Rishab Pillai: A Classroom in the Rainforest

A Red- bellied black snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus) we found on surveys. You can see why they get the name because of that striking red belly.

A Red- bellied black snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus) we found on surveys. You can see why they get the name because of that striking red belly.

Hope everyone had a great lecture recess catching up on some rest or study. In my very first post I mentioned that when we study something we are genuinely passionate about, it doesn’t seem like an effort. Hence, I was looking forward to the lecture recess, which had in store an experience that only the tropics could offer.

No matter what you study, employers these days are looking for graduates that not only have good grades, but also have an extensive amount of hands-on experience. At JCU, we are fortunate to be given the opportunity through various field trips to gather some of these hands-on skills that cannot be acquired from text books or in a classroom. So I was really happy when I realized that I would be spending majority of my lecture recess in the rainforest.

After being on the road for about five hours, we arrived at the South Johnstone Camping Area in the Wooroonooran National Park. After all the anticipation, we were in the heart of the rainforest, with no electricity or phone coverage and completely surrounded by some of the most pristine natural habitats I have ever seen. I usually prefer cutting off from technology once in a while, however, I am a complete foodie and good food is something that keeps me going. But having done a fair share of fieldwork so far, I have come to accept that food on fieldwork is simple and mostly repetitive coz of the lack of cold storage and to consider the ease of cooking. So as happy I was being in the rainforest, the only thing that could make me happier was good food, and guess what? Our lecturer had organized for a fully functional jungle kitchen to be set up which provided us with some of the best meals ever had, let alone in the middle of nowhere! There was a beautiful creek which was really close to our campsite, which was the bathing spot for the next 3 days.

We conducted a wide range of surveys which would monitor the flora and fauna found in these rainforests. As compared to other parts of the world, the Australian Wet Tropics are under less pressure from anthropogenic activities like logging and poaching and the high abundance of biodiversity as a result of this was evident in our surveys. Most of the wildlife we encountered was completely new to me! To say I was excited was an understatement and I just couldn’t bring myself to stop exploring this incredibly biodiverse ecosystem. In addition to seeing numerous interesting animals, we also had the chance to apply what we learnt during the lectures. The staff guiding us during this fieldtrip were all experienced in various areas of tropical biology and this made the experience even more fulfilling as we were learning real world research techniques from some of the best in the business!

A week later, I am still coming to terms with the awesome experience I had. Seeing certain species which I previously had only seen in nature documentaries for the first time is always an experience that I look forward to. I think documenting these gems of nature through photography and sharing my experiences with people is one of the most rewarding experiences ever. My main interest is reptiles and amphibians as I think they are misunderstood by the general public. However, these animals are play an incredibly important role in the ecosystem and are facing numerous threats globally.

My photos don’t do justice to the actual experience of seeing these interesting creatures in their natural habitat, however, I hope it makes people realise how biodiverse our planet is and highlights the importance of saving this planet we call home.

Here’s a glimpse of some of the critters I saw…………

A Chameleon Gecko (Carphodactylus laevis) waiting in ambush for its dinner to pass by. How cool’s that tail!

A Chameleon Gecko (Carphodactylus laevis) waiting in ambush for its dinner to pass by. How cool’s that tail!

A Northern Leaf- Tail Gecko (Saltuarius cornutus) which is one of the most camouflaged animals I have seen! After wanting to see this species in the wild since a long time, we saw a few of these around the campsite and on surveys.

A male Jungguy Tree Frog (Litoria jungguy), there’s vast difference between males and females of this species. Below is a picture of a female

A male Jungguy Tree Frog (Litoria jungguy), there’s vast difference between males and females of this species. Below is a picture of a female

Female Jungguy Tree Frog

Female Jungguy Tree Frog

A Green- eyed tree frog (Litoria serrata), check out those mottled green patterns that helps this species camouflage in its habitat.

A Green- eyed tree frog (Litoria serrata), check out those mottled green patterns that helps this species camouflage in its habitat.

A Jungle Carpet Python (Morelia spilota cheyni). Snakes have a really unique way of sensing the chemical cues in their environment using their tongue. Also the pits near the mouth of the snake are used to detect heat.

A Jungle Carpet Python (Morelia spilota cheyni). Snakes have a really unique way of sensing the chemical cues in their environment using their tongue. Also the pits near the mouth of the snake are used to detect heat.

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