People in Australia before the Europeans arrived

In the middle of last year I compiled Where Did We Come From?,  a  sequence of articles and links about the evolution of our own species from the time we diverged from other apes up to the last few tens of thousands of years.

The last few articles in that sequence focused on Australia, and later additions crept ever closer to our own time. In the interests of making all the material more manageable, this post is its Australian content with some further additions. As before, it is arranged chronologically.

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Au revoir, ReefHQ

reef HQ building noticeReef HQ Aquarium is about to close for a year for an extensive rebuilding project.

The whole structure is thirty years old and is looking tired; quite apart from that, its surrounding have changed: a building which was a great use of the site when it was shared by the Magnetic Island ferry terminal and the Omnimax theatre is now awkward, almost dysfunctional. The big reef and predator tanks will stay where they are, for obvious reasons, but everything else will move. It will take at least a year, and it starts in February.

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Citizen Science – iNaturalist

The internet and digital photography have opened up wonderful opportunities for ordinary people to get involved in citizen science as observers of the natural world. Online meeting places and forums come and go but the best at the moment seems to be iNaturalist – https://www.inaturalist.org.

It’s a global project and the numbers are huge: 54 million observations by 1.4 million observers from nearly every country in the world when I looked recently. That presents a management problem, of course, which is solved by having countries run independent branches, e.g. https://inaturalist.ala.org.au/

Anyone at all can browse the content of the site but people have to sign up to participate. When that’s done (at no cost and very little trouble) they can upload their observations, help with identifying others’ observations, and join the discussion forums.  It’s a big and complex site but not too difficult to negotiate because it is exceptionally well planned and because there is no need to use most of its functions until you want to. (I have to admit there are some that I haven’t bothered with in the year I have been a member.)

And ordinary people can make very useful contributions to the project, especially if they (we) are outside the big cities.

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Hinchinbrook Island beach clean-up

Hinchinbrook Island lies just off the coast between Ingham and Cardwell. It’s a National Park, with strict limits on camping and (usually) a waiting list of walkers wanting to hike the Thorsborne Trail. Its inner (western) coast is a shallow mangrove-fringed channel, while its outer (eastern) coast is spectacularly beautiful, with rugged mountains rising behind a series of sandy beaches. Those beaches, sadly, accumulate as much marine debris as our mainland beaches.

Tangaroa Blue Foundation is a relatively new environmental NGO, an “Australia-wide not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the removal and prevention of marine debris,” as their website says. They keep themselves busy: their events page lists, for example, 19 days of beach clean-ups in October alone.

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Dirt Cheap

cover of "Dirt Cheap" by WynhausenAbout fifteen years ago I took on a reviewing role with our local newspaper. My motives were somewhat mixed, as were theirs, but there were enough benefits on both sides that the arrangement continued for five or six years. I have posted several of those reviews to Green Path under their original dates (examples here) but in this case I wanted to comment on what I wrote all those years ago.

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