Volunteer in Australia - Marsupials galore: protecting quokkas, quolls and quendas in Western Australia’s Walpole Wilderness
This Australia volunteering conservation expedition will take you to the beautiful Walpole Wilderness Area biodiversity hotspot in Western Australia to study and protect threatened native Australian marsupials (the quokka, quoll and quenda). Working in the majestic Southern Forests of towering karri, tingle and jarrah trees, you will survey the area for suitable habitat, capture and release the animals, radio tag them, follow their movements and study their habits. You will be part of a small international team, based at comfortable and modern chalets inside the Walpole Wilderness and working with the local scientist on an important native fauna conservation project. All in an effort to improve local management efforts of these marsupial species and the unique Western Australian ecosystem of which they are part.
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Expedition contribution: £1670 (ca. €2250 | US$2570 | AU$3470) excluding flights per dates as shown below. Please note: expedition contributions are quoted in £ and the approximate € | US$ | AU$ equivalents. Try the XE currency converter for other currencies and up to date exchange rates.
Dates & meeting point: 23 - 31 Jan 2016 (9 days)Other dates. Participants can join for multiple slots (within the periods specified). The meeting point is in Albany, a major and easily accessible city on the south coast of Western Australia, about 400 km from Perth. Participants have to organise their own travel there. More details on this and how to get to the assembly point are in the .
Hilly forest with some mountain outcrops.
Weather expected during expedition
Temperate Mediterranean climate with temperatures between 16 and 30ºC and little rain.
The expedition base comprises modern and comfortable chalets inside the forest and complete with a resident mob of Western grey kangaroos. Each chalet has a lounge with a wood fire, washing machine, fully equipped kitchen and a private spa. Single, twin and double accommodation is available on request.
Up to 12 team members + 1 local scientist + 1 expedition leader.
Skills & prerequisites required
None. You don't need to be a scientist or have any special qualifications - everyone can take part and there are no age limits whatsoever.
Fitness level required
Ability to walk about 5 - 10 km per day in hilly, forested terrain with regular breaks for data collection.
Team assembly point
Aims & objectives
This project will enable broad areas within the Walpole Wilderness to be surveyed for three threatened marsupial species - the quokka, quoll and quenda - in an effort to improve knowledge of their distribution and conservation status. The outcome will be improved management of critical habitat, which will maximise the likelihood of the long-term survival of not only these three threatened species, but also the unique Western Australian ecosystems of which they are a part. Specific aims are:
(1) To determine the distribution and occupancy patterns, population density, population health and conservation status for the quokka (Setonix brachyurus), quoll (Dasyurus geofroii) and quenda (Isoodon obesulus fusciventer) in the Walpole Wilderness Area
(2) To improve knowledge of important ecological interactions, current threats, habitat requirements and movement patterns for these species
(3) To create or improve management plans to ensure the survival of these threatened species in the wild
The quokka is a small wallaby in the kangaroo family (Macropodidae) and listed as vulnerable by the IUCN. It is restricted to the south west of Western Australia and two near-shore islands. On the mainland, quokkas are threatened by introduced animals such as foxes, cats and feral pigs, loss of habitat, inappropriate fire regime and climate change. The Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) of Western Australia (WA) has undertaken some monitoring of quokkas in the Walpole Wilderness area. This work has established that quokkas currently occur at low densities in fragmented populations throughout the Walpole Wilderness. More work is required to quantify distribution, abundance and threats, and to determine whether the fragmented populations function as a meta-population or individual groups that need to be managed as isolated populations.
The Western quoll or chuditch is the largest carnivorous marsupial found in Western Australia and is also listed as vulnerable by the IUCN. Populations of this species declined dramatically after European settlement due to habitat loss and introduction of the European fox. By the time a recovery plan was prepared in 1994, the chuditch was considered to occur in just 5% of its original range. Chuditch are known to be sparsely distributed over large areas and a considerable amount of effort is required at these locations to confirm the presence of the species. In the Walpole Wilderness there are only two known populations of chuditch, but there are large areas of forest that have never been surveyed. The animals have large home ranges and as population dynamics change, DEC’s long-term monitoring transects no longer cross the home range of individual animals. Broader surveys are therefore required to determine distribution, abundance and population health of this species in the Walpole Wilderness.
The quenda or Southern brown bandicoot is a small omnivorous marsupial that has a special ‘conservation dependent’ status in Western Australia. The main threats to its survival are the continued loss of habitat through urban expansion and clearing, and their susceptibility to predation and disturbance by introduced animals such as foxes, cats and pigs. Records collected by DEC over the past few years suggest that this species is declining in the Southern Forests of Western Australia and it is important to determine whether this observation is reflected in population trends and if so what the causal factors are.
Quokka (Setonix brachyurus), Western quoll or chuditch (Dasyurus geofroii), quenda or Southern brown bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus fusciventer).
Other species present, all in the forested habitat of Western Australia’s Southern Forests: Western grey kangaroo, woylie (or brush-tailed bettong), Western brush wallaby, brush-tailed phascogale, brush-tail possum, honey possum, Western pygmy possum, mardo. These species often coexist with the target species and many of them will benefit from increased knowledge of ecological interactions and improved management of habitat in which they occur. Walpole Wilderness has a rich array of forest birds, from eagles to colourful fairy wrens and robins.
Specific activities of surveys, trapping/release, radio tracking, etc. are usually decided the night before. The whole set-up of the expedition is organised on a flexible shift basis so that you can participate according to the weather, your skills and general fitness and how you feel on the day. Your typical day may consist of taking your survey group’s vehicle into the bush to (1) walk a transect in the forest during the day or night, (2) radio-track quokkas during the day or night, or (3) set up or check traps. Most research groups will return to the field base for the night where food is prepared by the expedition cook, but there will also be overnight research activities (and team members involved in those can catch up on sleep after their night shift). Please note that every member of the expedition can be rotated through all activities.
Although most of Australia is semi-arid or desert, it includes a diverse range of habitats from alpine heaths to tropical rainforests, and is recognised as a megadiverse country. Because of the continent's great age, its extremely variable weather patterns, and its long-term geographic isolation, much of Australia's biota is unique and diverse. About 85% of flowering plants, 84% of mammals, more than 45% of birds, and 89% of in-shore, temperate-zone fish are endemic.
Australia has the greatest number of reptiles of any country, with 755 species. Many of Australia's ecoregions, and the species within those regions, are threatened by human activities and introduced plant and animal species. The federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is a legal framework for the protection of threatened species. Numerous protected areas have been created under the national Biodiversity Action Plan to protect and preserve unique ecosystems; 64 wetlands are registered under the Ramsar Convention, and 16 World Heritage Sites have been established.
The Walpole Wilderness Area is a group of conservation reserves in a vast natural and wild landscape on the south coast of Western Australia. The Walpole Wilderness forms a world-class network of reserves totalling almost 363,333 hectares including national parks, nature reserves and other reserves. Inside the area old majestic jarrah, karri and tingle forests surround imposing granite peaks, peaceful rivers, wetlands and tranquil inlets, and overlook picturesque sandy beaches, sheer coastal cliffs and the Southern Ocean. The Walpole Wilderness Area is recognised as an important component of an international biodiversity hotspot, containing natural values such as wilderness, tingle forest, a threatened and highly endemic and relict flora and fauna, threatened ecological communities, old growth forests and wetlands.
Inside the study site and the Walpole Wilderness is Walpole-Nornalup National Park, famous for its towering karri and tingle trees, two of the world's largest trees. Red Tingle trees, the only eucalypts to be buttressed, are unique to the Walpole area and have evolved to cope with bush fires and can withstand low level fires. Also within the study site is Mount Frankland National Park, another famous landmark that encompasses the forest- and heathland-covered spectacular granite hills to the north of the town of Walpole, not far from the expedition base.
Our partner on this Australia conservation volunteer expedition is the Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC). DEC has the lead responsibility for protecting and conserving the State’s environment on behalf of the people of Western Australia. This includes managing the state’s national parks, marine parks, conservation parks, state forests and timber reserves, nature reserves, marine nature reserves and marine management areas. The department’s key responsibilities include roles in conserving terrestrial and marine biodiversity, facilitating visitation and protecting, managing, regulating and assessing many aspects of the use of the State’s natural resources.
And finally (almost)
Our expeditions are not about playing the primitive, neither are we a military style 'boot-camp'. Our expedition leader and the local scientist will be by your side and we believe strongly that we get the best out of our expedition teams by making them comfortable, safe and well fed. You won’t be living in the lap of luxury, but we will do our best to make you feel comfortable and at home in your working environment, as this is the key to a well-balanced and successful expedition.
And finally (briefing)
For even more details such as activities, staff, accommodation, the assembly point and how to get there, and lots more, please access the expedition briefing by providing your full name and e-mail.
Biosphere Expeditions will never share these details with anyone.
Sign up to this expedition now
Results & achievements
Scientific reports and publications for this expedition are on the reports & publications page. As far as we are aware, Biosphere Expeditions is the only organisation in the world that has a direct and transparent link between the work done by citizen scientists and an expedition report. Each expedition year is matched by an expedition report for that year, which deals with the two main areas that expedition participants contribute to: funding and data collection. Chapter 1 of each report, written by Biosphere Expeditions, reviews the expedition logistics and publishes an expedition budget, which shows in a clear and transparent way income and expenditure for each expedition and the percentage of income spent on the project. Chapter 2 onwards, written by the expedition scientist, shows who collected what data, how they were analysed, what the conclusions were, as well as the conservation recommendations and actions flowing from this, and what future expeditions should do. In this way, each expedition comes full circle for its participants.
Awards & accolades
Biosphere Expeditions as an organisation has won the "Best Volunteering Organisation" category of the First Choice Responsible Tourism Awards.
Biosphere Expeditions as an organisation has also won multiple National Geographic awards and accolades such as "Best New Trip" and "Tours of a Lifetime".
Biosphere Expeditions as an organisation has also won multiple Travel+Leisure awards and accolades such as the "Conservation Award" category of Travel+Leisure's "Global Vision Awards" or "Best Adventure Outfitter" and "Best Save-the-Earth Trip" accolades.
> more awards & accolades
|Feel the warm and fuzzies at Walpole
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|Great way to see Australia
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|Voluntourismus in Westaustralien
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|Mother marsupials in Western Australia
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|Also: some coverage of a previous expedition to Western Australia working on turtles.|
|Hands-on with turtle research
on a remote West Australian beach
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|A touch of shell shock
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Discovering Australia's own sea turtle
|A beach break with a difference
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Saving the flatback turtle
|Holidays that help
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|Leben auf Tauchstation &
Baywatch in Australien
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|Helfer für Schilkröten-Projekt
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“Biosphere’s involvement in the Western Australian marsupial project will expand very important work that the Department of Environment and Conservation are undertaking to conserve threatened species in the south west of Western Australia. The involvement of expedition participants in volunteering with animals in Australia will allow us to survey marsupials on a much larger scale than would normally be possible and will significantly contribute to our understanding of the distribution and conservation status of these animals in the Walpole Wilderness.”
Karlene Bain, Department of Environment & Conservation & expedition scientist
Feedback from team members about their experiences and reasons for coming (on/from various expeditions).
Because this is a new expedition, there has not been any feedback on it yet, but below is some feedback for a previous expedition to Western Australia working on turtles.
"I had so much fun on the patrols. Seeing and interacting with the turtles is just an unbelievable experience and I do believe I will continue to participate in similar expeditions in the future."
Hoon Teo, 29.
"We had the best time! Everything was perfect! Beautiful weather, the team members were so nice. We saw heaps of turtles, but the highlight of the expedition was when out of nowhere this beautiful 90 kg turtle decided she wanted to nest in the middle of the day! So the four of us got to assist the scientists, I got to count her eggs and then I had got to hold her while the scientists tagged her and took a DNA sample. Not to sound corny, but it was quite a magical experience!"
Rasha Skybey, 28.
"A week on the paradise beach under the Australian sun, we reached 45 degrees C on the second day of the expedition, so be prepared for the heat and enjoy. You can try to turtle talk to calm down these magnificent creatures - Finnish lullabies seemed to work fine."
Ritva Honkannen, 43.
"It's only just sinking in what unique moments we were privileged to experience with the turtles. Thank you for this and keep up the good work. After the Azores, Western Australia was my second expedition and I am certain it wasn't the last. You really do what you do brilliantly. You’re part of a conservation project and you're having fun and a great time, all in one - we all certainly did!"
Petra Schneider, 34.
"Thank you again for an awesome conservation volunteer experience in Australia, which I will never forget, both because of the work & direct contact with the turtles and the people I was privileged to meet on the project."
Jürgen Hatzenbichler, 41.
Frequently asked questions
What's the accommodation like and how do I get to the assembly point?
A description of the accommodation and some pictures are in the . All participants organise their own travel to the assembly point, which is an easy to find place in-country, and exact instructions on how to get there at what time are in the . > more
Is it just young people roughing it, i.e. will it be for me or am I too old/young/unfit?
A common misconception is that conservation expeditions are full of youngsters roughing it and boozing. With Biosphere Expeditions nothing could be further from the truth! Our typical participant is in his/her mid-30s to late 70s (average age 42.3, spread six months to 87 years). It is rare to have fewer than five nationalities, typically from Europe, North America and Australasia, on the expedition, all united by the common interest in wildlife, wilderness and conservation. If you would like details who is already signed up, then just get in touch. > more
Do I need special skills or fitness?
Apart from the ability to communicate in English and a diving qualification for our diving expeditions, there are no special skills (biological or otherwise) required to join our expeditions, and there are no age limits whatsoever. If you have special needs, please contact us to find out about the suitability of the experience of your choice. > more
How good does my English have to be?
If, with the help of a dictionary and a little patience, you can understand what we are talking about here, then don't worry - you'll be fine.
Will I be safe?
Yes. Although we are not in the business of controlling nature and expect you to take some responsibilities, safety is our top priority. Our three key watchwords are ‘safety, science, satisfaction’ - in that order. We always have emergency procedures and backup systems in place. Biosphere Expeditions has an excellent safety record with no serious accidents, long-lasting injuries or let alone deaths since its foundation in 1999. > more
Can people under 18 attend?
Yes, because there are no (upper or lower) age restrictions. With their parents' consent they can also come by themselves.
How do I sign up and when do I pay?
Signing up is easy: Use the and pay a deposit of £300; the full balance will be due four weeks before the start of the expedition. If you don't want to sign up online, you can also download paper forms to fax or snail-mail.
What's included and what's not included?
Once you have made it to the assembly point and we’re on our way, we pay for everything apart from the obvious such as personal souvenirs, luxury drinks, phone calls home, etc. (and in many places we go to there's no need for money anyway ;). Travel arrangements to the assembly point are for you to make and pay for. Additional costs may include passport, visa and airport fees, your personal gear and preparations, and travel insurance, but not much more. There are certainly no hidden fees from our end.
Where does my money go?
On average at least two-thirds of your contribution will benefit the project directly and locally, the rest will go towards administrative back-up, as well as researching and setting up new expeditions. Within six to twelve months after your expedition you will receive an expedition report with full details on how your expedition contribution was spent on running the expedition and supporting its research work. We can put as much as two-thirds into the project, because we are a non-profit/charitable research and conservation organisation, not a large scale tourism business, which means that we can keep expensive overhead costs to a minimum. We also do very little advertising and costly marketing, concentrating instead on press, media and research publication work. > more
> more FAQs and detailed answers in text and video format are on the FAQ page