Exploring the Myth and Reality about cartoon animals

Cartoons have been a beloved part of many peoples childhood, entertaining audiences with colourful characters and crazy adventures. One of the enduring aspects of cartoons is the portrayal of animals, which often take on exaggerated characteristics and behaviours. From the lightning-fast Road Runner to the whirlwind Tasmanian Devil, these cartoon animals have captured our imaginations.

While the cartoon Road Runner may be a fictionalized version of this bird, it’s clear that the real roadrunner is a remarkable creature in its own right, perfectly adapted to its harsh desert environment. The cartoon Road Runner is depicted as a blue bird with long brown legs and a dark blue crest on top of its head. Living in the southwest American desert surrounded by cacti, boulders, and sand.

There really is a Roadrunner!

Roadrunner cartoon character

The Greater Roadrunner Geococcyx californianus, the larger of the 2 species for roadrunner measures about 55 cm in length.

Roadrunners have various predators including coyotes. But the coyote can run at 65 km/h which is much faster than the speed of a roadrunner, so would have no problem catching up with one.

The roadrunner will be forever remembered by the sound ‘Meep meep’. Listen below to what they really sound like.

© Looney Tunes by Warner Bros.

© Bob DuHamel

What makes the real roadrunner really remarkable is its adaptability and intelligence. These birds are skilled hunters, preying on insects, lizards, and even snakes. They are also known for their distinctive appearance, with long legs, a crest of feathers on their head.

Greater Roadrunner walking in the Mojave desert, California USA
© Jessie Eastland

Another iconic cartoon animal is the Tasmanian Devil, famously portrayed in Warner Bros. cartoons as a spinning whirlwind of energy and chaos. With its ferocious growl and insatiable appetite, the cartoon Tasmanian Devil is a force to be reckoned with. The real Tasmanian Devil is a unique marsupial found only in Tasmania, off the south coast of Australia.

Tazzie Devil cartoon

While it shares some characteristics with its cartoon counterpart, such as its stocky build and powerful jaws, the similarities end there.

In reality, the Tasmanian Devil is a solitary and nocturnal creature, known for its scavenging habits and loud vocalizations.

© Looney Tunes by Warner Bros.

Unfortunately, the real Tasmanian Devil faces significant challenges in the wild, including habitat loss and Devil Facial Tumour Disease a contagious cancer, which has decimated populations. Efforts are underway to protect this iconic species, including conservation breeding programs and initiatives to control the spread of the disease.

Tasmanian Devil
Tasmanian Devil

Cartoon animals may entertain us with their exaggerated antics and larger-than-life personalities, but they often bear little resemblance to their real-life counterparts. While characters like the Road Runner and the Tasmanian Devil may capture our imaginations, it’s important to remember the beauty and complexity of the natural world they are based on. By learning more about real animals and the challenges they face, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the incredible diversity of life on Earth. So whether you’re watching cartoons or exploring the great outdoors, take a moment to marvel at the wonders of the animal kingdom, both real and imagined.

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Outdoor Classroom Day

Outdoor Classroom Day is on 23 May and the 7 November. Outdoor education leads to a greater connection with nature and improves student engagement. Outdoor education and nature play teaches critical life skills including resilience, teamwork and creativity and is also central to enjoyment. 

Kids exploring nature with hand lenses

The Australian Curriculum section on Outdoor learning states it can be instrumental in:

  • the teaching and learning of self-reliance, interdependence and leadership
  • the development of an adventurous spirit
  • managing personal risks
  • experiencing safe journeys in nature
  • learning the value of lifelong outdoor recreation for enjoyment, health and wellbeing
  • understanding nature through direct experience; and the development of deeper human–nature relationships.

Outdoor Education resources

Australian Environmental Education has a range of resources on earth and environmental science. These programs are designed to get your kids outside exploring the world around them. Try the What’s in your Backyard series of resources and videos on YouTube.

The What’s in your Backyard resources are designed to help you explore the amazing wildlife in your local area. Look for the clues that are left behind to discover more about these animals and what you can do to protect them.

There are many ways to connect nature and teach outdoors. Go on a nature walk, collect natural material to use in art projects, become citizen scientists and record wildlife observations. These are all simple ideas you can do with your kids at home or at school.

Use all your senses to discover the amazing world around you.

Remember to look up and change your perspective
Touch and feel different tree bark
Visit your favourite tree, if you don’t have one, find one
Listen to the sounds around you

Find out more on the Outdoor Classroom Day website

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Honouring our Fuzzy Pollinators on World Bee Day

World Bee Day is celebrated on 20 May every year. It is a day dedicated to the awareness of the vital role bees play in our ecosystem. Bees are responsible for pollinating a third of the food we eat and without them our food supply is at threat. They also play a critical role in the reproduction of plants and the production of honey, making them a crucial part of our natural world.

World Bee Day

Unfortunately, bees are facing a number of threats, including habitat loss, pesticide use, climate change, and disease. As a result, bee populations around the world are declining at an alarming rate. This decline is not only a threat to bees themselves but also to our food supply and the overall health of our ecosystem.

Australia has more than 1600 native bee species. There could be as many as 2000 to 3000 still to be identified. Australian native bees are wonderful pollinators, especially for our native plants. There are a number of actions we can take to support bee populations and protect their habitats.

Plant bee-friendly flowers and plants in your backyard. Bees rely on nectar and pollen from flowers for their food, so planting flowers that are rich in nectar and pollen can help support bee populations. Great examples include native flowers, lavender and sunflowers.

Avoid using pesticides as they can be harmful to bees and other pollinators. If you must use pesticides, choose ones that are bee-friendly and apply them in the early morning or late evening when bees are not active.

Bees need shelter to protect themselves from the elements and predators. You can help by providing bee houses or leaving dead wood and leaf litter in your garden. Make an Insect Hotel for your Fuzzy Pollinators this World Bee day.

Spread awareness and educate others about the importance of bees and the threats they face. Encourage your friends, family, and community to take action to protect bees and their habitats.

World Bee Day is an opportunity to appreciate the incredible work that bees do for our ecosystem and to take action to protect them. By taking small steps to support bee populations, we can help ensure that they continue to thrive and play their important role in our world.

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Hosting a Sustainable Party

I moved up to the Central Coast from Sydney a few months ago and we had our housewarming party last weekend. I’ve been writing about sustainable parties and wanted to reduce plastic waste at this event too and keep to a budget.

Party graphic on how to reduce plastic waste.
Credit: Queensland Environment

There were a few challenges that I will share with you.

  • Buying bulk food to reduce packaging wasn’t as easy as I hoped. The local wholesale butcher was great for sausages but I had to buy smaller packs of chicken skewers each in a plastic container. I ended up making additional chicken skewers to reduce waste.
  • Separate bins for food waste. I wasn’t able to separate as much waste into the recycling bin. Next time I will have signs explaining to people to scape their plates first, with a bin for food waste and the recycling bin next to it.

Successes

  • Help from friends, we borrowed fabric bunting that helped decorate the backyard. It looked great and can be used over and over. I had some paper bunting left over from my daughters birthday party, it looked great, but didn’t hold up in the rain. Easy to recycle, but fabric bunting is the way to go if you have someone that can sew.
  • The party was outside so we used lights to help decorate the space, they look great and we now use them all the time.
  • We made Return and Earn signs and everyone was great putting cans and bottles in the right bins. People were also good at sorting out the larger bottle into the recycling bin too.
  • It is so much easier to find good quality non plastic disposable plates and cutlery. I had extra large bowls and serving tray too. I used the foil BBQ trays to prepare salads and other food.
  • With more help from friends, lots of people brought in homemade desserts.

I will continue advocating for sustainable parties and each time I put one on it will get easier. My biggest takeaway is ask friends and family for help, borrow items to reduce costs, let people bring food – sustainability is a community effort. Remember start small, you need to balance your budget and time to reduce your waste.

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World Water Day 2024

Today is World Water Day, the 22 March highlights the importance of freshwater. The day is used to promote the sustainable management of freshwater resources. This years theme of World Water Day 2024 is ‘Water for Peace’.

World Water Day 2024 banner

Water is essential for all life and is the most abundant substance on Earth, yet water scarcity is one of the biggest issues facing us today. Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent and 2019 was on of the the hottest and driest year on record. Because of many years of dry conditions, the drought worsened in 2019, resulting in Australia’s driest year on record. With area-average rainfall of just 277.6 mm almost the entire continent was in drought.

However in many part of the world, Water can create peace or spark conflict. When water is scarce or polluted, or when people have unequal, or no access, tensions can rise between communities and countries. More than 3 billion people worldwide depend on water that crosses national borders. Yet, only 24 countries have cooperation agreements for all their shared water.

As climate change impacts increase, and populations grow, there is an urgent need, within and between countries, to unite around protecting and conserving our most precious resource. Public health and prosperity, food and energy systems, economic productivity and environmental integrity all rely on a well-functioning and equitably managed water cycle.

Even through water covers 75% of the earth’s surface, only a very small amount is freshwater that can be used directly by people, animals and plants. This is because:

  • 97% of this water is in oceans and is too salty for people, animals or plants to use
  • 2% is frozen at the north and south poles, in glaciers and on snowy mountain ranges
  • Only 1% is avaiable as freshwater in rivers, lakes and groundwater.
Earths water vector illustration. Labeled global liquids ecosystem scheme. Environmental fresh
Earths water: ocean, river, sea and groundwater ©: normaals

This World Water Day think of how you can use water more wisely in your daily life. Below is some information to help you get started.

How to be Waterwise

Water is essential for all life and is the most abundant substance on Earth, yet water scarcity is one of the biggest issues facing us today. Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent and 2019 was the hottest and driest year on record

The Urban Water Cycle

The natural water cycle has been modified by people to ensure a constant water supply and the safe disposal of wastewater. The Urban Water Cycle incorporates the Water Supply System, Wastewater system and the Stormwater system.

Why is Water Important

Water is the most common substance found on earth, so why is it important? Water is essential for all forms of life and can dissolve nearly anything. It can exist as a gas (water vapour and steam), a liquid (water) and a solid (ice).

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Making a Dragonfly Garden

I’ve recently move to the Central Coast in NSW and have been amazed by the variety of wildlife. With the good has also come the bad and there are a lot of mosquitos in some areas of my backyard. I have put in mosquito repelling plants near the house and I’m building a Dragonfly garden.

Dragon Fly garden

It does seem odd to get rid of mosquitos by putting in a pond, but I have thought this through. Dragonflies hunt insects like mosquitos in both their larval and adult forms. Dragonfly nymphs actively seek mosquito larvae as part of their diet. A single dragonfly nymph can consume hundreds of mosquito larvae during its development.

As adults, dragonflies continue their role as mosquito hunters. With exceptional flying abilities and keen eyesight, they prey on adult mosquitoes reducing the population before they have a chance to lay eggs.

Follow these steps to encourage dragonflies to your backyard and maximize their impact on mosquito control:

  • Create or maintain ponds, wetlands and other water bodies to provide suitable habitats for dragonfly nymphs.
  • Minimize the use of chemical pesticides, as these can harm dragonflies and disrupt the delicate ecological balance.
  • Incorporate native plants around water bodies to provide suitable resting spots and breeding sites for adult dragonflies.

Dragonfly Garden infographic
Dragonfly Garden infographic © Australian Environmental Education

Research Dragonfly Species in Your Area

Find out which species of dragonfly are native to your area. Different species have specific habitat requirements, and tailoring your garden to their needs will attract a bigger variety. Consult local field guides or search on the iNaturalist Australia for information on dragonfly species in your area.

Choose the Right Location

Dragonflies love sunny spots with plenty of warmth, so choose a location for your garden that receives ample sunlight throughout the day. Dragonflies spend a significant part of their life in and around aquatic environments. They lay their eggs in the water, so they need access to water as part of their lifecycle. If you aren’t putting in a pond build your dragonfly garden near a water source.

Incorporate Water Features

You can create an above ground pond in a large pot or an in ground pond with a prefabricated pond or using pond liner. Add materials like rocks, gravel, branches and plants to provide suitable resting spots and breeding grounds. Ensure the water is clean and unpolluted. You can also add floating plants like water lilies for additional hiding spots.

There is a natural stormwater channel that I wanted to incorporate my dragonfly garden into. Because it is usually completely dry I went for a prefabricated step pond. It has 2 depths making it ideal for this slopped area and I used the surrounding rocks to make it level.

Choose Dragonfly-Friendly Plants

Selecting the right plants is crucial to creating a dragonfly-friendly environment. I went for a mix of native flowering plants and grasses that provide landing spots for dragonflies and attract the insects they feed on. I also wanted to include plants of varying heights to create layers and provide shelter.

I sourced everything from the local nursery and brought some different ground covers including a Grevillia and Pigface to stabilised the ground surrounding the pond. I also included a couple of different species of Lomandra and a Kangaroo Paw. To attract insects and to provide height I went with 2 more Grevillias.

Most importantly were the water plants; I put in 3 different plants including a Water Lilly. An added advantage is that any aquatic invertebrates that hitched a ride in the plants should be local.

Create Sunning and Resting Spots

Dragonflies love to bask in the sun, and providing suitable sunning spots is essential for their well-being. Incorporate flat rocks or logs strategically placed around your garden where dragonflies can rest and warm their bodies. These areas also serve as excellent vantage points for hunting insects.

Minimize Pesticide Use

To create a thriving dragonfly garden, it’s crucial to minimize pesticide use. Dragonflies are predators and chemical pesticides to kill mosquitoes can harm them as well. Use organic alternatives to maintain a healthy and balanced ecosystem.

Maintain a Balanced Ecosystem

A successful dragonfly garden relies on a balanced ecosystem. Encourage biodiversity by incorporating a mix of plants to provide a diversity habitats. Regularly maintain your garden by removing invasive species and keeping the water features clean.

Dragonfly drying it's wings after metamorphosis

Building a dragonfly garden is a rewarding endeavour that goes beyond just the aesthetics. By creating a habitat that caters to the needs of dragonflies, you contribute to the overall health of your backyard ecosystem. With a little effort and thoughtful planning, you can turn your outdoor space into a sanctuary where dragonflies thrive.

Find out what else you can do to create a wildlife friendly backyard with the What’s in your Backyard activity series.

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Bird Bonanza

My sea and tree change to the Central Coast has allowed me to reconnect with nature and the bird life is amazing. Today has been a Bird Bonanza. First thing this morning I spotted a pair of King Parrots feeding in a tree by my front window. When I went into the front yard I was surprised to see a flock of Galahs and Cockatoos feeding on seeds under a tree and across the lawn. I then noticed movement in the trees above and spotted a dozen Rainbow Lorikeets. It was a fabulous way to start the day.

In the backyard I saw a Kookaburra sitting on the fence and Magpies searching the lawn for food. Later in the day I was walking by Brisbane Waters near Kincumber and was excited to see so many more species. It had started raining, but that didn’t bother the birds. I saw a huge flock of Black Swans feeding and sheltering in the shallow water. There were Pelicans soaring above and a White-faced Heron looking for food among the mangroves. There were also several families of Chestnut Teals swimming in the inlets.

As I kept walking I saw movement in the shrubs along the path. I stopped for a closer look and spotted a few Superb Fairy-wrens. On the other side of the path I saw several Red-browed Finch feeding on seeds in the long grass.

Red-browed Finch Cover image © JJ Harrison

The Central Coast

Nestled along the stunning coastline of New South Wales, Australia, the Central Coast is a haven for nature enthusiasts and bird lovers alike. The Central Coast is characterized by its diverse landscapes, each providing a unique habitat for birds. Along the coastline, sandy beaches and rocky cliffs are frequented by seabirds such as silver gulls, crested terns, and majestic pelicans gliding gracefully over the waves. In the estuaries and wetlands, species like the pied oystercatcher and the eastern curlew can be spotted foraging for food in the shallow waters.

Venturing inland, the landscape transitions into lush forests and sprawling national parks, offering refuge to a myriad of woodland birds. Here, among the towering eucalyptus trees, one can encounter iconic species like the kookaburra, crimson rosella, and rainbow lorikeet filling the air with their melodic calls and vibrant plumage.

Notable Birding Hotspots

  1. Bouddi National Park: This coastal gem is home to a diverse range of bird species. Wander along the scenic coastal tracks and keep an eye out for eastern whipbirds darting through the undergrowth or eastern yellow robins perched on low branches.
  2. Tuggerah Lake: The second-largest coastal saltwater lake in New South Wales, Tuggerah Lake is a haven for waterbirds. Watch flocks of black swans gliding gracefully across the water or spot the distinctive silhouette of a white-bellied sea eagle soaring overhead.
  3. The Entrance: Situated at the confluence of Tuggerah Lake and the Pacific Ocean, The Entrance is a prime location for birdwatching. Stroll along the waterfront and observe wading birds such as egrets and herons fishing in the shallows or glimpse the elusive azure kingfisher darting amongst the mangroves.

Conservation Efforts

While the Central Coast has a huge variety of birdlife, it is not without its conservation challenges. Habitat loss, pollution, and climate change threaten the delicate balance of ecosystems upon which these birds depend. Conservation efforts, such as habitat restoration projects and community education initiatives, play a crucial role in protecting the region’s species for future generations to enjoy.

By supporting these efforts and practicing responsible birdwatching, visitors can help ensure that future generations can continue to marvel at the natural beauty of the Central Coast’s feathered inhabitants.

Whether you’re exploring coastal wetlands, wandering through the local park, hiking in the hinterland, or simply enjoying the serenade of birdsong in your backyard, there’s always something new to discover.

So grab your binoculars, lace up your hiking boots, and immerse yourself in the captivating world of birds on the Central Coast. With its breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife, it’s a destination that will leave you awe-inspired and longing to return time and time again.

I am glad I now call this area my Backyard!

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Citizen Science for school students

Citizen science projects are a great way to engage school students in scientific research and environmental monitoring. In Australia, there are several projects that students can get involved in.

Here are some examples:

Students can participate in wildlife monitoring and observation projects. You can report sightings of native animals like birds, possums, or kangaroos through platforms like the Urban Wildlife App

FrogID is a project by the Australian Museum that involves recording and identifying frog calls. Students can use the FrogID app to record frog calls in their local area. This data helps researchers monitor frog populations and biodiversity.

Seek by iNaturalist allows curious naturalists of all ages to earn badges and participate in challenges to observe organisms with on-screen identification using computer vision for identifications based on data from iNaturalist.

The National Waterbug Blitz is a nationwide waterway monitoring event. Everyone is encouraged to become ‘citizen scientists’ and investigate the health their local waterways and wetlands by exploring and identifying the waterbugs.

Students can learn about local flora by participating in tree planting initiatives and surveys of native plants. This helps with reforestation efforts and conserving native species. The School Tree Day is on 26 July 2024

The Aussie Backyard Bird Count is a great birdwatching and monitoring projects. Students can participate in bird surveys, recording the species they see and their behaviours.

The Australian Pollinator Count is taking place during Australian Pollinator Week, from 11-19  November. Taking part is quick and easy. You simply need to observe some flowers for 10 minutes, record the pollinators you see and register your results.

Australia has a unique range of native bee species. Students can learn about these bees and participate in bee monitoring projects to help researchers understand and protect these important pollinators.

Students can set up weather stations at their schools or homes and contribute to climate data collection. Organizations like the Bureau of Meteorology offer resources and guidelines for setting up these stations.

To get involved in these projects, students can often find information on the websites of relevant organizations, science institutions, or local community groups. It’s also a good idea to reach out to teachers, as many schools have partnerships with organizations that offer citizen science opportunities. These projects not only provide valuable data for research but also offer a hands-on and engaging way for students to learn about the environment and scientific processes.

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Celebrating Biodiversity Month

September is Biodiversity Month, a time to celebrate our natural wonders and diverse ecosystems. Biodiversity Month offers us the perfect opportunity to pause and appreciate the beauty, complexity, and importance of biodiversity. Biodiversity Month also encourages us to reflect on our relationship with the natural world and take action to protect it.

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Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth and is typically a measure of variation at the genetic, species, and ecosystem level.

Genetic diversity

Genetic diversity is the variety of genes within a species. Each species is made up of individuals that have their own particular genetic composition. This means a species may have different populations, each having different genetic compositions. To conserve genetic diversity, different populations of a species must be conserved.

Species diversity

Species diversity is the variety of species within a habitat or a region. Some habitats, such as rainforests and coral reefs, have many species. Others, such as salt flats or a polluted stream, have fewer. In Australia, more than 80% of plant and animal species are endemic, which means that they only occur naturally in Australia.

Ecosystem diversity

Ecosystem diversity is the variety of ecosystems in a given place. An ecosystem is a community of organisms and their physical environment interacting together. An ecosystem can cover a large area, such as a whole forest, or a small area, such as a pond.

Biodiversity Month serves as a reminder of the extraordinary diversity of life on our planet and the importance of preserving it. Biodiversity is not just a concern for scientists and conservationists; it’s a global responsibility that each of us can contribute to in our own way. Whether through education, advocacy, or personal lifestyle choices, we can all play a role in safeguarding the web of life that sustains us. So, this September, let’s celebrate and protect the incredible biodiversity that enriches our world.

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National Tree Planting Day

Trees play a vital role in supporting life on Earth and their significance encompasses ecological, environmental, social, and economic aspects. You can make a difference by planting tree on any day especially Schools Tree Day on Friday 28th July, National Tree Day is Sunday 30th July.

Australian dry forest

Here are some key reasons why trees are essential:

  1. Oxygen production: Trees are primary producers of oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. They absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen, making the air we breathe cleaner and more breathable.
  2. Carbon sequestration: Trees act as natural carbon sinks, absorbing and storing carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas responsible for climate change. They play a critical role in mitigating the effects of global warming by reducing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.
  3. Biodiversity support: Forests, which are primarily composed of trees, are incredibly diverse ecosystems that provide habitat and sustenance for a vast array of plants, animals, insects, and microorganisms. Trees contribute to the preservation of biodiversity and help maintain a balanced ecosystem.
  4. Soil conservation: Tree roots help prevent soil erosion, which is crucial for maintaining fertile soil and preventing landslides and desertification.
  5. Water cycle regulation: Trees influence the water cycle by absorbing and releasing water through their roots and leaves. They help regulate rainfall patterns, prevent floods, and maintain groundwater levels.
  6. Climate regulation: Large forests and mature trees have a moderating effect on local and global climates. They regulate temperature, humidity, and precipitation patterns, creating a more stable environment.
  7. Wildlife habitat: Trees provide shelter, food, and nesting sites for a wide range of animal species, including birds, mammals, and insects. Many creatures rely on trees for their survival.
  8. Economic value: Trees are essential for various industries, including timber, paper, and pharmaceuticals. They provide raw materials for construction, furniture, and other products, supporting economies and livelihoods.
  9. Aesthetic and recreational benefits: Trees enhance the beauty of landscapes, parks, and urban areas, contributing to the overall well-being and mental health of people. Green spaces with trees offer opportunities for relaxation and recreation.
  10. Air quality improvement: Trees act as natural air purifiers, filtering harmful pollutants and particulate matter from the air, which is especially crucial in urban environments with high levels of pollution.
  11. Noise reduction: Trees can absorb and dampen sound, reducing noise pollution and creating a more peaceful environment.
  12. Health benefits: Interacting with trees and spending time in natural environments has been shown to have positive effects on mental and physical health, reducing stress, anxiety, and promoting overall well-being.

Given their numerous ecological and societal benefits, the preservation and responsible management of trees and forests are essential for the long-term health and sustainability of our planet.

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