About 12 or 13 years ago, I worked on a local council election as an electoral worker, counting and recounting votes. It’s a mostly casual workforce and the workers come from all walks of life. There’s a wide variety of ages and backgrounds and it can be fascinating to hear the stories people bring with them (it’s often a very long day).
On this day, one of the people I met was a doctoral candidate, who was working with Eastern barred bandicoots (EBB), a species on the brink of extinction on mainland Australia. She was working in a variety of places around western Victoria including a fenced site south west of Melbourne. There she was tagging and tracking these delightful little characters. As they are nocturnal, the data collection took place between sunset and sunrise. I was lucky enough to be able to join the research program on two occasions as a volunteer, night time tracking. This involved big torches, portable antennae and radio receivers. Also cross-country tramping in the dark.
I was fascinated both by the EBB and also by the people and processes involved in trying to understand this species and establish programs that might help them survive.
I pitched the project to several different publishers in different forms, and although there was interest, none of these projects ever eventuated. It was this project though that opened up the opportunity to submit to Walker Books Aus Nature Storybook (NSB) series. Big Red Kangaroo was my first NSB title and Great White Shark is my most recent.
I was very pleased to read in the Age recently that the EBB’s status has been downgraded from threatened to endangered. This shy little marsupial used to be found widely throughout the plains west of Melbourne. With the help of scientists and volunteers there are now several populations established in places safe from predators.
You may never see an eastern barred bandicoot in the wild, but it’s fabulous to know that they are out there, living their quiet life, thanks to science and scientists. Bravo!