On Macca a birthday is celebrated, the mess gets a furry guard, invasive plant species are explored and scientist Jane Gosden is interviewed.

Station update

The winds that returned last week have continued to blow into this week as well. For those of us who spent the winter down here, it was an interesting reminder of just how exhausting working in the relentless wind can be.

Activity around station continues at a steady pace, and our caches of RTA cargo (things that are being returned to Australia) are growing by the day. Our trades team continues with routine maintenance and repairs whilst simultaneously preparing installations for incoming science equipment in the science building and the clean air lab.

Our serial fur seal visitor returned this week, this time parking itself on the front steps of the mess, growling at all unsuspecting expeditioners as they tried to go inside. The small fur seals are hilarious. Their attempts to be taken as seriously fierce by growling and barking at us, are completely disarmed by their endearing puppy-like faces and just all round cuteness. This particular seal is a very curious creature, proven by paying Dom a visit in the green store!

Our science teams are all progressing well. Robbie and Jez are still soil sampling around station, Jane and Karen have been out and about studying the stellaria in the northern half of the island, and the albatross team of Kim and Marcus are returning home after a few weeks in the field down south.

Hot on the heels of Australia Day, station celebrated Waitangi Day with our two Kiwi expeditioners Jane and Ian W. On the eve of the celebrations most of the crew joined in to watch New Zealand film screening of Eagle vs Shark. Saturday evening Waitangi Day celebrations kicked off with a lamb extravaganza, followed by a New Zealand trivia quiz. Doc Mal entertained us with some NZ music on the guitar. The winning team was presented with a plate of lamingtons, adorned with flags of Russell Crow and Phar Lap. A marathon of television series Flight of the Concords continued late into the evening.

On Monday, the MV Shokalskiy again paid us a visit. This was the second last tourist boat of the season. Our ranger team of Paul, Anna and Rowena, accompanied by Dan, headed out to the tourist boat in the early morning bound for Sandy Bay. Our visitors were guided around Sandy Bay and then returned to station in the afternoon for a tour of the isthmus. With Chef Jimmy out in the field, slushy Robbie whipped up an excessive quantity of delicious lemonade scones to accompany the Devonshire tea that we put on for our guests.

As we count down the weeks to the end of our stay on Macca, we are still busy making the most of our time together as community and all that this beautiful environment has to offer.

Jacque Comery

The ecology of Stellaria media post rabbit eradication

Invasive species are a major contributor to loss of biodiversity worldwide and introduced plants can pose a significant threat to the ecosystems they invade. Unfortunately despite their remote location, subantarctic islands still harbour exotic vascular plant species ranging in number from one (Heard Island) to 69 species (Kerguelen Archipelago). Macquarie Island has three exotic plant species: Cerastium fontanum (mouse eared chickweed) and Stellaria media (chickweed) both in the Caryophyllaceae family; and Poa annua (winter grass) in the Poaceae family. All three species are amongst the most widespread exotic species on subantarctic islands.

Following the successful invasive mammal eradication project on Macquarie Island in 2013, it is also important to look at the potential impact that exotic vascular plant species may be having on Macquarie Island ecosystems. Stellaria media is a highly palatable plant that has been accidentally introduced to most subantarctic islands. On Macquarie Island it was first recorded at Lusitania Bay in 1894. Since the first observation S.media has almost entirely been recorded in the northern third of the island. Prior to the rabbit eradication on Macquarie Island, S.media was probably suppressed by grazing rabbits. Now, with the removal of rabbits there is the potential that S.media may flourish with the absence of grazing pressure. Anecdotal evidence already points towards a much larger growth form than was observed before rabbits were removed. Alternatively as the plant is thought to favour disturbed locations, S.media may be suppressed once again by the recovering native vegetation as it also experiences a comeback following the removal of invasive mammals.

Currently little is known about the ecology of S.media in the subantarctics. This summer is the first of a three year PhD project funded by the Australian Antarctic Division through the University of New England (UNE) to understand the population ecology and potential for control of S.media in a post rabbit environment on Macquarie Island. Karen Ziegler and I are focusing on several facets of my PhD research in this first field season. Firstly we are surveying known sites of S.media infestation to understand the size, density, and population structure of S.media and its native plant associations across Macquarie Island. Secondly we are collecting soil samples in order to see if S.media has a seed bank that would allow re-invasion of a site if above ground material was removed. Thirdly, we are setting up a management trial to see how effective hand weeding of S.media would be on Macquarie Island. Lastly we are looking at aspects of the biology of S.media, such as: biomass allocation, flowering phenology, seed production and dispersal in order to better understand the reasons for the success of this weed in this environment and to compare its biology with S.media from other places around Australia and New Zealand.

Back in Australia at UNE over the winter, I will set up a series of germination trials to understand the germination requirements of S.media in a subantarctic system. I will also grow some plants for a herbicide trial in order to understand how effective herbicides would be at removing S.media in a cold climate.

This is the first visit to Macquarie Island for Karen and me and we're both constantly amazed by the flora, fauna (penguins!), and the ever changing weather. This truly is a special island and we feel so privileged to be here.

Jane Gosden

The Green Sponge Interview Series — Jane G

Name: Jane Gosden

Nicknames: None

From: Christchurch, New Zealand

Previous seasons? This is my first on Macquarie Island.

Job: PhD Student (Plant ecology/botany)

Hobbies: Drawing, painting, knitting, crochet, baking cakes, music, watching movies, reading

Tell us about the project work that you are doing on Macca this summer: (What is the project, what field activities are you up to, etc.)

See the Stellaria project article in this week’s edition, but in brief: I’m looking at the ecology of the introduced plant Stellaria media (chickweed) post rabbit eradication on Macquarie Island.

How does this season at Macca compare to your other fieldwork experiences?

Compared to previous field seasons back in NZ, a lot more clothes (and shoes) need to be worn down here!

What is your favourite part of your job here at Macca?

Getting out into the field, watching penguins (only during my lunch breaks, I promise!), and seeing the amazing plants that grow down here.

If you were exiled to Bishop and Clerk Islands to the south of Macca, what four things would you take with you?

Crochet hook and wool. All of the Beatles music and my iPod.

What song sums up your Macquarie Island experience so far?

No one song thus far, I’m enjoying the variety of ‘Slushy FM’. (Music played in the kitchen.)

Favourite element of the Macca weather?

Hearing the rain on the hut roof when I’m nice and warm inside.

What actor would play you in a film version of our 68th ANARE season here at Macca?

I honestly have no idea, but someone short.

Favourite hut or walking route?

Bauer Bay hut with the expansive beach, west coast sunsets, and the location of my second ever aurora sighting.

If you were not a PhD student, what would be your dream job?

Field botanist (my old job!) or a high country farmer/farmer’s wife back in NZ.

Favourite piece of Australian Antarctic Division/Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife kit?

Icebreaker thermals.

It is the year 2115 on Macca. What is the coolest thing we have on station and why?

Megaherbs everywhere, flourishing without pests. No explanation required, those plants speak for themselves.

Please name the royal penguin on our 68th ANARE logo.


What is your typical ‘Slushy FM’ genre? A particular favourite?

I've been adding Kiwi music into the mix.

Describe your Macca experience with: a sight, a smell, a sound, a feeling and a taste.

  • Sight: The incredible turquoise colour of the ocean around the isthmus when the sun is shining.
  • Smell: The intense musky smell of moulting penguins en masse.
  • Sound: A light-mantled sooty [albatross] call.
  • Feeling: Wind blasted.
  • Taste: Waitangi Day lamingtons!

Settlers of Catan, or Darts?


The last word