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Lesson 2.

Eco-Bio-Systems

Healthy Trees for Healthy Koalas

Description:

In this lesson we look at the main threats that face koalas and the dependence that koalas have on trees for their survival. We explore why the location and density of trees impacts koala safety and movement.

Each of the topics can be explored separately, in different sessions or by different groups within one session. 

Learning Outcomes:

  • Understand the key threats to koalas.
  • Understand that not all trees offer the same nutritional value to koalas.
  • Explore how and why scientists map habitat for koala conservation.
  • Understand the concepts of fragmentation and koala corridors.
  • Understand why genetic diversity is important to saving koalas.

Links to:

Science

Living things & environment / genetic diversity

HASS/HSIE

Geography & Mapping

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Additional Resources:

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Interviews:

Topic 1: Threats to Koalas

Kai Wild

Arborist and Koala Rescuer
Learning Areas:
Civics & Citizenship
Kailas Wild is a pro tree climber, or arborist. He had experience of koala rescue, so when he heard about the Kangaroo Island bushfire in the summer of 2020 he immediately wanted to help. He spent seven weeks with the rescue effort, climbing trees to bring injured koalas down so that they could be treated and released. He’s been in the media and campaigns for koala conservation.

Cheyne Flanagan

Clinical Director, Port Macquarie Koala Hospital
Learning Areas:
Science
Cheyne Flanagan is the Clinical Director of the hospital, and a trained Wildlife Biologist. We talked about what it’s like to try to save koalas from the worst injuries – burns, smoke, disease and road accidents. Cheyne has some suggestions on what students can do to help.

Topic 2: Tree health and Koala nutrition

Rebecca Montague-Drake

Koala Ecologist
Learning Areas:
Science, Technology, Geography
Rebecca is a scientist whose love of being outside and curiosity about koalas has led to a life working in the forests, radio-tracking koalas, seeking to understand what makes a tree an especially good koala tree (not all trees are equally yummy) and how we should protect koala habitat – the trees in which koalas live.

John Turbill

Threatened Species Officer
Learning Areas:
Science, Technology, Geography
John Turbill has a different way of finding koalas. To help find koalas, John been working with consultants with specialised koala detection dogs. These dogs are trained to sniff out the scent of koala scat. That means poo. And there’s a lot a scientist can tell from koala poo.

Mark Wilson

Trees Officer, Friends of the Koala
Learning Areas:
Civics & Citizenship, Science
Mark is the Trees Officer with Friends of the Koala, a voluntary group that began 30 years ago to plant habitat trees for koalas. They plant about 50,000 trees in a year and in recent years have set up care facilities for koalas. Mark and I spoke about tree planting and koala carers.

Topic 3: Habitat for Koala Conservation

Margot Law

Project Officer
Learning Areas:
Civics & Citizenship, Geography, Science
Margot is the Koala Officer for her Shire Council, which means that she works to convince people to set aside land for wildlife. She talks about trying to conserve koala habitat in perpetuity in the Southern Highlands – that means homes for koalas, forever. To get that right, Margot and her colleagues are mapping how many koalas are where.

John Turbill

Threatened Species Officer
Learning Areas:
Science, Technology, Geography
John Turbill has a different way of finding koalas. To help find koalas, John been working with consultants with specialised koala detection dogs. These dogs are trained to sniff out the scent of koala scat. That means poo. And there’s a lot a scientist can tell from koala poo.

Topic 4: Koala Corridors

Linda Sparrow

President, Bangalow Koalas
Learning Areas:
Civics & Citizenship, Geography
Linda loves koalas, but she’s worried about how many challenges they face. Her way to help was to get together a group of friends and start protecting and planting trees. The idea grew and grew until now they have a big plan to create koala corridors and plant a quarter of a million trees for koalas.

Jim Kinkead

President, Tregeagle Landcare group
Learning Areas:
Civics & Citizenship
Jim is the volunteer President of the Tregeagle Landcare group. Landcare works with other organisations and communities to create koala habitat. They plant trees to join up fragmented habitat into corridors that enable koalas to move around the landscape.

Mark Wilson

Trees Officer, Friends of the Koala
Learning Areas:
Civics & Citizenship, Science
Mark is the Trees Officer with Friends of the Koala, a voluntary group that began 30 years ago to plant habitat trees for koalas. They plant about 50,000 trees in a year and in recent years have set up care facilities for koalas. Mark and I spoke about tree planting and koala carers.

Topic 5: Genetic Diversity

Linda Sparrow

President, Bangalow Koalas
Learning Areas:
Civics & Citizenship, Geography
Linda loves koalas, but she’s worried about how many challenges they face. Her way to help was to get together a group of friends and start protecting and planting trees. The idea grew and grew until now they have a big plan to create koala corridors and plant a quarter of a million trees for koalas.

Martin Smith

Parks Ranger
Learning Areas:
Science, Geography
Martin Smith is a Ranger with the New South Wales National Parks & Wildlife Service. He is an Incident Controller, Operations Manager and Planning Officer for bushfires and has spent thirty years protecting koalas. He talks about lots of things, from drought to how far a koala ranges (sometimes a long way), and what kind of music trees like best.

Resources for Students:

Primary:

Threats

Relevant research material for this lesson can be accessed by primary students here

Diet & Habitat

Relevant research material for this lesson can be accessed by primary students here

Secondary:

Threats

Relevant research material for this lesson can be accessed by secondary students here

Environment

Relevant research material for this lesson can be accessed by secondary students here

Other Recommended Interviews

Billie Roberts

Senior Project Officer, Saving our Species
Learning Areas:
Science
Billie works on koala conservation projects. She works for the New South Wales government on a project to make sure koalas are out there in the wild for the next 100 years. Billie is trying to secure a future for koalas and this means she knows a lot about flying-foxes – find out why.

Chels Marshall

Cultural Systems Ecologist
Learning Areas:
HASS – History, Science
Chels has a PhD in traditional seasonal knowledge and climate change. She talks about the experience of saving a joey koala as a young Ranger. She is involved in many things including Aboriginal cultural koala management plan and a koala sanctuary. We talked about the koala storyline for the Gumbaynggirr people and the mountain whose name means ‘koalas rolling down the hill’.