Almost done

Well after spending the last month in national parks, visiting a cattle ranch station, and spending an amazing week at Heron Island, our adventures of the semester are coming to an end. We finally arrived back in Brisbane at midnight on Wednesday, and got up the next morning to dive straight into finals.

However, before we talk about how sad we are that our time in Australia is over, we’ll tell you a little bit about the past monthh. Sorry again for not posting in so long, but our internet connection was virtually non existent since we left Brisbane homestays. We started by traveling to Lamington National Park. The fact that it is a rainforest was made very evident to us almost every day by the fact that it did not stop raining (and there was an unfortunate abundance of ground leeches!). We slept in safari tents with many spiders, bush turkeys, and even a carpet python. While at Lamington, we also got to go on a bunch of beautiful hikes. The trails were amazing and there was so much to see from Antarctic Beech trees to huge waterfalls. We also completed two projects about resource partitioning within the rainforest ecosystem. There were a couple groups studying spiders, others looking at the partitioning of moss and lichen, and also some research focusing on invertebrates. We also compared the different forest structures found throughout the park from rainforest to eucalypt. On one of the last nights at Binna Burra Lodge, some of us went to the lodge and did some bush dances with other guests staying at the park as well. It seems like Lamington was so long ago, but we all really enjoyed being there.

After we left Lamington, we traveled to Carnarvon Gorge. We got to hike through the gorge on two different days of our stay, and felt like we had traveled back to the time of the dinosaurs due to the vegetation and landscape. Carnarvon was very different from Lamington and we all thoroughly enjoyed our days of 20 km hikes, learning about aboriginal rock art. Two locations along the gorge have giant rock walls covered in hand stencils and rock engravings. During this week we did another set of projects looking at the social organizations of animals. Groups looked at meat ant colonies and also kangaroo groups, exploring behavioral and social processes. We also completed a big group project on fire ecology and controlled-burning regimes. For the record, parents- if you are worried we have only been exploring and having fun this semester, be comforted in the knowledge that we have also learned SO much about Australian flora and fauna, management of national and marine parks, conflicts of land ownership within aboriginal communities, policy challenges, and so much more.

One of our last stops was the Kroombit Park Cattle Station. Our bus ride took us through the “outback” and we traveled for many kilometers without seeing any signs of towns or communities. Funny sidenote, our lunch break was in a town called Banana (not kidding!). We felt tlike we were in the middle of nowhere most of the time. At the cattle station we learned about the hardships of agriculture and ranching within Australia, particularly in relation to the current mining industry boom. We also go to experience “real” ranch life by going horseback riding and mustering goats. For some of us, this was the first time horseback riding and overall we had a fun, yet bizarre experience.  We also had the chance to ride a mechanical bull…. or at least try! 🙂

Our final stop and major highlight of the semester was our week at Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef. Everyone had been anxiously awaiting this week throught the rest of the semester, and it really did live up to all of our expectations. Not only did our caterer, Maggie, spoil us with tons of food and dessert at meal times and also morning and afternoon tea/snack time, but we had two incredible researchers with which to work, Jimmy and Andrew. We spent time exploring the reef flats at low tide, conduting two research projects on substrate and species diversity and also a specific fish species’ impact on the coral reefs, and got to snorkel at least once every single day. We also got to go on a night snorkel in the harbor! The wildlife we experienced during this time was unbelievable, ranging from lemon sharks and blacktip reef sharks, to a variety of rays species, TONS of colorful and unique fish, and even giant loggerhead turtles! Our group was even lucky enough to witness turtle nest erruptions. I don’t think anyone will forget the last week we spent on this beautiful coral cay!

Yesterday afternoon we completed our last final exams and had a goodbye dinner at the Joyful Chinese Restuarant by our hotel. It seems so long ago that we were saying goodbye to our friends and families and leaving for four months study abroad. Through all our experiences, we have truly come together as a group and made many new friends and memories. While we are all very excited to return home and begin our next summer adventures, it is hard to say goodbye and end this chapter of our college lives.


As this is our final post, we would like to thank you all for patiently awaiting these blogs, reading them, and responding to us while we were away. It has been fun for us to share our trip and experiences with you and feel a little more connected to home.


~The 2012 Aussie Crew


Quick hello!

Sorry for the delay! We are going to try to get a full update posted soon, but wanted to send a quick hello and let you all know that everything is going well.

We had a rainy week in Lamington (ground leeches GALORE!), some epic hiking in Carnarvon, and an absolutely gorgeous week of snorkeling (so far) in Heron!

Stories and pictures still to come 🙂


(Can’t believe the semester is almost over!)


In the last post, I failed to mention that we also had a wonderful barbecue at Paul and Ann Marie’s apartment and also attended a rugby match one night in Brisbane! Enjoy the photos!!


Riding the ferry to Stradbroke Island

Soldiers crabs on the mud flats.

Laura and Carly

Didi and Erin exploring Stradey

Anna Linn and Hilary in some mangroves

Hiking the young sand dune!

Katie and Kehan at the top!

Emily lining up a transect line for her research project.

Sophie checking out her quadrat

Eric, Julia, and Justine at Pt. Lookout


Katie jumping off a branch at Brown Lake

Chillin' at Cylinder Beach

Ready for Night Games!

Paul and Skiba at the barbie

Scavenger Hunt Fun

Queensland Reds vs. South Africa Storms Rugby Game

Radike Samo


After over two weeks in Brisbane and at home stays, we are getting ready to move to another new location!

We began with a four day stay on Stradbroke Island at the Moreton Bay Research Station. We had several different lectures on Sand Island Hydrology, Mangrove Forests and Marine Life in the Moreton Bay area, before conducting our own independent research projects. Within a two day period, we divided into six different groups, formed and created experiment topics, collected and analyzed data, and prepared powerpoint presentations! We had an interesting variety of topics- some examples include looking at the plankton abundance and diversity in two locations along the coast, analyzing water quality and its affect on plant diversity, exploring crab abundance in different mangrove environments, and looking at the effect of human-made disturbances on intertidal species.

We also visited Point Lookout and walked along the coast while on Stradey, even spotting some dolphins along the way! Our guide, Rob, also took us on an adventurous hike up the side of a young sand dune. It was quite steep and challenging to navigate, so a couple people chose to run and/or slide back down (they had bruises and scrapes to prove it!). The final stop on our island tour was Brown Lake, where the water was actually brown due to decaying matter, and had a quick swim.

On our last day we took the bus to Cylinder Beach and had a beautifully sunny day relaxing on the beach.  In celebration of Easter (and Hilary’s birthday!), there was a also fair in town where we went to watch fireworks after dinner, before finishing off our stay with night games back at the station!

Easter Sunday we checked out of our accommodations and took the ferry back to the mainland, and met with our home stay families at Griffith University. We have spent two full weeks with our host-families and have had a variety of experiences! Throughout these two weeks, we have taken the Brisbane public transportation to Central Queensland University in the CBD of Brisbane, and have also had lectures at Queensland University. During our free days, we have had an elaborate photo scavenger hunt, some people have gone to the beaches on the Gold Coast, and we have all spent a significant amount of time in the city center, checking out the shops on Queenstreet and going to the human-made beach on South Bank.

After tomorrow, we are heading to the Binna Burra Lodge in Lamington National Park and the Takarakka Bush Resort in Carnarvon Gorge. At both locations we will be staying in “Safari Tents” and spending a lot of time doing field studies and research on nocturnal vertebrates, the Australian rainforests, avian and mammal social behavior, fire regimes in the eucalypt forests, aboriginal art and natural resources, and much, much more. We are also going to be staying at Kroombit Cattle Station for a couple of days!  Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that we will have internet access during the next several weeks. As usual, we will be sure to keep you updated as soon as we can! 🙂

G’ Day Mates!

           Sorry you haven’t heard from us in awhile, but let me catch you up on what we’ve been doing. After everyone making it safely back from their independent travels, we all met up in Canberra the Capitol city of Australia. It was fun getting to hear about everyone’s adventures they had. We had groups travel through Tasmania and New Zealand along with others who explored Melbourne, Sydney, and Canberra. The group was happy to be reunited and start out on our journey again. The first day back together we went and saw the National Museum of Australia. Here we learned a lot about the aboriginal culture and the first aboriginals to live in Australia. The museum had a lot of historical artifacts and a wide range of diversity in the different groups living in Australia many years ago. It also gave a good representation of how the land was used both by the aboriginals and the Europeans. It’s interesting to see how much the aboriginal culture gives back to the land and how well they use their resources completely compared to the European style of living. Today was a good first day back together, and a good start to our week in Canberra in getting to understand the history of their country. It was Ian’s 21st birthday, so we sang and celebrated that night. Unfortunately we had midterms coming up, so many of our nights in Canberra were spent studying and preparing for our midterms. The following day we went to the Australian War Memorial. We were guided through some of the main war events Australia was involved in, and told about their take on war. Australia as a country never seemed to want to start wars, but as being a part of Britain for so long they tended to join forces with them as soon as Britain entered a war. Another interesting fact was that from the very start of becoming a federation in 1901, Australia seemed to be involved in some sort of war. Some of us found it really difficult to see the war memorial, and all the deaths and fighting that’s occurred over the years. Looking back on this part of our trip, I think it has been one of the harder places we’ve visited emotionally, but I think it was good to see. On our third day we got to visit the parliament. Everyone put on nice clothes, and we hopped onto the bus not really knowing what to expect. Once we got their and after going through security we were given a tour. Their new parliament was recently built, and much of how it’s built has meaning to some aspect of their country from culture to nature. Like the United States they have a bicameral system, but one major difference is the way they are seated in the house and senate. In the United States the representatives are seated by district where as in Australia you sit by your party. We found this most interesting during questioning. When in session they have something called questioning that allows the prime minister, and other members of parliament to be asked questions on the spot and than respond. When sitting in on this it was hilarious, because the party in power sits on one side and facing them on the other side is the opposition. The opposition will ask the prime minister or some other member a question, and when they go up to respond the opposition would make noises and yell at the person talking. Some people even ended up getting kicked out, but we found out that it happens quite often during questioning. After questioning we headed back to the yha to have some group discussions, and start studying again. The following day we had lectures in the morning that had a lot to do with their past history of war, the economy, and the European colonization. That afternoon we went to a panel discussion where we heard four different individuals talk about their work with the environment, government, and teaching. We left the next day (March 15th) for Sydney. Much of our time spent in Canberra had a lot to do with the government and history of their country as well as learning about their economy and how the government is involved in environmental issues. 
       Coming into Sydney we saw the opera house and the huge Sydney bridge. Everyone was really excited to spend some time in Sydney. Once we got checked into our rooms, we went on a Rocks Dreaming tour. The tour was given by an aboriginal women, explaining the history of aboriginals of the Sydney area. Sydney was the first place the Europeans settled after Captain Cook arrived in 1877. She told us about the Cadigal people living in the area, and how they saw the Europeans. She said it is as if we saw aliens landing in our homes. They had no idea who these people were, and they weren’t able to communicate with them. She also explained the role of the men and women of the clan, and told us a lot about their culture. While on the tour, we saw places in the Sydney harbor area that represented the aboriginal culture. Many neighborhoods in Sydney still have aboriginal street names. The aboriginal culture as well as the people are a big part of the history of Sydney. After the tour we had a chance to explore Sydney some more around the harbor, but many of us returned to the yha to study for midterms. The following day we took our first two midterms in the morning and afternoon. It was a lot of writing, and everyone’s hand hurt. We didn’t know how we were going to be able to write two more tests. That night everyone just relaxed, and we celebrated Justine’s 20th birthday. The following day was our study day. Many of us decided to study for awhile and go to a market. Lyla and Emily came back with some really cool Egyptian looking pants from the market. While we were out taking a little study break we saw all the people celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Everyone was dressed in green with beads and hats. It was really cool to see. The rest of the night was spent studying knowing we had two more midterms the following day. Waking up the next morning, no one wanted to take two more tests, but we did and we all survived except our hands maybe. That night we had a free night, so we all decided we wanted to go out and check out Sydney and the night life. It was fun walking around and seeing all the people out. Some places we’re still celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, but I guess it was St. Patricks Day in some places like back home for us. The next day we had lectures in the morning about the aboriginals in a contemporary society. Afterwards we went to the Australian museum where we saw aboriginal history. We also saw some artifacts, learned about their past to some more present day issues, and saw an exhibit where we learned a ton about the western and Torres Strait Islander aboriginals. Once the tour was finished we were allowed to explore the other parts of the museum. We saw huge dinosaurs that were once apart of the land, and many other animals that have gone extinct. Not only that but there was a part of the museum with crystals and stuffed animals of Australia. Many of these animals we’ve learned about and have seen out in the field. This evening we had a free day, so many of us walked around Sydney by the opera house and the botanical gardens. The next morning we woke up to have lectures about the dreamtime. These lectures are really interesting, because it explains the stories of the aboriginals ancestries, where they come from, how they view the land, and they tell stories of the past, present, and future. This afternoon we went to the art gallery of new south wales. At the gallery we learned about art centers where aboriginals go to paint and do art work. You can tell where the work is from depending on what type of technique they used. The artwork was amazing, and each painting had a significance and purpose for why it was done. The next day we left Sydney to go to lands edge, but before we stopped there we went to Royal National Park. Pretty sure they sent us the smallest bus possible to put all of our stuff in. It was quite a task and the entire bus was full. This was Australia’s first national park, and they were the second country to have a national park after the United States. We had a guide named Andy who led us through the park. He was awesome and loved having us as a group. We canoed through the park seeing the trees and wildlife. We got to a spring where almost everyone went swimming and exploring farther down where the canoes couldn’t go. We canoed back to the main area and had a barbecue. During lunch we all tried to throw a spear. It was actually a lot harder than it looked and most of our spears didn’t make it to far. We drove through the park to a different area where there was a small waterfall and beach. We relaxed here for awhile swimming and enjoying the beautiful weather. Afterwards we took a hike through the forest up to a look out spot over the area and the ocean. Finally once our day was finished at the park we headed to lands edge. 
     The first day at lands edge an aboriginal man came and talked to us about his culture. He brought with spears, boomerangs, rope, baskets, and furs, along with some different types of plants. After explaining how they used the materials, we all got to make bracelets. Than we had the chance to try to throw the boomerang. We headed down to a wide area of the park where he demonstrated how to throw the returning boomerang. Everyone was a little nervous to throw them, because we were all standing there as well as some older couples sitting at a picnic table. We all took turns throwing it. Even after David W. hit a mans foot we continued to throw it. Everyone tried and some succeeded, but we had some pretty good laughs while attempting. That afternoon we got to go snorkeling and saw sea horses and many barnacles. Some people were even lucky enough to see a sting ray. At night we were able to watch some movies including finding nemo and cool runnings.The following two days we did volunteer work at Middle Head National Park either excavating an 1870’s military tunnel or restoring the bush land (pulling weeds). The first day though we got to work with an aboriginal ranger who told us about where he comes from and the ways they use the land. At the end he let us try and throw spears and boomerangs at moving wooden kangaroos and roosters. It was hilarious because most of the time we didn’t really hit either one. The second day of working the boys were determined to try to finish excavating the tunnel. They had high hopes, but it couldn’t quite get finished although the group that worked on the tunnel did a really good job. The other group pulled weeds for most of the day, but got lucky enough to go watch a music video being filmed in the park. None of us knew who the singer was, but it was cool to watch. After eating lunch a man named Gordon who is a famous aboriginal artist showed us some of his work, and told us about how he became a painter. We went to a small house and saw tons of his art pieces along with a few others. Right before we left there was a birthday party taking place at the house next door. The dad invited us over to go sing to his 5yr old son. We talked with the parents for awhile, told them what we were doing, and why we were in Australia. Right before we started to sing a women told us that at the end of their happy birthday song you say hip hip hurry hip hip hurry. Good thing she warned us otherwise none of us would’ve sang that part. After singing they even gave us cake. They were really welcoming and loved talking to us. Once we walked backed to lands edge we hit the beach, because it was a really nice day outside. Some people were brave enough to go to the nude beach up the road a ways. When they returned they said it was just a bunch of older men. Tonight was our last night at lands edge, and we all went out to eat. Some went to a thai restaurant while others had pizza, but both were really good. That night everyone started packing up again knowing we were going to be leaving in the morning. Getting up the next day everyone was looking forward to our first full free day in Sydney. We all had plans to go out on a catamaran. Arriving back at the yha everyone got there stuff had some lunch, and we headed down to darling harbor. We boarded dreamtime girl and set out around the harbors seeing the opera house, bridge, and botanical gardens. Everyone was having a good time talking, dancing, and singing. They stopped the catamaran by a small beach where we were able to jump out and swim. Us swimming turned into a game of 500 on the beach. Once we were done swimming we continued to cruise around and started grilling food. We were on the catamaran for four hours. That evening almost the entire group had tickets to go see the movie the hunger games. Most of the group is reading the book or has read it during the trip, so they decided it’d be fun to see the movie. The rest of the group that didn’t go hung out at the yha. The next morning we had a discussion and than a panel group came into talk to us about sustainability. This turned out to be really interesting in understanding how sustainable businesses are or other companies, and what’s taught in universities about sustainability. As a group we had tons of questions to ask wondering about many different aspects of sustainability. That afternoon we had a free day. Some people went out exploring the city of Sydney from walking around, to shopping, to going to the harbor. Others ended up at Bondi Beach watching surfers and laying out, and some stayed at the yha trying to figure out their independent travels days and how they were going to get to Brisbane. The following day was our last day before break. We took a train out to the Blue Mountains. This is where Charles Darwin once walked exploring the area and specimens. We hiked through the mountains with a guide explaining much of the botany, ecology, and animal life found in the area. It was a really pretty hike seeing waterfalls, valleys, streams, and forests. We even ate lunch under a cave overlooking the mountains and valley. After our hike we heard from an aboriginal man about the culture of the area, and he showed us some spears, shields, leaves, boomerangs, and told some old stories about the people. After our tour was done we took the train back into Sydney. That brings us up to where we are now; our independent travels. This past week we’ve had individuals exploring and hiking in Sydney. Others are laying on the beach up north in the Brisbane area, and some went back down south to visit family and friends. As of this morning the group has safely made it back into Brisbane, and will being our studies. Tomorrow morning we leave for Morton Bay Research station until Sunday when everyone will move in with their home stay families. 
The Aussie Crew

Sent from my iPad

Picture Time!

Hi! 🙂 Heading into our second and last break of the semester! All is well and we miss you lots!

The War Memorial in Canberra

Mike and Skiba with Parliament in the background

Parliament- built into the hill so that the people can literally walk on Parliament.

The House- we watched a question session here.

On to Sydney!

Out celebrating the end of midterms...

...and Justine's Birthday!!

So many cockatoos in Chowder Bay

Eric learning to use an aboriginal spear thrower.

A lagoon in Royal National Park.

Boomerang Throwing

Karin and Annika after an aboriginal welcome ceremony.

The bay

Catamaran time!

Paul and Ann Marie

Happy Bday, Katie!

Hiking in the Blue Mountains



Back in Melbourne

Hey all! Hopefully you have enjoyed the pictures. Now here is more on what exactly we have been up to. When we last posted we were on our way to our first Australian Rules Football game. The Australians are very passionate about their footy and get quite into the game. A few members of our group tried to emulate this spirit by having their faces painted in support of their favorite team. In addition to cheering and booing, fans also show their team spirit by singing along when their team’s fight song is played after winning the game. The game was fun to watch and the group enjoyed the opportunity to experience Aussie sports culture.
The group spent the next morning at the Melbourne Aquarium where we were able to view many of the animals we had learned about while studying marine biology at Queenscliff. We were also able to see some animals that were new to us, such as the Little Penguin (also known as the Fairy Penguin) and watch a shark feeding! After finishing at the aquarium, we had the rest of the day, as well as all day Sunday to explore Melbourne on our own. Because the temperatures that weekend were in the upper 30s (upper 90s in Fahrenheit), many opted for air-conditioned options such as the Melbourne Museum.
On Monday morning it was time to depart for our next destination! Our departure was made interesting by a downpour that hit just as the transportation team began to load all of our luggage onto the bus. They were all good sports about it but are hoping that Mother Nature will be kinder in the future! After arriving at Phillip Island, we had two lectures at our accommodation and then two lectures out at the Nobbies Center. While at the Nobbies Center we also got to view live footage of the Australasian Fur Seals living just offshore!
Tuesday was an action packed day. In the morning we did two sets of quadrats, the first at Smith’s Beach and the second at the beach at the Penguin Parade Center. Phillip Island is known for its wildlife, and especially for the Little Penguins. The Penguin Parade Center gives visitors the opportunity to see the penguins up close as they come ashore to mate and molt. They also play a large role in penguin conservation by providing habitat for them and researching them. In the afternoon we made our contribution to penguin conservation by building artificial burrows for them. There is not enough restored natural habitat for all of the penguins to have homes. The burrows were made out of plywood and then covered in mulch and plants. A few us struggled at first with how to use a hammer, but we eventually got them built. We think that the penguins will like them very much! After a break for dinner, we returned to the Penguin Parade Center in the evening to see for ourselves how the penguins cross the beach. We saw 573 penguins successfully complete the journey! One of the most entertaining parts of the night was watching the penguins make the trek to their burrows after crossing the beach. The skinny penguins were really fast, but the fat ones had a hard time keeping up and swayed from side to side as they wattled along. Some of the fat ones even had to lie on their bellies and rest every few meters. This experience was one of the highlights of the week and something we will all remember for a long time to come!
On Wednesday we had lectures in the morning, followed by vegetation quadrats and a walk through the mangroves in the afternoon. On Thursday we were scheduled to do volunteer work with Scott from Phillip Island Nature Parks. We were given directions to walk along the beach until we found Scott, who would be watching for us. After 45 minutes of walking along the beach, there was still no Scott to be found. Not only that, but it was rainy and so windy that it was raining sideways! We stopped at a shelter to try figure out what was going on, and eventually Paul was able to get ahold of Scott. He must have just missed us. We were not quite sure how that would have happened since we were all wearing brightly colored rain coats, but oh well! We set out in the direction we had just come from and sure enough, a mile back, we finally found Scott. We then spent the next hour and a half pulling out an invasive species so the area could be revegetated. Needless to say we were all soaking wet by lunchtime. We still managed to have fun, though, and were rewarded for our hard work with a hot and delicious lunch. That afternoon, we hiked up to Cape Woolamai and it stopped raining just as we reached the top of the cape allowing us to take in the awesome view of the southern ocean!
On Friday we had a free morning so some of us went to the post office and others visited the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory. Around midday we met back up with the large group and went to the Koala Conservation Center where we had an outdoor lecture. Most of us were more focused on avoiding the biting Bull Ants that were crawling around us than we were on the lecture. After the lecture we got to go for a walk through the Koala habitat. The Koalas were pretty awesome, but the coolest part of the walk was seeing Kookaburras in action. We were walking along when all of a sudden a kookaburra swooped down and snatched up a copperhead snake (one of Australia’s most venomous) behind its head, fly up to a tree branch, whack the snake against the tree until it died, and then swallow it whole. We all felt very lucky to have witnessed such an awesome event! We were scheduled to go kayaking at Churchill Island, a historic homestead, in the late afternoon but it was too windy. Instead we did a walking tour of the island. We were bummed about not being able to kayak, but the walking tour was interesting, and hopefully there will be other opportunities to kayak later in the program!
On Saturday our first independent travel break began. We were dropped off at Southern Cross Station in Melbourne, from which we dispersed for an exciting week of travels to many different places including Canberra, Tasmania, New Zealand and Fiji. All of us made it safely to Canberra at the end of the week, and though it was fun to pursue our individual interests over break, we are happy to be back together. Because Canberra is the capital of Australia we will spend a lot of our scheduled time here studying their political system, and in our free time prepare for our midterms which begin on Friday in Sydney. Wish us luck!