Project Platypus Updates: New Landcare Facilitator
Hello to all the landcarers of the Upper Wimmera!
My name is Elia Pirtle and I am very excited to be starting as our new local landcare facilitator for the Project Platypus Upper Wimmera Region. I have a background and interest in both conservation and agriculture, so I jumped on this opportunity. The Landcare program represents a unification between conservation, agricultural and community goals, and I am eager to plant myself right in the middle.
My partner, James, our greyhound Rory and I at our house in Rhymney
I am a trained ecologist and for the last ten years have worked across the fields of conservation, agriculture and biosecurity, and in many cases where all three interests overlap. For instance, one of my major focuses has been biosecurity in Australian horticulture. For one particular exotic vegetable fly pest I worked with extensively, our horticultural industry’s ability to reduce impacts and costs after an incursion ultimately came down to our own native biodiversity, in the form of tiny parasitoid wasps which we fondly dubbed “tiny biosecurity officers”. If you are interested to learn more, you can check out a video we made here.
Some of the beautiful parasitoid wasps I studied in my previous role – each are no larger than 3 or 4 mm long, none of them can sting you, and all are important sources of natural pest control on vegetable and nursery farms in Australia!
Throughout my research career I have worked with a diverse range of species, though with a particular fondness for the scaly and crawling varieties. I have worked with caterpillars of the Ecuadorian cloud forest, iguanas of the Southwestern United States deserts, skinks and goannas of the Australian outback, frogs of Melbourne’s urban rivers, an abundance of different invertebrates of Australia’s broadacre farms, nurseries and urban gardens, and I have even spent a bit of time studying dinosaurs!
More of the species I have studied, from farms, to deserts to tropical rainforests
I live in Rhymney with my partner James, who is also a trained ecologist with a background in digital technologies and sustainable agriculture. We moved to the area in 2020, though we have both been deeply in love with the Gariwerd/Grampians region since our very first visits. We are particularly drawn by the region’s unique overlap in agricultural and natural spaces. I have been a member of the Perennial Pasture Systems group and the Jallukar Landcare group since moving up.
While not on the clock as facilitator, I’ll be pursuing my passion for art and science education, working in a small capacity for Environment Education Victoria within their school sustainability program, as well as working freelance as a scientific communicator and illustrator. I am particularly interested in using artwork to help tell stories that cannot be easily observed with our own eyes, such as long histories of land change, or the complexities of insect lives despite the minute scale. You can find my works at eliapirtle.com. Another of my favourite activities is to visit primary schools with my kit of microscopes and sampling equipment to run insect learning days with students. I am also working towards my dream of publishing a series of educational picture books aimed at improving ecological literacy.
One of my paintings showing an imagined historic habitats of the western Victorian Volcanic Plain
Looking forward to meeting!