Tiwi Trip 1 (Dec 2013):
In December 2013, I had my first trip to Melville Island, the larger of the two islands collectively known as the Tiwi Islands. I arrived armed with 100 camera traps to investigate how small mammal species had responded to 5 years of experimental fire treatments. The experimental framework of the CSIRO run ‘Tiwi Carbon Study’ (which involves fire plots being burnt annually, triennially or remaining unburnt) provided a great opportunity for such a study, and I am indeed very grateful to have become involved in this work.
All in all the trip went well (despite running out of food, having to live off a loaf of bread for a couple days and being swarmed by green ants everyday). The only real downside of the trip being not able to find time to go fishing with the Pirlangimpi locals. I left the island with 88 cameras up and running, in and around the fire plots. With the wet season almost in full swing I knew it would be at least 4 months until I would have access to my camera locations again.
Tiwi Trip 2 (April 2014):
The roads had just become passable and it was time to head back to Melville Island and check my cameras. No major cyclones had hit the island, but it would still remain to be seen how many of my cameras had survived the wet season. This trip did not start out as well as planned; there is nothing better than having a tyre blow out on your first day – Oh wait, there is! – having your spare tyre also blow out is even better, especially in the middle of a torrential downpour. We decided to forget about that first day and never mention it again. When we got yet another flat tyre on the second day I started to ponder God’s sense of humour.
We did eventually manage to reach my cameras. Out of the 88 cameras, 3 had malfunctioned. More importantly though, every camera had plenty of pictures of small mammals. My cameras recorded 11 mammal species, from threatened brush-tailed rabbit-rats to the elusive northern brush-tailed phascogale. Now for the fun task of data entry!