Bucknellians’ efforts in Australian tropical reforestation

Sal Iovino, Digital Managing Editor

Bucknell juniors Bret Hatzinger and Matt Abode embarked on an abroad experience to Queensland, Australia, as a continuation of their studies in the Bucknell Biology department last semester. 

During their trip, the two were offered the unique experience to work with TREAT (Trees for the Evelyn and Atherton Tablelands), a community based volunteer organization in Queensland dedicated to reforestation efforts throughout Australia.

Alongside their trips to the Great Barrier Reef and other excursions throughout the array of environments throughout Australia, the duo’s trip to a remote rainforest proved to be one of the most memorable.

When asked about their motivation for the trip as well as their involvement with TREAT, the two said “deforestation is a threat much of the planet faces due to agriculture, urbanization, and other human practices. Removing native forests strips habitat from endangered species, while eliminating massive carbon sinks essential to stabilizing the earth’s climate.”

They continued in their joint statement, “Tropical rainforests, such as the Wet Tropics bioregion of North Queensland, Australia are fast growing and highly diverse, but remain some of the most threatened ecosystems in the world. These habitats house endemic species such as the Southern Cassowary and Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo, but habitat fragmentation, the process of breaking a once massive area of rainforest into small patches, has brought these species and many others to the brink of extinction. These forest fragments are separated by dangerous roads and farms housing dogs that may attack these endangered animals, making the journey from habitat to habitat highly risky.” 

This motivation served the two as well as the rest of their roughly 90 person cohort of TREAT well throughout their experience, as over the course of just three days, Hatzinger and Abode prepared terrain for planting and added what eventually became roughly 1,500 trees back into the forest with the rest of their 90-person TREAT volunteer team.

Much of the work was not easy, as creating 1,500 holes for saplings in the rainy, muddy conditions that frequent the area can make for a less than pleasant experience, however, they said it is the love of the environment and the passion of the TREAT mission and its participants that make the work worthwhile. As an organization, TREAT aims to continue to engage students with an interest in the sciences and environment through volunteer experiences such as this, bringing the importance of the environment to the forefront of the educational experiences of the next generation.  

In reflecting on the experience, both Hatzinger and Abode highlighted the importance of community and persistence in tackling the environmental changes that face society today.

“Our planting added ~1,500 trees to a growing rainforest corridor. Consider that TREAT plants up to 100,00 trees per season and has been active and growing for over 40 years? That’s a significant contribution to tackling deforestation,” they said. “So, even with disheartening news and extremely disappointing governmental policy developing on the environmental front, have faith. Community efforts are accessible, impactful, and strengthened by any contribution you can provide.” 

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