Get your garden growing

Autumn is a great time to start planting your garden. The soil is still warm enough to encourage root growth and weather is mild reducing water stress. Young plants have a better chance to settle in and become established before summer heat arrives. I’ve been working on the garden below for a while and took the opportunity during the cooler weather to add new plants, mulch and do some landscaping.

I helped write some programs on Creating a Wildlife Habitat for the Junior Landcare Learning Centre. This 5 part program can help you plan and plant a wildlife habitat at your school, home or local area.

Creating a native wildlife habitat is a great way to ensure the protection of native wildlife, from the smallest insects to birds, reptiles, mammals and frogs.

Projects and Grants

NSW Schools are now invited to apply for a grant of up to $600 to purchase native trees and shrubs. The Tree Levy is an annual grants scheme funded by Federation to offset the environmental impact of the union’s activities. 

If you are in Sydney you can register for the Cooling the Schools project through Greening Australia.

Cooling the Schools: Creating cooler and greener schools where children and nature thrive

We are working with students to add thousands of plants to community spaces and schools across Greater Sydney.

Incorporate existing features into your wildlife habitat design, including established trees, rainwater tanks and ponds. Make sustainable choices by using what you’ve already got.

Don’t forget to include plenty of spaces for animals to hide.

Attracting wildlife to you backyard

Attracting birds to your backyard

Attract birds to your backyard by creating a garden that will provide food, shelter and nesting materials and sites. Local flowering plants and fruit trees provide birds with nectar and seeds. To provide birds with some protein rich food, use mulch to encourage worms, insects and grubs to thrive. Plant dense prickly native shrubs for shelter, hang up nesting boxes and install a bird bath.

Create a frogs friendly backyard

Encourage frogs to come to live and breed in your backyard. Create a small shallow pond in an area that is partly shaded. Include thick ground hugging plants around part of the pond to provide areas of warmer and cooler water. Your pond will need some sunlight to encourage algae and other plants that provide food for tadpoles. Make sure the banks slope gently so that the frogs can get out. Add some rocks and logs to provide shelter for adult frogs.

Minibeasts in your backyard

Not all bugs are pests. Good bugs pollinate plants, break down dead flora and fauna, aerate the soil and provide for other wildlife. They can even help keep harmful pests away. Create an inviting environment for good bugs by planting plenty of native plants, wildflowers and herbs and use chemical-free pest control when the pests do creep in.

Australian Environmental Education logo with dragonfly

My Spider Garden

I have been working in the garden to create a habitat for local wildlife. So far it’s the spiders that have found a safe home. I saw St Andrews Cross Spiders, Leaf-curling Spiders and Net-casting Spiders. I’ve had these species in my garden before and it is exciting to see so many again this year.

The new fence didn’t impact the spiders at all. There were several different spider egg sac, some freshly hatched spiderlings (the fuzzy mass in the middle) at least 2 Net-casting Spiders, 4 Leaf-curling Spiders and 5 St Andrews Cross Spiders just is this section of my backyard. I’ve highlighted some below in case you missed them.

Spiders in my garden highlighted

I got some close up images too so you can see more detail. I especially love the Leaf-curling Spider shots.

It has been wonderful to see so many spiders and other invertebrates making a happy home in my garden. Surrounded by so many spiders and their webs I was surprised to find a newly hatched praying mantis. It was about 1cm in size and almost transparent, unfortunately it disappeared not long after this photo. I’ll keep an eye out, but I think this one has become someones lunch!

I have more spider images mostly from my backyard in the Spider Image Gallery. Find out more about spiders

Australian Environmental Education logo with dragonfly

The year that was: 2020

I don’t think 2020 turned out the way anyone expected. In the first 2 months of the year Sydney experienced bushfires, droughts, heatwaves and then record rains and floods. Just when we thought the worst of 2020 was behind us, COVID-19 changed our lives for ever.

2020 was going to be My year of Sustainability and I was able to achieve some of my sustainability goals, however many were put on hold. During 2021 I will be able finish the journey I started.

In 2020 my focus had to change and I began creating more education resources and activities and delivering online education programs. I created over 50 resources pages and activities focusing on earth and environmental science over the last 12 months.

I have also been writing resources for the Junior Landcare Learning Centre. You can find the following resources on their website. Create a Wildlife Habitat with this series of 5 resources including: Research, Vision, Design, Planting and Monitoring.

Other activities I have written for the Junior Landcare Learning Centre explore the importance of water with Every Drop Counts. This activity also looks at water usage and water saving ideas. Investigate the journey of water through the environment, from the mountains to the sea, with the Exploring the Story of Water program designed for younger kids.

I have a series on catchments and water and a series on a beach survey and clean up for high school students coming out soon, so keep an eye out on the Landcare Learning Centre in 2021. I was also excited to be able to contribute to this year’s Coastcare Week campaign and wrote a following booklet on Marine Litter.

Like many other people in the education community I had to pivot to online delivery in 2020. I have been working with Virtual Excursions Australia for many years and was able to transition my programs for online audiences. I delivered programs for schools and individuals reaching thousands of students from across the world.

Another focus has been photographing some of the amazing wildlife I’ve come across during the year. Below is a selection of image taken at Sydney Zoo, central west NSW, central coast and my backyard. You can check out some of my favourite Macro images too.

Let’s see what 2021 brings!

Reduce your use: plastics

Over 75% of the rubbish removed from our beaches is made of plastic. Plastics don’t biodegrade, they breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics.

Microplastics collected on the beach ©David Pereiras Villagrá

Microplastics are small pieces of plastic less than 5mm in size and are the most abundant form of solid-waste pollution. It has been found in all the worlds oceans and even in the deep sea. Microplastics include microbeads, plastic pellets and plastic fibres and form from broken down parts of larger plastics.

Floating plastics absorb toxins dissolved in the water and when ingested these toxins enter the food chain. Over time plastics and toxins accumulate in the foodchain.

Another major issue for marine species is entanglement in fishing line and other marine debris.

Dead turtle entangled in fishing nets on the ocean ©Maxim Blinkov
Estimated decomposition rates of waste in our oceans ©elenabsl  
Tips to reduce plastic waste and to prevent ocean pollution infographic ©elenabsl  

Coastcare Week

I’ve been working on education resources for the Junior Landcare Learning Centre and was excited to be able to contribute to this years Coastcare Week campaign.

Coastcare Week is on between 7 – 13 December and Summer up with Coastcare is the 2020 campaign. The campaign aims to raise public awareness of the effects of litter on our waterways, encouraging all Australians to get connected to their local environment with Coastcare, and support groups to continue their invaluable work.

To recognise Coastcare Week find out ways you can help clean up your local marine environment.

  • At the beach, keep on the walking tracks. This protects the vegetation that provides habitat for local native birds and other animals, and prevents erosion.
  • Ensure your dogs are kept on a lead in areas where dune vegetation is vulnerable.
  • Landcare and Coastcare groups work on these sites to enhance the habitat for native animals to protect them.
  • Avoid and Reduce – by reducing your plastic footprint, you are helping to protect our rivers and waterways that will keep our beaches and oceans clean and protect marine animals from the impact of rubbish including plastics.
  • Reuse – if you need to use plastic products, make sure you reuse items over and over again before disposing of them thoughtfully at the end of their useful life.
  • Recycle – if you can’t reuse an item or if it is at the end of it’s useful life, recycle it or compost it.
  • Make sure you take a bag with you to the beach to collect rubbish on your next walk.
  • Every piece of plastic removed from the marine environment can save an animal’s life, and reduce the amount of microplastic created.

Australian Pollinator Week

Plants can’t move around to look for a mate to reproduce. Plants need pollinators to transfer the pollen, the male sex cells to the female reproductive parts of flowers. This process is called pollination, which leads to fertilisation. Good fertilisation helps plants develop seeds and fruit. The seeds and fruits that feed the countless animals in the world, including us.

Pollinators drive biodiversity, and over 75% of the world’s flowering plants rely on insect pollinators to reproduce. Most people are aware that bees are important pollinators and other insect pollinators include flies, beetles, moths, butterflies, wasps, ants. Birds and bats are some of the vertebrate animals that also pollinators. Pollinators provide these important ecosystem services in the natural landscapes as well as within agricultural/horticultural and urban environments.

Australian Pollinator Week acknowledges the important and unique insect pollinators found across Australia. It is a designated week in November during our southern spring when community, business and organisations can come together to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators and support their needs. The world is suffering from major pollinator declines, but you can also help make a difference by encouraging theses animals into your backyard and local area.

Use this great resource ‘Pollinator Insects Identification Tips’ by Wild Pollinator Count to help you identify pollinators around your home.

Make an insect hotel to attract more pollinators to your garden. Plant flowering plants and natives to attract more birds into your garden.

National Water Week 2020

The theme for National Water Week 2020 is Reimagining our Water Future. How can you reimagine the way you use and reuse water to ensure there’s enough of it in the future? Use these resources from Australian Environmental Education and beyond to rethink your current water practices. Remember what you do as an individual and as a communities can make a difference; every drop counts.

Even though water is the most common substance found on earth, less than 1% is available as freshwater. We need to conserve and protect freshwater resources, consider your use of Water.

Education resources

Every drop counts, being water wise

Leaking tap © Chayatorn Laorattanavech 

The Every Drop Counts learning activity explores the many ways that water is used, how you can reduce your water usage and reuse water.

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 has the lowest rainfall and the lowest water runoff. Most water is Australia is used in Agriculture reducing environmental flows.

You can be part of the solution by looking at your water usage and exploring way that you can be more Waterwise.

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 availability © normaals

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).

Australian Water Association

The AWA has extensive list of educational resources that explore all the different aspects of water including the water cycle, the sustainability goals, Indigenous water knowledge, how to save water, caring for our catchments, and general water education.

Threatened Species Day

Every year on September 7 we commemorate National Threatened Species Day to raise awareness of plants and animals at risk of extinction. Threatened Species Day acknowledges the death of the last remaining Thylacine, Tasmanian tiger at Hobart Zoo in 1936. It is a day to reflect on what you can do to make a difference.

Thylacine photographed in cage with chicken by Henry Burrell 1921. 

Australia is home to more than 500,000 animal and plant species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. Over the last 200 years, more than 100 animal and plant species have become extinct. In NSW there are almost 1000 animal and plant species at risk of extinction.

Threatened Species Day is a time to focus on or native plants, animals, and ecosystems and look at  how we can protect them into the future.

Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife

What can you do to help?

Volunteers some of your time to help save Australian Species for the next generation. You can volunteers for National Parks or join a Citizen Science program.

Create a animal friendly backyard

You can create a native haven in your garden that will encourage wildlife to come and share your backyard.

Attract birds to your garden: use plants that will provide food, shelter and nesting sites. Local flowering plants and fruit trees provide birds with nectar and seeds. Use mulch to encourage worms, insects and grubs to thrive. Plant dense prickly native shrubs create shelter, hang up nesting boxes and install a bird bath.

Encourage frogs to your backyard: create a small shallow pond in an area that is partly shaded. Include thick ground hugging plants around part of the pond to provide areas of warmer and cooler water. Your pond will need some sunlight to encourage algae and other plants that provide food for tadpoles. Make sure the banks slope gently so that the frogs can get out. Add some rocks and logs to provide shelter for adult frogs. Put up some Frog Tubes to provide shelter for tree frogs

Make a home for invertebrates too: remember not are insects are pests. Good insects pollinate plants, break down dead flora and fauna, aerate the soil and are a food source for other wildlife. They can even help keep harmful pests away. Create an inviting environment for insects and spiders by planting plenty of native plants.

Make sure you use chemical-free pest control to maintain your animal friendly backyard.

World Oceans Day

World Oceans Day is celebrated on 8 June. The theme for World Oceans Day 2020 is “Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean.” The Marine Environments is divided up into three main ecosystems; Oceans, Coral Reefs and Estuaries.

There are the five major oceans that cover the world including the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic, and Southern Oceans. Coral reefs are small in size when compared to the oceans, but around 25% of marine species live in the coral reefs ecosystems. Estuaries are areas where rivers and streams flow into the ocean. This area where freshwater and saltwater meets, creates an ecosystem diverse plant and animal life often called the ‘nurseries of the sea”.

Our oceans make up 71% of the earth’s surface and they contain the greatest diversity of life on Earth. Habitats range from the freezing polar regions to the warm waters of the coral reefs, deep sea hydrothermal vents to shallow seagrass beds and beautiful sponge gardens to giant kelp forests, marine organisms are found everywhere.

Find out ways to take action on World Ocean day

World Oceans Day 2020 VIRTUAL EVENT Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean.

There are also some great video and resources on Science Club Live.

Together We Can Protect Our Home.

Find out more with Sydney Science Education

Uncropped AEE logo with dragonfly icon

World Bee Day

World Bee Day was created to spread awareness of the significance of bees and other pollinators for our survival. 

World Bee Day is celebrated on 20 May: Helping Protect our Bees

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. 

Most Australian bees are solitary bees which raise their young in burrows in the ground or in tiny hollows in timber. Australia also has 11 species of social native bees which do not sting.

What can you to to help native Bees?

There are a lot of ways that you can create a safe habitat for your local bee. Make sure you are Bee aware and don’t use pesticides in your garden and use the information below to create bee homes.

Find out more about the importance of Native Bees

We’re Buzzing about World Bee Day!

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