Study Methodology

Observation

Looking is the first activity, and important for the pleasure derived and the observational skills developed. Looking at the flowers along the tracks leads to wanting to label them and we begin our taxonomy, the classification of the information. Over time, continued observation of the same environment builds knowledge. 

An example is the Scribbly Gum. Between Duck Gully and Greenfields Beach on the “White Sands Walk” there are examples of Scribbly Gums. Continued observation, however, shows that there are several types of Scribbly Gums. Furthest away from the Bay to the West, are tallish trees with single trunks, which are classic Eucalyptus rossi (or are they sclerophylla). Close to the Bay edge, Scribbly Gums go ‘mallee’ with many stems so that now they could be Port Jackson Mallee, e. obtusiflora. Other mallees also occur, the Red Bloodwood (E. gummifera) and there is some hybridisation possible which further confuses the identification process.

Knowledge gathering

This is the research phase using library and web searching and finding the references. In our Scribbly Gum example we looked to the bookstores for a reference on Eucalypts and discovered that there isn’t much readily available in Sydney. From a web search and from visiting the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra, we found a specialist bookseller who helped build our reference library. However, the CD-ROM on eucalypts only shows classic tall trees and we needed to identify mallee runts. With continued searching we finally had the resources to make a tentative identification.

Questions left unanswered.

Despite having the references, the mallee Scribbly Gum example is not solved. What we have learned is that identifying eucalypts is an acquired skill and we may not be able to answer the question of ‘what are these mallee scribbly gums’ without seeking expert assistance.

Return to observation

This is the repetitive process. We now return to the location with camera and glad bags and begin taking samples of leaves and photographing the stems to compare our observations with the reference materials.

In too many instances, there are unidentified flowers, shrubs and trees. Rather than continue building the knowledge to identify these examples, which will take years, it is more appropriate to publish and distribute the information-gathering to date.