After finishing undergrad, most students are ready for a break. I however, decided to pack myself up and head out to the remote Koonamore Vegetation Reserve just a few days after completing my degree.
During this time, a drop toilet, swag, and bucket of water would be my only amenities, with 40°C temperatures during the day. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I set off for my first graduate volunteering adventure.
Although I have a lot of experience camping and hiking, I was a little hesitant about this trip and the harsh conditions. I won’t lie, it was hard. Working in extreme heat is difficult for everybody. Lots of people suffered from heatstroke, pain, and general exhaustion. By the end of the trip the isolation and heat had made many of us a bit crazy. However it was one of the most rewarding trips I’ve been on, and I am so glad I went.
Koonamore is owned by the University of Adelaide (where I studied), a grazing lease just North of Yunta, SA. The area is characterised by chenopod shrublands, eucalypts and sandy soils. Monitoring work started in 1926, and is now run by the absolute legend, Dr Russ Sinclair. The reserve had been overgrazed to the point of barrenness. This long term project aims to study the regeneration of natural vegetation, the effects of grazing, and the broader ecology of the region. The reserve has been sheep-free for 50 years, and rabbits have been excluded for over 30.
Each year, a team of students and researchers visit study plots to monitor revegetation. In simple terms, this means identifying and measuring each individual plant, so that their progress can be tracked over time. I thoroughly enjoyed having an extended period of time to get to know the species and landscape.
Although sometimes monotonous, work like this is so important in improving our understanding of regeneration and best land management practices. We also spent time patrolling the reserve for any rabbit invaders, and looking at kangaroos outside the exclusion zone.
If you ever get the chance to go to Koonamore, even for a visit, I highly recommend it!