Memo 1: February 2
For the next three months, I will be living at Warrawee Field Station for Rainforest Studies in the Atherton Tablelands, part of the 0.1% of wet tropical rainforest on the Australian continent. The Atherton Tablelands are in Northeast Queensland, with the field station being closest to Yungaburra.
The field station is run and maintained by the School for Field Studies, a US-based organization that has field stations similar to this one all over the world. My studies mostly consist of things related to rain forest management (RFM): regional geology, geography, ecology, and environmental/ conservation policy.
Each course is taught by a different professor each having a distinct personality and I have gotten to know them individually: Justus, a Kenyan who has been living in Australia working at the center for 15 years, teaches the policy course. Justus and I talked for about an hour about the interesting state of U.S. politics during one of our long drives; we agree that there is hope in the youth and strength in American democratic institutions. I am
really looking forward to talking to him more about Kenyan and Australian politics and, of course, the Donald. Catherine, a native Aussie, teaches rainforest management, climate science, and terrestrial plant ecology. Siggy, a 60 year old German woman who grew up in East Berlin, teaches terrestrial animal ecology and GIS. Siggy is an unbelievable character, wildly eccentric and hilarious with a loud thick German accent.
All student activities outside of class are run by the Student Activity Managers (SAM pod). Anne, Bridget, and Jade, all recent badass college grads/outdoorswomen, comprise the SAM pod. Life at the center outside of class consists of eating delicious, wholesome food, socializing, and prepping for excursions to surrounding areas. There is also a baby grand piano (!) that I have been playing a lot of and writing some potential Jelly Sauce (Colby student band) tunes on. Access to the internet is decent at best which is refreshing. We have had several excursions. The first was to Atherton, the largest urban center in the Tablelands. We walked around, mingled with locals, and generally got a sense of the town.
Another memorable experience was volunteering at a local re-vegetation project. Our group and about two dozen locals planted 2,000+ trees in like an hour in a half. The trees were being planted in a corridor that will eventually connect two patches of fragmented rainforest. Today (Thursday) we went to an aboriginal cultural center that was basically a tourist trap. We threw boomerangs, saw some dance performances, and ate some really good Asian food. It was interesting to see an Aboriginal community that totally sold out and used their culture as a source of revenue.
After that we went into a town called Koranda. I split off early from the group and wandered by myself around some of the funkier backstreets. I ran into a street piano outside of a place called the 70 Year Old Hippy and played for a while before I bought a shirt from the 70 year old hippy himself. I ended up talking to his friend on the back porch and him for like 40 minutes.
I was able to attach one photo however. In Australia, leeches aren’t confined to water and live primarily on land. These “land leeches” are everywhere but aren’t very dangerous. However, one ended up in Katie’s eye and crawled into her bottom eyelid, and gorged for about 45 minutes before sliding out. The thing about eye leeches; pulling them out does more damage than leaving them in. Pulling them off once their teeth are engaged ends up pulling out eye tissue which is, obviously, really shitty!