Simpson Desert 1997

Simpson Desert main camp 23°42'S 138°26'E

In July 1997 Gernot accompanied his friend Adele, then an ecology PhD student at Sydney Uni, on a field trip to the Simpson Desert. The other members of the group were Debbie and Cameron.

Dunnart This was one of three trips per year Adele took to the Simpson to study the lesser hairy-footed dunnart, Sminthopsis youngsoni. Dunnarts are mouse-sized, desert-dwelling, carnivorous marsupials, and very cute. We trapped them at night (when they are active and won't be killed by the heat in the traps), and tagged and recorded them.

Radio-carrying dunnart We tracked them by gluing tiny transmitters to their back, and using the radio beacon to localise them every few hours. In the photo on the right, the antenna, ending in a silvery blob, can (barely) be seen protruding from the animal's back.

Dunnart powdered with fluorescent A small number of them got special treatment in the form of fluoro tracking: We released them at night after dipping their behind in fluorescent powder. They would then leave a trail of powder, which we could later find using a UV lamp.

The trip had plenty of downtimes during the day (and interrupted sleep patterns at night), leading to all sorts of (sometimes rather silly) conversations, as well as the infamous radio tracking song.

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© Gernot Heiser 1997, 2021.