Earlier this year, the Quoll Society of Australia and a group of intrepid volunteers took to the tracks at O’Reillys in Lamington National Park to set wildlife cameras for the endangered spotted-tailed quoll. 

This is the official record of the almost 20-kilometre trek my brother and I did with the Quoll Society over the Summer holidays... I fancifully liken it to Shackleton's epic arctic expedition; heroic struggles against the odds in the name of science. I mean, what else would you call endless mud, a few leeches, treacherous creek crossings (resulting in sodden feet), sheer drops and fallen trees? This was certainly my view before going, as I'm not known for my love of hiking. But I can honestly say that despite this being the most challenging physical activity I've probably ever done, it was so rewarding both personally and to see a scientific process such as this in action, and appreciate what goes into these conservation endeavours. Plus, the endless waterfalls, mountain vistas, Giant Antarctic Beech trees, Blue Crayfish spotting’s and other amazing scenery made up for the hardships. I was talking to Emily, one of the scientists, and she said this was an easy field day! Often, she has to go out geo-tagging or such alone in areas with no paths, maps or signs, and has to rely on GPS and her knowledge of topography maps to not get lost.

The aim was to deploy 20-30 motion-activated cameras along the two tracks, which meant laying a grid over the map for even coverage of the area, then finding suitable sites in each grid. There couldn't be too much vegetation around that would activate the cameras, so a plain solid background was best. Then, motion-activated cameras were tied to a tree facing a bait holder containing a chicken drumstick laced with a splash of tuna oil. These cameras remain in place for about six weeks before they get collected (via a second trek) and the hours of images are analysed for signs of quolls. To paraphrase the official blurb 'Hopefully the surveys will show that the remote parts of Lamington National Park are one of the last places that the imperilled spotted-tailed quoll, which is the largest marsupial carnivore on mainland Australia, is still persisting in South East Queensland. The results of the surveys will be used by the Quoll Society team and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service to inform future conservation management strategies to ensure quolls are around for future generations to enjoy.'

It may seem like two or three scientists could have done this work, but the truth is the equipment is so heavy- I had to move one of the full backpacks up the path and it was at least 20-kilograms!

So even if we were just glorified packhorses, it shows that volunteers can be necessary in this type of endeavour, and my brother and I will forever remember this day and are proud to have been involved. 

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