Reasons for the Study

Why undertake such a project requiring the investment of time, resources, skills, knowledge and discipline? The answer lies in our intrinsic curiosity.

The environment stimulated the organizing of photographs and information on some of the vegetation, animals and landscapes at Hyams Beach. This then led to the concept of the project becoming a model for others to use and improve upon. The third rationale is that it adds to our environmental knowledge, capturing a slice of time in the evolution of Hyams Beach.

Time was available thanks to my colleagues in our workplace who gave me the freedom to be away weekends in the field. Back at work, they allowed me to build my presentation skills while they managed the revenue-generating business.

The resources; money, accommodation, transport and computing infrastructure have traditionally come from university departments, organisations like the CSIRO or less likely nowadays, a patron. Our company provided the money to acquire the photographic equipment and the reference library. This was an investment where the return would come from teaching. The computing power was in place at our Education Centre so that web construction tools and Internet access were readily available. Accommodation and transport came from purchasing a house at Hyams Beach and access to vehicles. Without these resources, the project would never have started.

A foundation of skills had been developed over the years, which proved useful.. Field trips had been taken for years whether they were recreational bushwalking or academic research. These trips led to skills in recording the observations; photography, notes and writing.

However, these were insufficient for such a large project. The ignorance of botany was a handicap. Gathering the work of others, notably Dr Kevin Mills, filled huge gaps and offered a useful framework for classifying the vegetation. Jervis Bay has been written of in publications ranging from tourist promotions to academic monographs so that considerable information was available. 

Discipline was required to continue on with the project; from walking the same tracks looking for change, through to taking good notes so that the reference photographs were correctly identified. A photograph on one walk had been placed from memory; on returning to the location to confirm its existence, the particular tree was not there. This led to greater care of the information collected. 

These requirements were small compared to the pleasure gained from learning more about this scrap of bush and beach. The visual delights of flowers and the birds, the landscapes and the changing light were rewarding. And contributing to the knowledge base of the environment was an exciting challenge. To record some of this is sufficient rationale for undertaking this project. 

Another important reason for the ‘Hyams Beach Study’ was to demonstrate that anyone or any group could do similar work. It is little more than bushwalking with notebook and camera although participants must have an intrinsic interest and curiosity about their chosen study area. 

It is useful to a have the training which encourages theoretical considerations and research to locate and collate the information. In the 1970s I worked at a beach sands mine and gained some knowledge of coastal geography. This led to taking a geography degree although I moved from physical to urban and then transport geography. This study laid the foundation of knowing where to look for further information. Other studies built on fieldwork skills in collecting and classifying data, and then in effectively presenting training programs.

This education is not a pre-requisite to conducting a study but it has helped. Others with different backgrounds, education and skills can bring different perspectives and this diversity will add additional information.

The changes at Duck Gully highlight the ‘slice of time’ rationale for conducting these types of environmental studies. In a time scale of hundreds of millions of years, this work on Hyams Beach is trivial. However, the impact of human activity has occurred in a relatively tiny time scale. Studies conducted with a reasonable degree of objectivity can provide glimpses of change and how to manage it with more sympathy.