Greetings from North Stradbroke Island (or “Straddie” as the locals call it)! We moved on from Brisbane almost a week ago, but not before we had a few more truly stellar adventures. Following our Fearless Leaders, Carleton professor Annie Bosacker and TA and ’09 Carleton alum Hannah Specht, we braved the Brisbane heat and visited the Mt. Coot-tha Botanical Gardens. See, here’s the thing about this program. The term “lecture” holds just a very loose tie to the typical lectures we're used to. Our outing to the Koala Sanctuary that I wrote about last time was a lecture, and so was our trip to the Botanical Gardens. Our journey through the native and nonnative landscapes inside the Garden were narrated by a University of Queensland professor who was - i've just gotta say it - totally awesome. He even brought his little friend the Banksia Man to help teach us about the importance if fires in Eucalyptus and Banksia environments. We had no qualms with feeling a little bit like we were back in second grade.
We had just one day left in Brisbane and couldn’t possibly leave without seeing the polka dot exhibit at the Queensland Museum of Modern Art (http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2012/01/yayoi-kusama-obiliteration-room/) . Okay, I guess it has a more technical name than that (ahem: The Obliteration Room by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama), but really it’s just polka dots. The rest of the museum was really neat too, but we Carls, along with all the Australian five-year-olds, were mesmerized by the dots.
During our last night in the city, we checked out Brisbane’s nightlife, took the ferry back to our rooms at UQ, and fell asleep one last time to the sound of the cockatoos in the trees outside. As quoted by my dear friend and tripmate Reid McMurry: “I never envisioned myself living in a place where too many parrots was a problem. I never thought I’d have to say, ‘would you stop it with the f***ing parrots?!?’”
And so it was time to move on to the next site. Here’s how this program works: we spend about a week – sometimes two – at something like eight different sites throughout the course of the term. The idea is that this way we’ll be exposed to a wide range of different coastal and noncoastal ecologies, so within the ten week program, we get to spend time in subtropical environments, on rocky shores, in the rainforest, in the semiarid tundra, in the city and on the Great Barrier Reef.
And so, very early in the morning, we traveled by bus and ferry across Moreton Bay to Straddie.
I have to say, this traveling system is one I think I will quite enjoy. Remember those full-day field trips you took in elementary school where you just get to explore and ask lots of questions and learn really cool things? This whole program basically seems like that. Except instead of learning about the tipis of Miwok Native Americans, we’re conducting our own research projects.
We’re staying at the Moreton Bay Research Station, right across the street from the waterfront. And so we wake up, have a delicious, authentic Australian breakfast (which usually consists of the typical fried eggs, toast, and bacon, with the added twist of either beans in Spaghetti-O sauce or spaghetti in Spaghetti-O sauce), watch dolphins play in the water about 50 meters away (!!!), perhaps have a lecture or two on the local ecology, and then get together with our group and take off to do research in the field. For our first research project, my group and I took a quick two days to study the feeding habits of Mangrove crabs that have a sexually dimorphic claw and crabs that don’t. We learned very quickly that we as Minnesotans know NOTHING about high and low tide. The first time we got out to the field, we were surprised to find that the entire research site that we’d comfortably walked through the day before was under about a meter of water and locals were boogie boarding.
And so, once the tide receded, we observed.
We became bleary-eyed from looking at crabs for so long.
And so we took a short break to make a David Attenborough-style film.
We’re here for another three days, and then we’ll be without internet for a couple weeks when we’re exploring Lamington Plateau (the rainforest) and Carnarvon Gorge (eucalyptus forest).
So internet or no internet, we will forge ahead!
In a land where jellyfish, sharks, even the seashells can kill you, we are intrepid warriors.
So long for now!