Greatest Species Discovery in Western Australia in 10 Years
Bush Blitz is a partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities and Earthwatch Australia. The innovative program sends scientists accompanied by teachers and BHP Billiton employees out into the field to record fascinating plants and animals in conservation areas across Australia. This team scours the bush, waterways and even goes underground in the quest to identify and record discoveries.
Bush Blitz started the year in Tasmania and discovered 5 new ‘true bug’ species and a new genus of racing stripe spider. The team of 29 scientists, project staff and BHP Billiton employees, spent ten intensive days in February researching the plant and animal species of this unique corner of Australia.
Most recently, the program returned in June from the wilds of the Kimberley in Western Australia, where five teachers joined Bush Blitz from schools across the country, as part of Bush Blitz TeachLive. This is the second time Earthwatch involved teachers in a Bush Blitz expedition, with more to come through Buh Blitz TeachLive expeditions in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Cassandra Nichols, Director of Programs for Earthwatch Australia felt the program was an outstanding success. “The excitement of the teachers has been inconceivable, and they’re passing that enthusiasm for nature straight back to their students, through blogs, communication forums and Skype.”
Four new species discovered in the Kimberley
The Kimberley team documented a possible new species of rainbow fish, a wolf spider that thinks it’s a water spider, a pseudoscorpion and a butterfly – that is the first new record of a butterfly in Western Australia in 10 years.
These new discoveries will add to the currently known 560,000 native Australian plant and animal species, many of which are not found anywhere else on earth. However it is believed only one-quarter of them has been scientifically documented.
Cars and trucks crossing Pentacost River.
Copyright: Peta Jackson
Taxonomists are in short supply
Dr. Mark Harvey, head of the West Australian Museum’s department of terrestrial zoology, discovered the wolf spider and explains there is a shortage of taxonomists to describe and document all of the new species discovered.
“There has been a steady decline across the country and internationally (of taxonomists) as scientific research has focused on other disciplines,” Dr. Harvey said. “Documenting the many new species of spiders that we have discovered is important to understand where these spiders are found and what their habitat preferences are.”
This goes for the many species Bush Blitz identifies and documents. The research helps our understanding of unknown species and animals across Australia. Since 2010, Bush Blitz has discovered more than 700 new species, including 272 species of true bugs, 130 species of spiders and scorpions, 36 species of bees and 11 species of vascular plants.
Professor David McInnes, CEO of Earthwatch Australia added: “These expeditions are life-changing experiences that transform how participants think about science and biodiversity, as well as adding to the store of scientific knowledge about our unique environment. We are grateful to have a strong partnership with BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities and the Australian Government which enables us to continue this important research across Australia.”
The Team on the Bush Blitz Kimberley Expedition.
Copyright: Bruce Paton
Learn more about the Bush Blitz program, and how you might get involved with one of our teams.