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Sustainable Development Harmony: Monitoring the Northern Quoll at the Mount Emerald Wind Farm

By Past Projects, Recent News

Our 5-year Northern Quoll Monitoring Program, conducted in conjunction with the Mount Emerald Wind Farm (MEWF) energy project, has successfully concluded its final round of surveys. The primary aim of this initiative was to monitor and assess the potential impacts of the wind farm development on the endangered Northern quoll. The study encompassed estimates of population size, site occupancy, individual quoll trends, and habitat assessments, and was conducted both post-construction and during ongoing wind farm operations. The results will gain insights that will guide future conservation efforts for this endangered species.

 

The Northern quoll, Australia’s smallest quoll, faces significant threats such as habitat loss, predation by feral cats, and cane toad poisoning, contributing to a significant decline in their distribution. Today, these nocturnal predators are present in limited localised pockets, making monitoring of existing ranges increasingly important. By comparing the Mount Emerald quoll population to control sites in the region, including Brooklyn Wildlife Sanctuary, Davies Creek, and Walsh River, the study extends beyond the impact site, yielding crucial data on the health of the Mount Emerald quoll population and its habitat whilst providing insights into multiple Atherton Tableland populations.

Quoll Habitat

Camera trap deployment

Camera trap photo allowing for spot analysis

The research methodology involved deploying camera traps arranged in a grid to estimate quoll numbers within the study area. Following each round of camera deployment, our team meticulously examined the imagery, utilising the distinctive spot patterns—akin to fingerprints—exhibited by Northern quolls for individual identification. This approach ensures accurate data collection on population size, distribution, and ecology for populations, which, in turn, contributes to well-informed management decisions and successful conservation efforts.

 

As we navigate the delicate balance between ecological preservation and responsible development, the insights gained from wildlife monitoring programs become the beacon guiding our commitment to a sustainable future. The final round of surveys not only marks the end of this program but also signifies the beginning of a new chapter in our ongoing efforts to protect and conserve the Northern quoll and its habitats Together, we step forward into a future where the harmonious coexistence of wildlife and renewable energy practices is not just a vision but a shared responsibility we embrace.

If you are in need of a comprehensive consultative service, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Nocturnal Navigators – Uncovering the Secret Lives of Bats

By Past Projects, Recent News

As nocturnal hunters, bats use sound instead of sight to catch their prey, using echolocation to detect even the smallest insect in complete darkness. Echolocation relies on clicks produced by the bat that reverberate off solid objects, working like sonar to provide spatial information about its environment. The pitch, length and shape of these clicks or “pulses” change depending on the bat’s environment and choice of prey, and most importantly, they also vary among species. This key feature has allowed ecologists at 4 Elements to record bat calls in the field, and identify their callers based on unique, species-specific features.

Many bats echolocate at frequencies beyond the capacity of human hearing, which is where bioacoustic monitoring devices (BARs) become indispensable tools in the field, as they capture ultra-sonic calls that can be analysed and visualised with bioacoustic software. Recently, 4 Elements Consulting attended an intensive workshop in Brisbane focusing on bat call identification hosted by Titley Scientific. Survey techniques, equipment and call analysis were among the topics covered, as well as a comprehensive overview of the unique calls of many of the bat species found on Australia’s east-coast.

he strikingly different call shapes of a Bare-rumped sheath-tail bat (above) and a Smaller horseshoe bat (below), visualised with bioacoustics analysis software.

For EVNT listed species like the Bare-rumped Sheath-tail bat, large-scale developments can threaten roosting habitat and disrupt foraging behaviour. Understanding the presence and distribution of at-risk species is therefore crucial for informing future environmental management decisions and the impacts of development proposals. Using bioacoustic detectors, 4 Elements recently detected the presence of Bare-rump sheath-tail bats and other EVNT listed bat species in a previously unsurveyed habitat with the use of bioacoustic detectors.

Troughton’s Sheath-tail bat

Spectacled Flying Fox

Bioacoustic surveys and analysis form one of many diverse fauna surveying techniques used at Four Elements Consulting to capture the full picture of an area’s biodiversity. With these tools we can better understand those elusive, nocturnal species that often go unseen to better manage environmentally responsible and sustainable developments.

4 Elements has experience in bioacoustic monitoring across a range of taxa. If you are in need of a comprehensive consultative service, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Fauna Surveys Out West: Unveiling the Hidden Treasures

By Past Projects, Recent News

The team at 4 Elements Consulting have recently completed a recent round of general fauna surveys to the arid landscapes a few hours west of Cairns. Armed with a diverse array of survey techniques, our team embarked on a mission to unveil the rich tapestry of species inhabiting this often overlooked region. In this post, we share the fascinating discoveries from our general fauna surveys and highlight a particularly thrilling find – a thriving population of Northern greater gliders.

Diverse Survey Techniques:

Our surveys employ a comprehensive suite of techniques designed to capture the essence of an ecosystem’s biodiversity. From camera trapping and cage trapping for large terrestrial mammals to elliot trapping for small mammals, pitfall traps, and funnel traps for reptiles, frogs, and rodents, our methods leave no stone unturned. Spotlighting for nocturnal birds and arboreal mammals, active searches for diurnal reptiles, and diurnal bird surveys complete the toolkit, ensuring a holistic understanding of the fauna present.

Remarkable Discoveries:

Our team’s diligent efforts uncovered a treasure trove of unique and uncommon species within the surveyed area. Notable among the findings were the striking Red-backed kingfisher and the migratory Oriental pratincole, adding to the region’s avian diversity. The discovery of cryptic reptiles such as the Black-striped snake and Curl snake, along with elusive rodents like the Central rock rat, underscored the importance of our thorough survey approach.

Oriental pratincole

Curl Snake

The Crown Jewel: Northern Greater Gliders:

The highlight of our expedition was the identification of a healthy population of Northern greater gliders within a previously unsurveyed patch of bushland. Designated as Vulnerable under the EPBC Act, the Northern greater glider faces significant threats from climate change, including drought, bushfires, and extreme temperatures. Recognising the urgency of the situation, we plan to return to the property in the coming months to conduct targeted surveys specifically for the Northern greater gliders. This will enable us to gain a nuanced understanding of their population dynamics, facilitating informed management decisions to safeguard this vulnerable species.

Climate Change and Conservation:

The vulnerability of the Northern greater glider to climate change emphasises the broader challenges facing wildlife in the region. At 4 Elements Consulting, we recognise the need for adaptive and proactive conservation strategies. By combining our expertise with cutting-edge survey techniques, we aim to contribute to the resilience of ecosystems and their inhabitants in the face of environmental challenges.

4 Elements Consulting has experience working with a range of taxa, including several threatened species. If you are in need of a comprehensive consultative service, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Moths of North Queensland – A few endemic oddities

By Recent News

It is no secret that here in North Queensland we are lucky to be surrounded by a myriad of diverse flora and fauna found nowhere else on the planet. Moths are no exception.

Moths are far less popular than their diurnal relatives the butterflies. The vast majority of moth encounters stem from the eyeshine of moths attached to windows peering in at unsuspecting people at night.  Perhaps this is why fear of moths is commonplace. But there is no reason to harbour fear of these docile creatures, and to show that moths are friend and not foe, here are some of the beautiful endemic moths that call tropical north Queensland home.

Members of the genus Dura are characteristically fluffy and white.

Gentle Giants…

By far the most tremendous moth in north Queensland is the Hercules moth (Coscinocera hercules), which is so named for its colossal size – so colossal in fact that they are the biggest moth in the world! These moths can be found from the Paluma Range north along the east coast to the tip of Cape York, as well as in Papua New Guinea. Most sightings of adult moths occur between September and January following rain. The Hercules moth caterpillars are also gargantuan in size. These hefty larvae can be found eating away on their host plants for up to 3 months, gaining in size and weight. These caterpillars must get as rotund as they can prior to undergoing metamorphosis as adults do not have mouth parts and therefore cannot feed.

Close up of a male Hercules moth (Coscinocera hercules) displaying large antennae characteristic of male moths.

The caterpillars of the Hercules moth grow incredibly large.

Male Hercules moths have long tails on their hindwings.

Not a Butterfly…

Another notable moth is the North Queensland Day moth (Alcides metaurus). As the name suggests, this moth is active during the day and is usually mistaken for a butterfly. And with such lovely colours it is easy to see why!  Unlike the giant Hercules moth, the North Queensland Day moth actually feeds. Just like a butterfly, this moth feeds on the nectar of flowers. These moths inhabit rainforests and occur from Mackay in the south up to the tip of Cape York in the north of its range.

North Queensland Day moths are very beautiful and are often mistaken for butterflies.

Keep an eye out for cocoons!

Just like moths come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so do their cocoons. The large caseworm moth Metura aristocosma produces a huge, impressive cocoon. This species is yet to have a common name and has been sighted between Wooroonooran National Park and Port Douglas.

The cocoon of Metura aristocosma is so impressively large that it is often longer than a human hand.

In all, there are many fascinating moths up here in north Queensland – far too many to include in this short post. Next time you see the eyeshine of a moth looking in at you from your window, it may just be worth a closer look…

Leading the Wave of Change – Environmental Institute of Australia and New Zealand Annual Conference 2023

By Recent News

Ecologist Vilda recently attended the Environmental Institute of Australia and New Zealand (EIANZ) annual conference 2023 in Aotearoa, New Zealand. The conference, themed “Leading the Wave of Change – Aratakina te ngaru o te huringa,” brought together experts from diverse environmental disciplines to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time and explore how we can lead the change in our ever-evolving world.

One of the highlights for Vilda was delving into the potential of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) as a formidable tool for preserving essential ecosystems for future generations while simultaneously promoting the sustainable development of human society. Equally enlightening was the opportunity to explore the ethical responsibilities we bear toward our environment and our personal environmental values, and how we can balance these with our obligations as environmental professionals.

An EIA is a systematic evaluation of the potential environmental consequences of a proposed project or development. It involves predicting and assessing impacts on the environment, including air and water quality, biodiversity, and local communities, before the project is executed. The findings of an EIA guide decision-makers and stakeholders in making informed choices about the project’s approval, design, and necessary mitigation measures.

An EIA is a comprehensive process which offers benefits to stakeholders, including decision-makers, communities, and environmental advocates, empowering them with valuable insights for informed decision-making, enhanced environmental protection, improved project design, promotion of public participation, and legal compliance. Ultimately, it contributes to sustainable development while safeguarding the environment and the interests of those affected by the project.

Finally, Vilda also got to visit Tiritiri Matangi Scientific Reserve, a once-barren island near Auckland. It’s now a thriving sanctuary and a global model for community-led conservation. Careful management, eradication of invasive species, and habitat restoration have led to a remarkable recovery of native bird species, including the rare Ruru, Hihi, and Kōkako.

Are you interested in finding out more about the conference or environmental impact assessments, contact us today.

4 Elements Consulting discovers new population of endangered orchid

By Past Projects, Recent News

During recent flora surveys, 4 Elements ecologists were delighted to find a thriving population of a very special plant, the swamp orchid (Phaius australis). Swamp orchids are listed as Endangered under both federal (EPBC Act) and state legislation (NC Act) and are considered a priority species at all levels of government.

Swamp orchids are spectacular, producing the largest flower spike of any Australian orchid. Unfortunately, this makes them highly sought after by collectors, and poaching has decimated wild populations. Other threats, including habitat loss and degradation, grazing by feral species, competition with invasive plant species, and fire, have also contributed to declines in swamp orchid populations, and the species now faces an uphill battle.

Discoveries like this are rare, and protection of these populations will be crucial to the ongoing survival of this species. 4 Elements Consulting has vast experience working with threatened plant species, including propagation and revegetation of fragile ecosystems, translocation of threatened species, and ongoing management of known threatened species populations.

If you are in need of a protected plant survey (PPS), a general flora survey or simply want advice about flora on your property, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


Or see more information about Protected Plant Surveys

Fauna Surveys: Paving the Way for Responsible Land Development

By Recent News

Far North Queensland’s rich biodiversity continues to astonish us as we delve deeper into the heart of this stunning region. Over the past few months, our team of dedicated ecologists has been hard at work conducting various fauna surveys, unearthing some incredible finds, such as the iconic Koala, the elusive Storr’s monitor, and the captivating Northern masked owl.

But these surveys are not just about the thrill of discovery; they play a crucial role in land management, guiding decisions for landholders, developers, and mining companies. Understanding the local fauna is a prerequisite for any responsible land development project in Australia. These surveys provide vital insights into species composition, biodiversity, and the presence of protected or threatened species. Compliance with environmental laws and regulations is paramount, and fauna surveys help ensure that.

In the field, our team employs various methods, from direct animal observation to bioacoustic monitoring and trapping and release. Our goal is to gather as much data as possible to create a comprehensive picture of the area’s fauna, aiding in informed environmental management decisions. Our dedication is underpinned by a dual commitment – preserving the natural environment for the benefit of future generations and facilitating responsible and sustainable development practices.

If you are in need of a comprehensive consultative service, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Bird surveys out west

By Past Projects, Recent News

The team have just returned from a week of bird surveys near Undara, recording several interesting species. Most of the area surveyed is dominated by basalt soil and savannah woodland, with narrow-leafed ironbark (Eucalyptus crebra) and Molloy red box (Eucalyptus leptophleba) the dominant species. These areas were home to the usual FNQ, dry woodland species, including galahs (Eolophus roseicapilla), pale-headed rosellas (Platycercus adscitus), striated pardalotes (Pardalotus striatus), red-winged parrots (Aprosmictuserythropterus), pied bitcherbirds (Cracticus nigrogularis), Australian magpies (Gymnorhina tibicen) and noisy miners (Manorina melanocephala).

The more interesting parts of the property were on granite soils, where the spectacular Eucalpytus chartaboma was in flower, as well as several sub-canopy species including Melaleuca viridiflora and Grevillea parallella. These areas attracted a range of honeyeaters, including brown honeyeaters (Lichmera indistincta), white-throated honeyeaters (Melithreptus albogularis), noisy friarbirds (Philemon corniculatus), little friarbirds (Philemon citreogularis), scarlet honeyeaters (Myzomela sanguinolenta) and hoardes of rainbow lorikeets (Trichoglossus moluccanus). They were also home to several interesting bush species, such as the lemon-bellied flycatcher (Microeca flavigaster), brush cuckoo (Cacomantis variolosus) and grey-crowned babbler (Pomatostomus temporalis).

The ephemeral creeks were all flowing after a huge wet season, attracting large numbers of azure kingfishers (Alcedo azurea) and forest kingfishers (Todiramphus macleayii). The team were also particularly excited to see the less common red-backed kingfisher (Todiramphus pyrrhopygius) foraging in the woodland. Interesting birds in a beautiful part of the country – what more can you ask for!

If you are in need of a comprehensive consultative service, please don’t hesitate to contact us. 

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Wet & Wild Out West – Putting the team’s recovery skills to the test

By Recent News

Last week the team embarked on a reconnaissance mission out west, where a deluge of rain turned our field site (a large cattle property) into a quagmire. Black soil and rain are a dangerous combination, and the team’s recovery skills were pushed to the limit. Fortunately, the 4 Elements Consulting crew have vast experience working in adverse conditions, and they were able to successfully explore much of the property despite the heavy rain, revealing some pristine patches of open woodland. Sound recovery skills and the ability to work in adversity are prerequisites for any field ecologist, particularly in the extremes of far north Queensland, and we are happy to report that the team passed this test with flying colours.

The team will be spending a lot of time at this property over the coming months conducting a suite of environmental surveys, including targeted and general flora, fauna and habitat surveys.

If you are in need of a comprehensive consultative service, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Water testing at Cape Flattery

By Past Projects, Recent News

4 Elements Consulting was recently contracted by Metallica Minerals to monitor water quality at a potential future silica sand mine at Cape Flattery, Cape York to establish baseline water quality. Working with traditional owners, 4 Elements Consulting assessed both water table depth and quality using samples taken from various monitoring wells located on the project site from a depth of up to 60m. Monitoring wells were purged prior to sample collection to ensure samples were representative of the aquifer. Samples were collected in NATA approved sample containers before being stored and chilled for transport. Surface water samples were also taken from gullies and creek lines across the site.

4 Elements Consulting has extensive water testing experience, with the ability to test for a range of contaminants in a variety of situations including saltwater, freshwater and estuarine environments, irrigation water, boreholes and wells, and wastewater and effluent.

If you require water testing or have any questions about water testing, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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