Emma Gorge scientific expedition 2011

By Rebecca Baker | November 30, 2013

Volunteers, scientists and research assistants get their hands dirty in the Kimberley.

THERE ARE MANY UNIQUE regions across Australia but there are none quite like the Kimberley. This remote area provided a perfect backdrop for the recent Australian Geographic Society scientific expedition for 2011.

The Kimberley is located in the northern part of Western Australia and is one of the world’s last great wilderness areas. 

AGS scientific expedition’s base camp was located within El Questro Wilderness Park, an almost 1 million acre property 70km west of Kununurra.

It is one of the most iconic places along the Gibb River road and is a land of vast open savannah, rocky gorges and impressive plateaus.

The hard-to-access location, abundant wildlife and varied habitat, meant that scientists from across the country jumped at the chance to work on projects as part of the Society’s Emma Gorge expedition. Hailing from six of the eight states and territories, leading scientists specialising in a variety of different fields came together for this one-of-a-kind project, which is designed to better understand the area’s wildlife before cane toads arrive, bringing with them inevitable and serious change.

Beating the toad
This year, a particularly big Wet helped cane toads move further and faster than usual, bringing them closer to the pristine wilderness of the Kimberley. Now, most experts believe the toads will arrive at El Questro next year.

So research assistants, scientists and a keen group of volunteers put their all into extensive baseline studies designed to better understand the wildlife in the park before the cane toads make their entrance.

Originally released to control pest beetles in 1935, cane toads are listed in the World Conservation Union’s world 100 worst invasive species.

Emma Gorge, one of El Questro’s more famous gorges situated in the north-east of the Wilderness Park, is surrounded by the tall, steep sandstone cliffs of the Cockburn Ranges. Kim Hands and her team of volunteers at the Stop The Toad Foundation, have constructed a 1.3 km toad-proof fence, which was used extensively to conduct biodiversity surveys, as well as an attempt to create a control site for the scientists.

All hands on deck
Our team of expedition members, covering a true range of backgrounds and age groups, were all passionate about Australia and its wellbeing.

So, with all hands on deck the team worked tirelessly, conducting night-time frog surveys, catching more than 50 species of butterfly, snorkelling for turtles and fish, spotting goanna by boat from the Ord River and checking traps for our reptile and biodiversity surveys.  

Expedition teams also, hiked up various lookouts to spot birds with the Society’s Young Conservationist of the Year 2010, Simon Cherriman and enjoyed nightly presentations with other campers from each of the scientists involved.   

The Australian Geographic Society would like to thank the generous contributions of Aurora Expeditions for donating a percentage of profits from their three Kimberley Coast voyages to the Society.

AGS would also like to thank our sponsors, Mitsubishi and TC Communications for getting us around and keeping us in touch.

Support
The Australian Geographic Society is dedicated to supporting scientific research, protecting and fostering a love for our environment and natural heritage, encouraging the spirit of discovery and spreading the knowledge of Australia to Australians and the world!

Donating to the society can help fund more scientific expeditions like this one. Donate now.