Why Undertake Such as Study

Inspired by environment

Hyams Beach is visually delightful. When coming from Sydney, the bush along the way is pleasant as are the cultivated areas. But on crossing the heath and glimpsing the Bay and Point Perpendicular, the beauty of Hyams Beach is piercing. The larger view is first seen. Then we take in the smaller views on the walks; startlingly beautiful flowers always lead to surprises and delight

A workbook for similar studies

When we began the study, there were no known models that we could draw on. There were a number of excellent references but nothing on how to conduct a layperson’s study of an environment. Over 1999, the format for the web took shape with contributions from publications reviewed and considered. These ranged from the excellent Cho, Georges and Stoutiesdijk’s (1995) book, Jervis Bay: A place of cultural, scientific and educational value to the immensely detailed National Parks Association’s (1998) Community Biodiversity Survey Manual. 

However, guidance on improving the photographic images, scanning, classifying, archiving and presenting the images, Internet presentation, and identifying plants (just a short list of what we needed to know) is widely dispersed. If others want to study another area, they will need to gather and distil the guides so we assembled a resource ‘cookbook’ a ‘first steps’ model based, not on instruction, but on application. This approach allows our methodology to be reviewed and improved upon

Self-learning

Structured, instructor led learning can fast track knowledge and skill development but too often, the structure and delivery is compromised to suit the ‘group’ needs. Often, self-learning can seem to be nothing more than a form of hedonism; the learning follows the student’s fancies rather than a disciplined structure.

This is a fallacy, provided that the student can back out of the ‘dead end’, review their needs and proceed along another path of learning. There will always be the dead-ends which promised much in the beginning but the usefulness faded as we proceeded. Learning to question the time used and the ensuing results, and then recognising that it will not yield the desired results and looking for new sources is accumulating knowledge.

Geography

Geography’ is, “The study of the earth’s surface,…” (Whittow, 1984: 217) Geographers must be polymaths, inquisitive and obsessed with finding the answer. They pry into every aspect that interests them and their view is the world. It can be rocks, people, plants, transport, farming, fruit and vegetable processing; if it has a spatial and earthy foundation, any study can be classified as geography.

Geographers are also ‘bower birds’. Any appropriate information or idea will be borrowed and reshaped to fit their current theory. In the 1930s, environmental determinism became the raging controversy. Everything, including the shape of an Eskimo’s nose, could be explained by the climate.

It was quantitative geography in the 1960s as numeracy and statistics were discovered. Every aspect of life was factor analysed and all of life’s variables could be explained in eigenvalues. Then Marx’s ghost strode into the discipline and everything wrong with the world could be blamed on capitalism. This was virtually the end of geography as it splintered off into a myriad of sub-sciences.

To study the Hyams Beach area, the inquisitive observer geographer is an appropriate style. In terms of self-learning, the first requirement was to obtain information on the environment; the geology, climate, vegetation, fauna, human impact, and develop an overview. With this we could then branch out into the areas where our knowledge was limited. The first area to increase skills was in photography

Vegetation

Vegetation has presented the most perplexing problem. The botany of the study area is complex. We began using Dr Kevin Mills’s classification in Cho et al (1965). We then found a more specific classification by Mills in work commissioned by the Hyams Beach Villagers’ Association in 1989 (Mills, 1989). This is very detailed and very specific and an excellent example of information being available for following researchers.

With the macro-vegetation scene established by Mills, we then used the series of ‘Walks’ to display what we looked at. While these often led to very delightful flower surprises there was a mounting frustration at how difficult it was to identify a eucalypt. The work of Wood & Wood (1998-9), Flowers Of The South Coast And Ranges Of New South Wales, Volumes 1 and 2, was of great value. Other excellent resources are listed in the References. The web photographic library at the Australian National Botanic Gardens was very helpful http://www.anbg.gov.au/anbg/photo.html

Much self-learning about vegetation has occurred but we have only just scratched the surface and much of Hyams Beach is about its vegetation.

Presentation

The initial issues regarding ‘presentation’ were dealt with in Photography. We collected a large number of images and an increasing amount of information and the first approach in presenting this was to build a web site. 

Organizing the presentation followed the ‘Walks’ theme with additional information easily accessed through the ‘Contents’ page. Vegetation again caused difficulties. The current solution is to have examples in the respective walks and build a taxonomy under the family name. This has led to problems in finding specific examples of plants. For example ‘Flannel flower’ is stored under Apiaceae but we need to remember what walk we have seen Flannel Flowers on and then track back through the web information until we get to the examples.