Botanic Garden to host study days

HUNDREDS of students from schools as far afield as Port Macquarie and the Clarence Valley will take part in a series of study days hosted by experts from Taronga Zoo and the Australian Museum at the Regional Botanic Garden in Coffs Harbour.

The Year 11 students will join their colleagues from local schools at the Botanic Garden for the Australian Biota Study Days from June 8-11.

"This is the fourth year we’ve hosted this event, which has proved to be a very valuable experience for all the students who have participated,” Botanic Garden curator Ian Corbett said.

“It’s a rare opportunity for local schools to access the combined resources and expertise of these national education providers right here in Coffs Harbour.

"Apart from Dubbo, Coffs Harbour is the only other venue for the Australian Biota Study Days program outside Sydney."

The program has proved popular once again and is already booked out for the full four days with around 400 students involved.

Through first-hand investigations, each of the Year 11 biology students will be exposed to 165 million years of Australia’s evolutionary path from the forests of Gondwana to the present.

Students will be able to use scientific techniques to compare extinct and living species, discover pollination mechanisms and the coevolution of plants, animals and insects.

They will also observe adaptations of fauna and flora to a drying continent and much, much more.

Staff from the Australian Museum will bring along fossils of some of the gigantic ancestors of today’s koalas and wombats that inhabited the continent some 40,000 years ago.

In contrast, Taronga Zoo will be introducing some of its present-day inhabitants, such as echidnas, blue-tongued lizards and snakes to show how they have adapted to a drying environment.

The Regional Botanic Garden’s own experts will take the students on the evolutionary journey experienced by Australia’s plants since the Jurassic period.

They will also demonstrate the relationships between our plants, insects and the unique marsupials that are such a part of Australia’s identity.

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