by Jackie Gong
Science teacher Anndy Dannenberg talked about her adventures with marsupials in Australia last Thursday after school in the Film Lecture Hall as a part of the Huntington Lecture Series.
The Huntington Lecture Series, named after former North principal Jennifer Huntington, are PTSO-sponsored lectures intended to educate the North community on a wide range of topics with an out-of-classroom experience.
In 2013, Dannenberg took a sabbatical from teaching, and traveled to Australia for two months. “Ever since I was a little kid, I dreamed about going” to Australia, she said.
Dannenberg participated as a volunteer in a program called Earthwatch Institute, which connects researchers to volunteers interested in helping to conduct science research in a variety of fields.
Dannenberg’s research program focused on a population of koalas in southern Australia, which had been introduced to the region due to the area’s lack of disease and predators. However, an overcrowding of koalas had led to starvation, due to the koalas’ “almost exclusive” diet of eucalyptus leaves.
In addition to planting more eucalyptus trees, Dannenberg said that “there is a lot of research being done, and [scientists] are trying to find more suitable and sustainable habitats.”
Including starvation, koalas all across Australia also face threats such as HIV-like diseases, predators such as foxes and snakes, starvation, and habitat fragmentation, due to man-made roads cutting through forest, said Dannenberg.
Dannenberg also travelled to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area in northeast Australia near the equator with tropical forests, where she camped on Aboriginal land.
Dannenberg wrapped up the talk by sharing an experience about meeting one of the most venomous snakes in the world, the ‘Death Adder,’ which was caught and captured in a pillowcase by a fellow volunteer. “I lived to tell the tale,” she joked.