Punmu High School ranger camp


On a sunny morning in early September the high school students from Rawa Community School gathered at the Punmu ranger station in preparation for the much anticipated second High School Ranger Program bush camp of 2017. Students listened eagerly as the rangers outlined the plan for the three day camp. Following the briefing the rangers supervised the students as they packed food and equipment and loaded the vehicles. 

By late morning everything was ready and the four vehicle convoy set off heading south along the edge of Lake Dora. Two kilometers out of town a school vehicle broke down and had to be abandoned and two hours later, after a bumpy ride across the spinifex, the lead vehicle was bogged in the Karlamilyi River. After digging the vehicle free the students helped lower the tyre pressure on all the other vehicles and everyone crossed safely and continued on their way. 

Mid-way through the journey the convoy stopped to undertake mankarr (Bilby) surveys utilising the new survey methodology developed by Martu rangers in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy. The tracks of both adult and juvenile mankarr were recorded along with burrows and diggings.

The convoy then continued on over sand dunes and claypans and after another two and half hot hours the vehicles crossed the final dune crest and, accompanied by happy shouting, the fresh water lake at Jamparri claypan was sighted on the other side. A lightning fast camp set up was followed by a mad dash into the cool, deep water.

The following morning, after breakfast and swimming, the students and rangers installed a data logger to measure dissolved oxygen and assess the overall health of the site. The students gathered on the lake’s edge and went through the process of calibrating and launching the logger using the appropriate software. It was then fixed to a brick and a five metre rope before being swum out, tied to a tree and placed into the water ready for retrieval in six months’ time. 

The students also spent time shooting footage on tablets and cameras for media class and painting the landscape for an art project. After lunch the students broke camp and the convoy once again set off, this time heading for the Karlamilyi wetlands near Wurnanjarra claypan, arriving in the late afternoon. With the wetlands full from the summer rains the students had multiple claypans and creeks to explore before dinner and a movie night.

The next day the rangers and students headed back to the wetlands to undertake bird surveys and to continue with their media and art projects. While some students filled out bird survey data sheets, collecting information about the different species present, others painted pictures and conducted interviews with the rangers and elder Minyawu Miller. At least twenty different species of bird were identified including the Black Shoulder Kite, the Great Egret and the Gull Billed Tern. 

The teams then began the return journey to Punmu stopping at Mulanyjarra rock hole on the edge of Lake Dora where Minyawu Miller recounted travelling in the area during the cold season and building a shelter on the side of the dune. The rockhole’s location was marked by the rangers using a GPS for inclusion in the Wanyja database. The team finally arrived home happy after an inspiring three days; they are already talking about a return trip in 2018 to retrieve the data logger (and to swim in the waterholes!).