Monthly Archives: August 2016

TG #44

TG #44 : Botanical Printing ~ Wildlife Spotters ~ Wombat Warriors ~ Comets in History


Hope all is well with you as we progress through the winter. It’s been a busy season planting seeds for other projects, but we are finally delighted to be able to share this issue Forty Four with you. Thank you for your patience – you’ll find it has been worth the wait.

The issue begins with fine art botanical prints from Deborah Wace – take a very close look and you can see just how much detail this technique captures.

There are two wildlife projects there for all those who are charmed by vertebrates. The ABC Wildlife Spotter project with the Tasmanian Land Conservancy is a fun and engaging way to help identify animals captured by remote cameras…and for more “boots on the ground” involvement, you can check out the Conservation Volunteers’ Wombat Warriors fieldwork.

We’ll wrap up by looking up into the sky and deep into the past with a piece on comets through history, illustrated with marvellous images produced by keen observers of earlier years.

I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed compiling them!

All the best,

The Editor

The Finest Details: Etching Tasmanian Plants

I am an artist: a botanical artist, a print maker and singer/songwriter and I respond to the visual beauty of the natural environment with song and art. I lived for over twenty years at Lune River in Far South Tasmania, growing a family and a food garden on the Buttongrass plains. My childhood was spent collecting plants and seedpods on endless field trips with my father, Dr Nigel Wace, a respected ANU botanist/geographer. At home, books and pictures of early naturalists and explorers were close at hand and well thumbed. This set up an enduring love in me for wild places and a longing for connection to place through recurring engagement.

After completing a degree in fine art, studying printmaking under Jorg Schmeisser, I moved to Tasmania, eventually developing a printing practice having stumbled on an old printing press in an op shop. It was great to be printing again and drawing on the beautiful landscape at Lune River. I spent hours roaming, singing and collecting specimens again. Back in the studio, I scratched with a dry point needle into Perspex plates, creating highly detailed scientifically accurate but many times magnified images of orchids.

I also create pressed plant specimen arrangements, mounted in float glass box frames. They have a resonance with herbarium specimen collections and are a meditation upon pattern and placement as well as a depiction of plant communities. My work is immersed in the historical relevance of these plants, a love of place and the rich story behind the early French botanical collections of Labillardiere at Recherche Bay, near Lune River. This strong thread of botanical specimen and illustration from early explorers and naturalists weaves for me a rich fabric of inspiration and a love of botanical form and function.

Now, I live and work in Hobart on the flanks of Mt Wellington/Kunanyi, with my print studio in the city. I have developed several bodies of print works, drawn from the Buttongrass plains of Lune River. More recently, I have connected with the landscape of Kunanyi at my backdoor and the Tarkine landscape through involvement with the Tarkine in Motion campaign. I also run print classes for people interested in learning about dry point and monoprinting.

Interesting Facts

I enjoy the frank wanton nature of Tasmanian native orchids, revealing the hidden, seldom seen roots that show a huge part of their character. They are so resilient and fragile, flamboyant and strange. Their tubers are edible and their flowers so sensual. In my work I am exploring the sexual allure between orchid and insect; revealing the highly evolved relationship of plant sexual advertising, the curious secret agendas where orchids use morphology and pheromones as deception and attraction in universal mimicry of sensual form. Much is still being learned about the beneficial relationship for the orchids from their (possibly) parasitic association with the mycorrhizal fungus, which enables the seed germination and seedling establishment.

‘Orchid’ comes from the Greek, meaning testicle and indeed many orchid tubers resemble these. The plants seem to exist just to flower, to display the most fantastic and flamboyant reproductive organs of the plant. In fact, the flowers are designed to look like female wasps and so lure in males seeking out females.

Orchids lure human interest as well – we are in their thrall as much as the insects that pollinate them. Orchids are highly prized. They are hard to find in their natural environment, as they can be unremarkable until they flower. Like many intriguing scientific species, orchids have avid followers – hunters and collectors seeking to capture a photo or cultivate a hothouse of rare species. I can help put these fabulous plants on people’s walls.

All work is collected sustainably from private land in Lune River and has clearance from Threatened species unit Tas.

  • Adamson’s Peak from the Buttongrass plain at Lune River- my home for 20 years.
    • This is the Buttongrass landscape that supports my artwork and specimen collection. Buttongrass Plains are a diverse mosaic of plant communities, incredibly resilient and borne of fire. The soil is bone dry in summer and super saturated in winter, the acid, peaty soil supports a wide range of plants.
  • Specimen of a bird orchid – Chiloglottis gunnii
    • Being able to collect specimens from private land, with permission, allows me to closely inspect the whole plant under the microscope and draw it. This close observation and drawing from many angles, combine to ‘physicalise’ my memory of the form and structure. I can then scale up my drawings to match the size of plate I will use to scratch the drypoint image into. This specimen can be repotted to thrive.
  • Opening the plant presses in my studio
    • I have a range of different sized plant presses – here I have used my father’s old trouser press. This is always an exciting moment – I am looking to preserve specimens that convey the character of the plant, displayed to full effect. I use these, either to create framed specimen arrangements, to draw under the microscope or make prints from the specimens directly. I have amassed a fabulous herbarium of Tasmanian plant specimens to inform my future works.
  • Inking the flower plate for Caledenia alpina
    • Inking the flower plate for the whole orchid file of 3 plates for Caladenia alpina. Here I have wiped the etching ink onto my plate and gradually wiped back the image, revealing the orchid and it’s character. I can ink the plate differently each time making a print ranging from a delicate line drawing to a gothic brooding image
  • Bearded orchid print – Calochilus robertsonii – detail
    • Studying and drawing the orchids under the microscope enables me to enter a fabulous world of form and detail. Such seductive mimicry of insect form can be seen. These native orchids are highly evolved for their particular ecological niche.
  • ‘Orchid Dance’ – composite image of ten plates
    • By rendering the orchids in magnified form, I showcase their extraordinary beauty and sensuality. When these works are displayed, larger than life, we walk among them as equals, a living species, deserving of respect. I ask viewers to notice these small, elusive and highly evolved species as their habitats are being destroyed. Many of the whole orchid etchings take 3 or 4 plates to describe the root, stem buds and flower. Keeping the images to scale, some completed works can end up being 2m tall.
  • Pressed plant specimen arrangement ready for framing.
    • Choosing only the most perfectly pressed specimens, the process of arranging these is a form of meditation – a quiet and delightful study of pattern and composition. I mount the specimens in museum quality frames that I make in my Lune River studio. These have a float glass box frame system with a little cave in the back to hold a camphor sachet to prevent insect attack.
  • Print studio set up – preparing wall friezes after digital printing
    • I have the final digitized works printed commercially at ICC Imagetec . Large layout and cutting tables in my studio enable me to cut out the finished works and roll up for postage worldwide.
  • Orchid wall frieze
    • Selections from the original artwork are arranged in layers, as if looking through the inked up plates. I have developed a series of these frieze-works, digitally printed onto a re-ocatable adhesive fabric, they are non toxic and phthalate free, are safe to adhere to paintwork, they can be repositioned numerous times.
  • Pressed plant wall frieze
    • This is one from a series of horizontal and vertical wall friezes depicting specimens from the Buttongrass plains. These are a window into the wild flora of Tasmania- a visual feast of orchids, lichens, moss, fern and flower. They are all photographed at high resolution from the original pressed and arranged specimens.
  • New print works in development
    • Here are some early trials of current work in progress, using plants from the Tarkine area. I feel privileged to study and work with such an array of Tasmanian flora
  • Root of Eriochillus cucullatus
    • Hot off the press is the final original print of the root section of the orchid – Eriochilus cucullatus – Parson’s Bands
  • Inked Dry point Etching Plates
    • One of the benefits of using Perspex as a drypoint plate is being able to view the finished plates, inked up all together to create a depth of field of orchids.
  • Inked plates close-up
    • Fine details
  • Forest collection
    • The flora of the Tasmania forest

Citizen Science with the Tasmanian Land Conservancy – ABC Science Week Wildlife Spotter

Wildlife Spotter — the ABC’s citizen science project for National Science Week 2016 — invites ordinary Australians to be citizen scientists from the comfort of their own homes, contributing to real science by identifying quolls, malleefowl, Tassie devils, cats and many more animals captured in photos. These citizen scientists will identify animals in roughly a million images taken all across Australia by automated cameras.

Wildlife Spotter is the online citizen science project for National Science Week 2016, undertaken by ABC Science in conjunction with the Tasmanian Land Conservancy, Australian Museum, Deakin University, Charles Darwin University, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, and WWF Australia. It is supported by funding through the Australian Government Inspiring Australia strategy.

Participants will help answer questions such as:

  • –  How many endangered bettongs are left?
  • –  Are native predators like quolls and devils are competing with cats for food?
  • –  How common are common wombats.

Spot wildlife for ten minutes or ten hours — every animal identified will help our scientists. Should you need extra help, you can click through a short online tutorial.

As well as helping us understand living Australia, you could win one of two Go Pro Hero 4 cameras. School participants could win a visit from Dr Karl. Register to enter the competition, which is open until Monday 5 September.

How is the Tasmanian Land Conservancy involved?

The Tasmanian Land Conservancy was invited to contribute images taken by monitoring cameras on the TLC’s private reserves.

Each year thousands of images are taken through our monitoring program. Volunteers process the data by identifying the animals that are captured in the images. The TLC are thrilled to participate in the National Science Week citizen science program and strongly believe in the power of nationwide citizen science program that draws in Australians of all ages.

The TLC is a not-for-profit environment organisations that protects nature in our own reserves and in partnership with private landholders. The TLC uses science to inform conservation management of our reserves.

Wildlife Spotter

Media Release: National Science Week’s Wildlife Spotter seeks citizen scientists

Wombat Warriors: Creating a future for Tasmanian wombats

Tasmania boasts a number of unique and interesting species of fauna including the much loved wombat. Tasmania’s Common Wombat – Vombatus ursinus tasmaniensis, is now threatened with becoming an uncommon species on the island. This has led to a name change; now this large burrowing mammal will be known as as the Bare Nosed Wombat.

Like other wombat species, the Tasmania subspecies is under threat from mange mites – Sarcoptes scabiei. The female mite attaches itself to the wombat, burrows under the skin and lays eggs. The wombats’ response to this infestation causes issue with keratinisation of the skin, leading to thick scabs over the body including the eyes which leads to blindness. These scabs eventually crack causing secondary infections. After months of agony the wombat eventually dies. Studies have shown if left untreated, this infestation is almost always fatal.

Unfortunately in Tasmania there has been little done in the way of population research. Dr. Scott Carver from the University of Tasmania has been leading the field when it comes to researching mange infestations in Tasmanian wombats. “Sarcoptic mange appears to infect wombats widely across Tasmania.”  The extent to which this mite pathogen impacts wombat populations varies across the state.

Anecdotally, reports of wombat populations being severely impacted predominate in low lying coastal areas. Most notably, research at the University of Tasmania has documented a large scale decline of wombats at Narawntapu National Park. Research is currently underway into disease management tools and techniques in order to restore this threatened population.” Currently the only access to wombat mange information is through reports from private landholders and the UTAS research group. Treatment of mange is currently the responsibility of the land owners. People such as the family on the Cockatoo Hills property are keen to tackle this harsh and cruel infection.

Conservation Volunteers Australia, in partnership with Highland Conservation Pty Ltd, and with the support and imparting knowledge of Mange Management (Katja Gutwein) and UTAS (Scott Carver), recently undertook a wild treatment project in the centre of Tasmania. The privately owned site, near Bronte Park, boasts up to 4000 acres of threatened Poa grasslands, waterfalls and towering eucalyptus bushland that predates European settlement. The property owners GPS mapped over 800 wombat burrows and selected 200 more active burrows for treatment flap installations. The treatment flaps are simple but effective; when the wombat enters its burrow it receives a dose of cydectin to treat the infestation. Although fairly new, this treatment has been shown to be effective in Victoria with wombats completely recovering from the infestations.

Conservation Volunteers Australia sent a team of 10 volunteers to assist in the installation of treatments and monitoring of wombats on the property. We camped among the hakea trees by night and trekked through the grasslands by day. By Sunday, all 200 of the flaps had been successfully installed and satisfaction was at an all-time high. Volunteers were a mix of Tasmanian university students, local residents, and international exchange students – a handful even made a special trip from interstate to be a part of this project. Lucy Holdsworth, a UTAS student, joined the project because she had previously heard of wombat mange and thought that it was a great chance to help, instead of sitting back and turning a blind eye to the issue. She thought it would complement her degree. Jenny Baxter joined to learn more about wombats and to help with what seemed like a very worthwhile and meaningful project. Being new to the state, she was also keen to meet other people with similar interests and to see the Central Highlands area.

On completion, volunteers were tired, but the inspiration still radiated from their exhausted faces. There are high levels of satisfaction on a project that directly makes a positive impact on Tasmanian wildlife.

“The trip meant a lot to me because it meant that we could solve one of many issues that Tasmanian wildlife has been forced to endure. I know the project isn’t going to cure mange for all wombats, but it meant that we were able to give even a few wombats a little bit of a chance against mange that otherwise would not have been there. I think the project overall meant that we could make a slight dent in a major issue,” said Lucy. Conservation Volunteers Australia will continue to source funding and partnership opportunities to run similar projects around Tasmania so the future of the wombat is more secure than that of the Tasmanian Devils.


Get involved

Conservation Volunteering Projects in Tasmania – Conservation Volunteers Australia

Flowers of the Sky: Comets throughout history

Images compiled via the Public Domain Review

Comets, like the planets and moons, were born from the cloud of dust and gas before the Sun flared into existence. Often described as “dirty snowballs”, they consist of a solid nucleus up to ten kilometres across, with a vaporous tail that can be millions of kilometres in length. The dramatic tail is actually composed of two, often overlapping parts: a curved dust tail trailing behind, and a gas tail pushed by the solar wind pointing directly away from the Sun.

The observed comets are classified as either short or long period. The short period comets orbit in regions of space between 35 and 100 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun; each AU is the distance from Earth to the Sun, or about 150 million kilometres. Just beyond the orbit of Neptune, these regions known as the Kuiper Belt and the Scattered Disk are filled with objects similar to the asteroids that exist between Mars and Jupiter. These comets are flung onto their dramatic orbits by the gravity of Neptune, and every so often one is deflected towards the Earth and the Sun.

Even more exotic are the long period comets from the Oort Cloud. This distant region of space between 3,000 and 50,000 AU – almost a quarter of the way to the closest other star – is hypothesised from the orbits of these far-travelling comets with orbital periods of millions of years. In it, trillion of comets are travelling on their distant ellipses, still gravitationally tied to the Sun. In some instances, such as Halley’s Comet, they are captured by the gravity of the outer planets and bound to much shorter orbits.

When a comet comes within the orbit of Mars, the energy of the Sun begins to heat up its atmosphere to form the dust and gas tails. When a comet comes close enough to Earth, we can train our telescopes on them. If we plan and cooperate, we can send robots after them to take a more careful look.

Images compiled and source information:

Flowers of the Sky