Kids are best bull scientists
Young scientists at Manyallaluk School have presented statistics from a water buffalo tracking study started in 2018.
The beefy bovines were photographically recorded by a quadcopter overflying meandering Kokili Creek in upstream and downstream missions of more than 1.4 kilometres.
During the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) project, aerial data was gathered from the same section of creek between 11am and noon each Friday.
The students tested the hypothesis that cyclical variations in temperature and precipitation cause the animals to congregate around diminishing water sources in the dry season, and disperse as waterways expand in the wet season.
The theory was validated. Teaching principal Ben Kleinig said endorsement of the theory was not unexpected.
“But we were surprised absolutely no buffaloes could be seen during the wet season and early dry season,” he said. “It showed us how incredibly well-distributed they are during the wet season.
“There was a definite increase as it got hotter — with 20 noted in one month nearing the end of the build-up — but there weren’t as many as anticipated.
“During the study we had a core group of 20 Transition to Year 6 researchers, but this swelled to about 40 students as kids moved to visit families in different communities.”
Mr Kleinig said the students’ findings will be presented to the community and Jawoyn Rangers.
“Presentation videos will definitely be shared with the community, and we are still trying to devise a plan to personally deliver our findings to the rangers,” he said. “We’d also like to share our results with CSIRO scientists working on a similar project.
“We have compiled the facts into coloured graphs the students can interpret. Students have suggested different solutions to the buffalo problem.
Year 5 student Royce Maralngurra recommends scaring them off using the Toyota. Others have proposed the live (existing) trade to Vietnam.
“One buffalo investigator, Hadassah, said there’s only one future for buffaloes: ‘We should eat them.’”
Mr Kleinig said the students’ discoveries are already known by the community and the rangers.
“But the objective was to get kids thinking about how science, technology and maths can help us observe, record and consider things, build confidence in presenting, and gain skills for future jobs,” he said.
“It taught them to use a drone, formulate a hypothesis, conduct experiments, record and analyse data.
“The survey has run its course and the kids want to move onto other things. Now we are using our trail cameras to explore different habitats, and see who lives where.
“The hope is to photograph echidnas and Gouldian Finches, a real treasure hunt that requires lots of detective work and connections with traditional knowledge and stories.
“Also, we have purchased a GoPro camera to begin examining what lives underwater in the nearby creeks.”