By Hannah Glover
I’m finally in Australia! The past few months have been a flurry of work, both preparing for this trip and wrapping up projects at home in Seattle, WA. The trip felt more and more surreal during the final week before I left, even as I double-checked packing lists and exchanged last minute emails with collaborators. After 4 flights and 32 total hours of travel time, I’m settled in Ballina, Australia (pronounced, BA-llina). I was greeted at the airport by my host, Deb, and her furry field assistant, Ragland (I will add photos when I have access to better internet!)
This week, Deb is showing me around her field sites along the coast here in eastern Australia while I adjust to the time zone. I am thrilled to be working with Deb because she studies both coastal geomorphology (the shape and stability of the coastline) and ecology (what lives in these environments). I am a geomorphologist: I study the interaction between rivers and oceans by measuring the flow of water and mud and by reading the deposited layers of mud like a book. I don’t usually think about the trees and creatures living in these environments. Deb will be teaching me new techniques for looking at the ecology of these fascinating coastlines.
Here in warm and sunny Ballina, many of the coastlines have mangroves. Mangroves are incredible and unique: they are the only tree that lives in saltwater environments. They stabilize coastlines, provide habitat, and trap carbon. Today we’ll be wading through a muddy, mangrove forest to measure the rates of mud deposition in the forest. Tomorrow we’ll head north to Sandon Estuary where Deb has been monitoring turtle migration.
Sadly, I won’t have much time to explore this exciting coastline. Next week we leave for New Zealand! Deb and I are collaborating with researchers at the University of Waikato in New Zealand to study a small estuary on the North Island. We’ll be investigating what has changed in the estuary after mangrove trees were cut down ~10 years ago. I’m excited to be able to explore so many new coastal environments!