James Cook University has been running biology field courses at Wambiana cattle station for 6 years. Each year, over 130 Bachelor of Science students spend 3 or 4 days on the Wambiana field course learning how to survey for wildlife, handle and identify species, record data, and analyse diversity across different habitats and cattle stocking densities. A particular focus of these trips is assessing how biodiversity and beef grazing can coexist. They certainly do at Wambiana, where we find very high levels of biodiversity on a working cattle station. Not only do the students learn wildlife survey techniques but they get first hand experience with cattle grazing and life on a cattle station. Needless to say, the students love it and most say the Wambiana field courses are a highlight of their undergraduate experience.
For James Cook University and our science degree, Wambiana is ideal. The Lyons family are great hosts and organise all accommodation and food. The food is delicious homestyle cooking, and varied. Accomodation is great, with comfortable rooms for staff and bunk dorms for students. Our group sizes can be large (up to 60 people) and these numbers are managed easily. Access is straightforward, with conventional coaches transporting the students to and from Wambiana, and 2WD minivans used on-site (there are good roads to many areas of the property).
Importantly for us, Wambiana is ideal for our field courses because of the range of habitats and wildlife. Habitats include healthy woodlands, dense thickets, a river, a lovely lagoon, and areas grazed at different densities. There is plenty of wildlife in all of these, including varied macropods (kangaroos, wallaroos, wallabies, bettongs), possums, marsupial carnivores, many species of birds, a very diverse array of reptiles (lizards, snakes, freshwater turtles), frogs, etc. Every year we record a long list, and every year we keep finding additional species on the property.
Wambiana is ideal in all regards – facilities, hospitality, wildlife, outback landscape and experience – and spending time out there is a highlight of our teaching year!
Dr Conrad Hoskin
Senior Lecturer and biodiversity researcher