After a five year hiatus due to bushfires and covid, the Alpine Ecology Course (AEC) was once again run at Falls Creek (5-10 March 2023). The AEC has been running since the late 1980s; it was developed to provide participants with a better understanding of the ecology of alpine ecosystems so that they can be better managed. Over that time, around 1000 participants have been through the program.
In 2023, 28 course participants – spanning the ACT, NSW and Victoria, from a range of roles including an outdoor education teacher, national park rangers, forest managers, ski resort workers, and a member of a traditional owner corporation – were exposed to the flora, fauna, soils, geomorphology and disturbance ecology, using the Bogong High Plains as the teaching laboratory. The week started with a welcome to country, including a smoking ceremony, by traditional custodians who then stayed with us for the remainder of the week to talk about their aspirations for the land.
Field instruction and excursions underpin participant learning, supplemented by some evening seminars. Participants were led by instructors including Neville Rosengren, who described the evolution of the mountain landscape, and introduced terms such as peri-glacial, solifluction, denudation and block streams. Keith McDougall focused on plants and vegetation survey methods. Michael Nash introduced biosecurity (through the lens of slug invasions) and championed insects as the ”unseen windmills” of the alps, while Dean Heinze and Ian Mansergh updated participants on Mountain Pygmy Possum and Bogong Moth ecology. Sam Grover focused on soils, particularly peats, assisted by Ewen Silvester who added important understanding about hydrology. John Morgan reminded participants about snow – one of the most prominent features of high mountain landscapes – and how its decline might imperil some plant communities. Dick Williams focused attention on the recent fires, and what can be learnt by considering the fire regime.
Participants learnt lots that can be taken back to their own landscapes and, importantly, made connections with their peers. This network can only help better support those in charge of alpine landscapes to ensure best-practice management is being implemented. Plans are underway to run the course again in 2024. Updates will be provided here in the Ecology Course tab. Calls for registration will be made later in 2023. Stay tuned.