Banrock Station: How a world renowned winery is supporting conservation initiatives

by isvolunteers on Tuesday, 9 June 2015

ISV Project Leader, Jaclyn Smith, reflects on her time leading a motivated group of International Student Volunteers in a remote region of South Australia, and the incredible work they’ve achieved in just two-weeks. 

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The spectacular Banrock Station Wetland Complex – a site of international ecological significance (RAMSAR listed wetland). (c) Jaclyn Smith

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Working together and looking after each other were also some of the goals during project. (c) Jaclyn Smith

Banrock Station, located alongside the picturesque River Murray in South Australia, has an ever growing international reputation for its premium wine grapes and inspiring approach to wetland conservation, education and eco-tourism. A major focus of their conservation initiatives is the rehabilitation of the ‘Banrock Station Wetland Complex‘, which is listed as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention – and amazingly, most of the activities associated with preserving this important ecological site are funded through the proceeds of wine sales and organisations like ISV.

Inspired by their values and the unique environment, ISV has been supporting Banrock Station since 2006, and on the 16th of May this year, eight students from the United States descended on the town of Kingston-on-Murray. (Their arrival has increased the town’s population by 4%!)

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Enjoying the iconic River Murray at one of the Banrock Station project sites. (c) Jaclyn Smith

The volunteers arrived with various personal goals – making a positive impact, taking every opportunity to learn, and discovering something new about themselves – and throughout their two-week stay, students undertook a range of meaningful tasks that allowed them to achieve these goals and more, gaining a detailed understanding of conservation issues both locally and globally.

Some of the larger on-ground tasks included building an artificial island (started by a previous ISV group), which provides a refuge for endangered bird species and also encourages them closer to bird shelters, and constructing an extension to a pre-existing bird shelter to reduce bird to human interactions. The tasks both preserve important species, and enhance the viewing pleasure of bird-watchers and other members of the community that come to Banrock Station to enjoy nature.

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Collecting data is an important part of conservation work, helping to develop management plans and determine their effectiveness. (c) Jaclyn Smith

Our days on project also included other important activities, such as conducting habitat surveys on species abundance and health, as well as salinity testing to assist with the development of best management practices. We also contributed to pest management controls to protect the native fauna and determine the survival rates of seedlings planted in previous years. This provided an extremely important conservation lesson for us all – the tough drought conditions experienced in this part of South Australia means that a 30% success rate is considered ‘good’ comparatively to years gone by.

The work of ISVolunteers also caught the attention of ABC Riverland Radio, who interviewed our group in the second week of project. The full audio of the interview can be listened to at: http://blogs.abc.net.au/sa/2015/05/riverlands-banrock-welcomes-us-students.html

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“The motivation and engagement of the students throughout the project was such an inspiration,” Jaclyn Smith, ISV Project Leader. (c) Jaclyn Smith

The beauty of the region truly captured our imagination, with many volunteers commenting on the expansive sky and the incredible brightness of the stars. Having the opportunity to assist with work that would otherwise have taken the staff at Banrock Station months to complete, and being able to see the results of our efforts alongside those made by previous ISVolunteers, made this an extraordinary experience for all involved.

Jaclyn Smith, ISV Project Leader, May 2015

 

To learn more about ISV, our responsible travel principles and volunteer projects please visit our website at www.isvolunteers.org.

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Having never ‘built’ anything before, constructing the bird hide extension was seen as a great accomplishment among all of the students. (c) Jaclyn Smith

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The students were not afraid to get dirty and work up a sweat in the name of conservation! (c) Jaclyn Smith

  

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