Dispatches from the field: bushfires, thorny devils and spinifex in Central Australia

We are currently at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary (about 350 km WNW of Alice Springs) working on sociality in the Great Desert Skink (Liopholis kintorei), which is the subject of Siobhan Dennison’s PhD. Adam Stow, Steve McAlpin and Martin Whiting flew in to Alice Springs and were met by Siobhan and Christine Turnbull.

Newhaven is a very impressive 260 000 hectare reserve with typical Mars-red sand, clumps of spinifex and loads of sand goannas. However, fire seems to be the central theme at the moment. The locals have been talking about a once in 30 year-fire based on the really high fuel load. Lets just say this has come to pass! A series of fires were triggered by lightning and perhaps by humans and we had to prepare for an emergency evacuation when a veritable wall of flame (see photo) was bearing down on the research station. Lets just say that at one point I asked if there was enough time to retrieve my laptop. We grabbed some stuff and packed the car. One vehicle was running and pointed towards the exit while we waited to see how things played out. Fortunately the fires were contained and we didn’t have to evacuate but it was unlike anything any of us had experienced before. On a lighter note we have found the elusive thorny devil! And we have the photographic evidence. And then there is the very cool Great Desert Skink (see photo), the real reason we are here! Stay tuned for more updates from the field.

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