Agriculture teacher I had, the scary Deputy Principal geology teacher who loved volcanoes, growing mould, making and distilling our own spirits, rat dissection, lambing, bee keeping... and of course, bush walks and exploration of the local bush!

It was all my teachers and my love for being outside which really helped me to become a scientist. I was inspired by the environment and by how things work. And now I am passionate about finding ways to look after it and restore it.

Here is part of the talk I gave the students today (although, I seem to recall going into a lot more detail and answering way more questions!).

What I think are some of the keys to science success:
* Inspiration
* Passion
* Questioning
* Learning
* Thinking
* Solving problems
and having fun!

I think that Year 8 class has a lot of future scientists!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Soil Restoration Forum

The Soil Science Society of Australia and The Fenner School at ANU are co-hosting a forum on Soil Restoration:

"Restoration of soils for productive landscapes"

16th September 2011 

Soil Forum 9:30am to 4:30pm   Forestry Building (48), ANU
Harald Jensen Lecture (with Dr John Williams) and dinner from 5:30pm   University House, ANU

 For further information, see the Society website

Some paper topics that have already been received:
* Soil carbon in different agricultural systems
* Impact of climate change on inter-tidal soils and zones
* Rethinking mine rehabilitation
* The science of Natural Sequence Farming 
* Biochar
* Truffles and trees

Interested in presenting? You can email Nathan Weber with your abstract. All restoration topics, backgrounds and ideas welcome!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fanciful Fungi #9: South Western Fungi

South Western Australia is amazing! Giant trees. Great food and wine. Strange yabbie-like crustaceans. Parrots and rosellas that try to attack you (both in and outside of cars). Shallow ocean shelf. Quokkas <3. And other general awesomeness.

Like any other amazing bush-holiday, it can't be complete without some amazing fungi!

After staying in Pemberton, we decided to go to Gloucester National Park to look at the Gloucester tree. It is a giant Karri tree with a fire tower at the top. Yes, you can climb it. And no, I didn't. Too scared of heights. Instead, we decided to do a 10km loop through the Karri and Marri forest. And this is where we found some of the most amazing fungus I have ever seen! There were jelly fungus, native truffles, toadstools, pin-head fungi, punks and bracket fungus!

Here are just a few of the amazing haul!

 I really like this fungus and havent seen anything like it around the Eastern states. It is kind of scaly and near flat on the wood, and has a gradient of colour from brown-yellow-white. They aren't very big either, not more than the end of a finger or thumb. I think it is a leathery fungi, but none of my books have given me any clues about its exact name.

I decided to call this one the vomit fungus. On the outside it is brown and white, and has tonnes of yellow spores on the inside. The outside is also somewhat gelatinous and slimy. There were heaps of them on the surface of the walking track, hiding within the litter.  I think it is actually a bolete eater (Hypomyces chrysospermum), which actually parasitises other species. There was alot of coral fungi on the path as well, and it is possible it was taking over their fruiting bodies and the gross slimyness was rotting fungi flesh.

Curry punk (Piptoporus australiensis) is this yellow woody bracket fungus. I really really wanted to see one, and it was actually the first fungus we saw on the walk! :D Although they have the colour of curry, they certainly didn't smell like it.

Angus managed to get a really good shot of these cup fungi; they are no bigger than a pin head! These are the very first Ascomycota I have seen. With whitish-green flesh, I could not find them in any of my books. Love to know what they are.

This jelly fungus is commonly known as Yellow Brain Fungus (Tremella mesenterica). It loves rotting wood as a place to live.

More tiny tiny white mushrooms on rotting burnt logs. I think it is a small umbrella Mycena sp, which like rotting bark, twigs, leaves and logs.

And finally, a rhubarb bolete (Boletellus obscurecoccineus) which was easy to pick with its red cap and yellow under body. It is a fleshy pore fungus, and loves the forests of SW Australia.

Whilst in WA, I also managed to purchase two new books especially written as guides on South Western Australia fungus: 'Fungi of the South-West Forests' which is part of the Bush Books series and the amazing hand painted 'Magical World of Fungi' by Patricia Negus. I particularly recommend the second book; the illustration is beautiful, it has great personal stories and a lot of love and care went into writing the book.

Fanciful Fungi #8: Hide and Seek Fungi @ Square Rock

A long time ago, April actually, five of us went on a fungi hunting adventure in Namadgi National Park. I have been meaning to sort and organise these fungi photos for awhile now, but been super busy with the PhD (getting close to the end), writing for other rad peeps (Thesis Whisperer, PhD2Published, The Conversation, ViewPoint) and the rest of the time I seem to be flopping around the house in a manic-daze.

Thanks to Lynds for this photo of us at Square Rock

Lynds, Lee, Bron, Jola and I all walked to Square Rock and back. It is an easy-moderate walk about 8km long, with plenty of fungi along the trail. Jola was particularily good at spotting them on the ground or hiding under leaves, and Lee found stacks on logs. With so many amazing fungi, I have chosen a few of my favourites to classify.

This beautiful pink funk had slugs all over it munching away. Although its colour doesn't make it look that appetising, it must be for some animals! I believe this one is Fomitopsis lilacinogilva (or related to it), which can be identified from its pink colour. It is found on dead wood, and leaves a cubical rot in the timber after it has died.

I love the tiny fungi you can find on rotting wood. These ones wouldn't be much bigger than my thumbnail! Unfortunately I am unable to work out what they are. Their little bell like shape, and gills as identifying features seems to be missing from my book. Suggestions on their species would be most welcome.

I have always wanted to find a purple fungus! This Cortinarius archeri  is getting a little old, and starting to get a brown tinge on the top. However, they are common in many eucalypt forests around Australia, so keep an eye out for them!

 Another woody bracket fungi, I think. The brown splodges are actually amber coloured water. It is another elusive species missing from my book. Guesses welcome.

Apart from the fungi, the walk had some amazing views and  rock caves and crevices to explore. You could imagine Indigenous Australians camping between the rocks, protected from the sun and rain, and sheltering their fires.

It is starting to get a bit cold in Canberra for fungi, with snow already on the Brindabellas. Probably no more fungi until next year :(

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Just because you have a tea-cosy hat doesn't mean you have to stay there: Thinking about life post-PhD

This week is supposed to be ‘future direction week’.

I am getting closer and closer to the inevitable ‘submission of PhD’ moment, followed by the ‘what the hell am I doing now’ moment. And, I have no idea what I want to do.


 PhD Tea-Cosy Hat

The obvious direction for a PhD student is to stay in research and academia. At the beginning of my PhD I didn’t really see this as being the only career option for me. As time went on and I got into my research, free-thinking and teaching, I thought that it could be quite a nice place to be. Maybe because I am so close to the end, sick of the topic, but I am not entirely sure this is the right path for me.

My experiences with academia have not all been positive, and thinking of working in a different sector seems to be a common story, especially online. Some of the reasons for leaving academia/research, that I have read, include: discrimination and poor resources for women; work loads; lack of human interaction and sense of helping people; no jobs; competition; academic publishing and funding pressures; poor conditions for early career researchers; lack of security; soul destruction etc. Universities in Queensland are also undertaking research on these issues, particularly for early career researchers.

For me, all of these issues come to mind as factors for considering alternatives other than a Post-Doc. I have realised that having a great department, freedom and flexibility doesn’t necessarily equate to awesome, but it almost certainly equates to hard.

As my PhD progresses I find myself swaying towards and against a life as a researcher/academic. Some days I find it idyllic and other days it feels like I am being covered in coal dust. So instead of directing myself towards a particular career path, I thought about what I want in a job:

  • A supervisor/manager that is supportive of ideas/creativity, is flexible in approach, understanding and has good communication skills.
  • Ability to mesh theory and practice
  • Innovation and systems thinking
  • Interdisciplinary and broad approaches encouraged
  • Work with science and people
  • Ability to communicate science in multiple forms/ways
  • Teach and encourage others.
  • Awesome team of people to share ideas and collaborate with.

Pie-in-the-sky, I know! But still, this is what is important to me.

I realised that it doesn’t matter what I do. I could be anything and be happy, as long as I have some of these things. They may be in academia (and almost certainly are), but these things are in other jobs too.

Perhaps I could be a science communicator? Work with NGO’s and communities? Teach high-school science? Work with industry research? Teach and research at a uni? Or open up a brewery-cafe?!?

What do you want when you finish your PhD/Degree?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New Soil Blogs for All!!

Was looking into my Google Analytics and comments streams today, and was pleasantly suprised to find quite a few new soil science blogs to add to my list!

Geodermatophilia which is "A networking resource devoted to biological soil crusts and the researchers who study them."

It's Not Easy Being Green who discusses the environment, gardening and outdoors.

If you are in Perth, Australia, and love gardening and sustainable food production check out Peacetree Permaculture

Or Joe the soil scientist at Theology of Joe.


Very pleased to see more soil blogs! Happy blogging!



Sunday, May 1, 2011

It is rocket science: The complexity of environmental science

I am an:
Soil Scientist
Political Scientist
and nature enthusiast...

Environmental science is an interdisciplinary field, which requires those studying it to know a little bit of everything. There is so much underlying complexity to the earth and how we relate to it, that you need to know a little bit about a lot of stuff.

I know of two ex-astrophysicists whom are now environmental scientists that have even said that the complexity of our field makes them wish they stayed in astrophysics. This was not something I was really expecting an astrophysicist to say.


Environmental scientists are trained to think big and to think small. We need to look at whole systems and how people and environment work together. But we also need to understand fine processes, like how plants are able to utilise soil nutrients.

We need to think about people. Why do they recycle? Why don't they? How do people interact with their environment in Australia versus the High Country tribes of Papua New Guinea? How did Indigenous Australians view our landscape?

We need to consider the use of our environment and current economic structures. How do humans  affect the environment and our economy? How does one affect the other?

To make change, we also have to communicate and teach. This includes education about recycling programs to large scale issues of deforestation and climate change. Explaining the complexity of a situation is often broken down into shorter and simpler formats, leaving out some important interactions or ideas.

Together this means that...

Although questions may seem simple, the answers can be incredibly complex.

There are no incorrect answers in environmental science. With so many varied opinions and research, it creates an overwhelming complexity of ideas. There are many possible solutions and answers to any problem. As soon as you think you have considered everything, one thing may change or a new piece of research comes out that will change your idea and answers. This may be why you see continually changing science on climate change, water management, endangered species and even renewable energy debates. This is the opposite to fields like mathematics or physics, where there is often only one solution to a problem.

Luckily many scientists and other researchers are now coming together and collaborating within environmental science. With experts in discrete fields working to solve problems, we have more opportunity to specialise and also to come up with some creative solutions.

Environmental science is not concrete, it is rapidly adapting and changing to many different fields as we uncover more about the earth and ourselves.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mud Monsters: Soil Sculpture in Soil Science Communication

Two friends of mine, a soil scientist and a designer, have worked together to create a free public sculpture exhibition educating people about Alpine Soil and salt in the High Country of Australia.

"These sculptures are based on research by Richard Hocking about the effects of salt on our alpine bogs and reflect the findings that soils in the bogs hold on to salt as it flows down from the roads.

Viveka’s work focuses on the intersection of creative practice, research and sustainability. She studied at the College of Fine Art and is soon to complete her PhD at ANU.

Materials: Adobe, PVC pipe, garden solar lights

Lakelight Sculptures: Lake Jindabyne, Easter 2011"

If you are around Jindabyne, drop past and have a look at the sculptures. If not, perhaps you have been inspired to make your own soil sculpture!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mining and Environment: A Cross Section of Sources

Everyone  has a different slant on mining, environment and sustainability: whether it be 'no no no' or 'yes yes yes' or even 'yes, but...', you will find them all online.

I read a wide variety of online resources regarding mining and environment. I read ecologist and geologists blogs. I share Twitter conversations with Industry bodies, government officials and NGOs. I keep an eye out on news items from independent and mainstream papers and industry sources. It is fantastic to get a broad range of views, opinions and realities to consider. I thought I would share some of my favourite sources and different opinions/research on mining and the environment from around the world.
Denis Wilson of The Nature of Robertson talks about coal and coal seam gas in his local area. He not only covers some of the ecological and physical changes, but also political-mining connections and the controversy of land uses.

"I will be there to try to stand up for the Rivers, and "Upland Swamps" of the Southern Catchment, and the local farmers whose aquifers are still threatened by the risk of mining by Gujarat NRE (not an immediate threat, but a threat none-the-less). Oh yes, I will be there to stick up for the silent threatened species, especially the Orchids, of course, such as my beloved Kangaloon Sun Orchids from Butler's Swamp, Kangaloon." From Can't Eat Coal, Can't Drink Gas

John Freeman of the American Geophyiscal Union Blogosphere (Terra Central) discusses mining and environment in the USA, including policy issues. His recent blog post on selenium toxicity with phosphate mining may potentially occur in Australia, with phosphate reserves located in Christmas Island, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland.

"At an Idaho phosphate mine, a lack of understanding of mineral weathering leads to selenium
contamination, a major court ruling, and public liability... More about the technical properties and toxicology of selenium is available here." From Mine Reclamation, Disequilibrium, and Selenium Contamination. 

Australian Mining Magazine now has an online newspaper, with a wide variety of mining, environment, political and policy stories. The newspaper has a range of views, including a recent article on the concern of Camberwell residents in the loss of their public common:

"She said losing the common would potentially force her family to move from the land, reducing profitability as a business. Dust would increase and contaminate the dairy’s milk if half the common is used for mining, Maytom said." From Camberwell Residents fight for Common

The New South Wales Minerals Council is always on Twitter and sending out press releases on latest developments regarding policy, politics, environment and land use. A recent speech by Dr Nikki Williams regarding the opening of the Australian Centre for Sustainable Mining Practices has some very good points on mining rehabilitation:

"..sustainability is not merely about restoration, it is about building something new." 

Another of my favourite resources is from the Post Mining Alliance. The Alliance looks at economic, environmental and socially sustainable post-mining landscapes. The book '101 things to do with a hole in the ground' by Georgina Pearman looks at some of the positive outcomes in communities post-mining.

"101 Things to Do with a Hole in the Ground celebrates the incredible range of activities that have transformed old mines into new futures. Colour photographs and brief descriptions take the reader on a world tour of heritage and tourism attractions, wildlife habitats, educational, sport and leisure facilities and dozens of industrial uses - demonstrating that mining legacy can be converted from liability to opportunity and benefits for local communities."

There are many resources available about mining and environment. They all have different angles, facts, and opinions. It is interesting to see the wealth of ideas and interests in this topic available online, and to integrate this into our thinking of resource use and environment.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fanciful Fungi #7: Fungi and Fairy hunting at Bendora Arboretum

Projectgus and myself decided to go for a Sunday walk around Piccadilly Circus in Namadgi National Park. Bendora Arboretum is the only arboretum left in Namadgi after the 2003 bushfires. Walking through the pines reminded me of being a young girl; hunting for fungus in the pine forest near home. The pines from around the world bring some amazing magical fungus.

These awesome light brown caps almost look like delicious Swiss Brown Mushrooms! Unfortunately, I was unable to find this one in my book. Not sure if you can actually eat them!

These two slightly different Basidiomycota are probably Marasmius elegans, brown and orangey in colour, with different stem colours and often found in native and pine forests.

These grey specimens are probably a Tricholoma species, maybe T. virgatum. They are conical and become flat and crack with age. They are also often found in pine forest.

Another of my favourites, the Lactarius deliciosus or Saffron Milk Cap. It is an edible fungus, which is a rich orange colour and vibrant orange dots on the stems. It is known to live along with pines. 

These two specimens are most likely mature dark Agaricus augustus. It is an edible fungi, and can have a unpleasant smell when raw.

This is the second Phlebopus marginatus I have found; the other was at Tidbinbilla. This is a much smaller specimen of the fleshy-pore fungi. The largest on record was 29kg from western Victoria. They are often found in eucalyptus forest and are well loved by flies!

I am very excited to have found this puffball. It is a Lycoperdon perlatum, white and darkening with age. It is often found in leaf litter in forest. Its puffball head can be popped to release the spores. 

I have seen this beauty many times before. Amanita muscaria or Fly Agaric is a toadstool from childhood. They remind me of my childhood; walking through the pine forest near my house and pretending the red and white toadstools were home to fairies.

Not sure what to do with the kids for a day? Take then fungus hunting. They may even find a fairy house!

Happy fungus hunting!