In April 2012 the TLC had the pleasure of hosting two student interns as part ofthe Australian contingent of the USA’s WildFIRE Partnerships in International Research and Education (WildFIREPIRE). Loga Fixico and Matt Weingartare undergraduate students studying environmental science at the tribal Salish Kootenai College in Montana,USA, and both share a common goal of becoming ecologists.
Loga and Matt have spent nearly three months in Tasmania, working on a multitude of fire-related projects, including collecting sediment cores and undertaking vegetation-plot sampling at Cradle Mountain National Park. Their final month was spent with theTLC undertaking photogrammetric assessments of the forest/grassland boundaries at the Vale of Belvoir and Skullbone Plains.
By comparing historical aerial photographs dating back to 1947, and recent satellite images, Matt and Loga have identified sites where significant changes in vegetation have occurred over the past 60 years. Structural changes in the vegetation were the most frequently observed, including transitions from grassland to woodland, and woodland to rainforest. These sites were subsequently accessed on foot to identify the processes that have driven the vegetation changes, including whether fire or stock grazing(or the absence of these) have altered the vegetation.
The information gained from these assessments will provide the TLC with a better understanding of the long-term stability of these vegetation types which, in turn, will provide information on the best way to plan and manage fires and/or stock grazing at Skullbone Plains and the Vale of Belvoir into the future.
Following a long day ground-truthing aerial photographs at the Vale of Belvoir, a quiet philosophical debate about diversity ensued after dinner. “Diversity is the key to success in any position” Loga said, relating this statement to a rainforest ecosystem and his own experience of undertaking a successful undergraduate degree.This unique perspective of the environment and the advantage of seeing the sites for the first time, in partnership with their Geographic Information Systems skills, combined wonderfully for this project. We are sad to see Loga and Matt leave, but hope to see them back in Tasmania in the future.
The WildFIRE PIRE is an international, scientific partnership focused on the causes and consequences of fire in temperate ecosystems of the past, present, and future. More than just a university research partnership, the WildFIRE program aims to bring together an array of fire scientists and managers from a wide range of disciplines to learn from each other and provide educational opportunities along the way.
Matt and Loga. Photo: Denna Kingdom
Both Matt and Loga are native Americans, hailing from two different tribal groups in Montana. Loga, in particular, has found that his traditional tribal upbringing has taught him to look for connections to, and between, his surrounding environments.
In addition to working full-time with the TLC on their photogrammetric project, Loga and Matt also volunteered to work with TLC’s reserve management staff and volunteers to build a stock-proof fence at Long Point over Easter. Both the interns loved this project, which provided physical labour and dramatic scenery, including watching the moon rise overThe Hazards at dusk one evening.
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