JCU Facility Tour

It’s down to the final days and today we are doing our last road trip of the study abroad. This time we are heading up the coast to Cape Tribulation in pursuit of the Daintree Rainforest, crocs, and more reef! On our way to our lodging, our bus had to use a ferry to pass over a river. It was really cool to see such a small ferry be pulled by cables.

The road after the ferry twisted, turned, and was filled with bumps. Luckily, it wasn’t long until we were at the Daintree Field Research station where Dr. Susan Laurance conducts her drought experiment. The site was filled with modern and open cabins, washrooms, and facilities (enough for 50 people!). There is an office area complete with stations for microscopes and washing stations. Anything you could need for biological or ecological work. The buildings pictured were finished in 2014 so everything there is very modern and off the grid completely. Power comes from solar panels which start the day by charging the batteries for night time. After those are full with power, the energy goes to the wall sockets and washers so anyone staying there has the ability to still use appliances. In case of emergency or no solar power, there are diesel powered generators that are used to power the site.

 

Though the site is gorgeous, I was excited to finally see where the rainforest drought experiment is conducted. To explain a bit, Dr. Susan Laurance who is a professor at James Cook University also started research on how tropical rainforests adapt and survive in extreme stress. Specifically, how the future climate changes may cause drought-like conditions and, therefore, how the rainforest will adapt to those conditions. The site pictured below is a canopy structure which prevents direct rainfall, but not sunlight. The rain is then directed away in troughs. The trees are hooked with special monitors that study the width of the trunk and the sap concentration, both of which would change in cases of extreme stress. This is one of two rainforest drought stations, and the only one in the southern hemisphere with a canopy crane.

Speaking of the canopy crane, this crane has an interesting story and does a lot for the study of the rainforest. It was brought here in 1998 and it took a heavy weight bearing helicopter to put it in place, so it does not move. The purpose of this crane is to study the canopy and the leaves up close. If it weren’t for the crane, people would have to manually cut down branches or climb the tree in order to study the leaves or canopy. The crane holds 3 people in a gondola, one of which is able to control where the crane goes with a remote. To ensure safety, the crane is checked yearly to make sure it is functioning properly. Super cool to see the research we learned about last week in action!

After our guide showed us the collections of different insect species they had on hand (so cool!), we were off to our lodging for the next 48 hours. The Cape Tribulation Beach House reminds me a lot of Fraser Island as it is secluded and provides you with everything you need. I look forward to the next two days and exploring our new “home”. Maybe we will see a cassowary or two! Fingers crossed!

 

Cheers!

 

Carli P.

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