*Small Mammal Survey*
The story so far: Friends Of Grampians-Gariwerd have a grant to involve the public in research, and to educate them as to its importance. We did a substantial survey using the ‘Hair Sampling Tube’ method, and we have written it all up in a set of A3 books, one of which will be on a table in the Visitor Centre and the others will be loaned around to people interested in what we have done as a community research programme.
Our final activity was to invite Hans Brunner up for a public lecture on hair tubing, which was greatly appreciated.
Hans takes three views of any hair samples supplied, (refer pictures above (bandicoot) and below (tiger quoll).
FIRST: a cross section, shown in the upper left of the picture, this is usually the most easily identified.
SECOND, a whole hair view, shown on the far right of the picture, giving a longitudinal view through the hair. This is usually the second most useful view.
THIRD, he makes a cast of the outside of the hair, shown along the bottom, which show the scale pattern of the hair.
Step 1- Threading hair through the slide
Step 2 Position the slide under the microscope
Step 3 Examine or photograph the slide
The result with black wallaby hair
Barbara Triggs lives with her retired husband in an enclave of the Croajingalong National Park on the Mallacoota lakes, about 12 km by water to Mallacoota, about 40 km by gravel road to Genoa. She is the author of ‘Tracks, Scats and Other Traces, A Field Guide to Australian Mammals’, the main resource in that field. Barbara has analysed the hairs we collected this year. A busy person, who received us warmly, fed us coffee, and provided us with much knowledge. She showed us how the analysis is actually done. There are three views which can be made to analyse hairs. (This is the method pioneered by Hans Brunner)
The first one is to get a bunch of hairs, put them on a slide with some glycerine and look at them. The pattern, and the ratio of the medulla, (the dark centre) to the diameter of the whole hair are very characteristic, and according to Barbara are often enough to get to a near certainty.
The next is more laborious, and involves pulling a bunch of hairs through a small hole in an aluminium plate, and then trimming both sides flush with a sharp razor blade. This gives cross sections, which have a very characteristic shape and colour.
The third is to make a cast. To do this you put a thin smear of Aquadhere on a glass slide. Then carefully place one or more hairs in that. When the glue has set enough to become clear, you pull the hairs out, and you have a cast which shows the scale pattern on the outside of the hair. In difficult cases this third view may be the decider, but it is not often required.
We then discussed the future of ‘the book’. How can we do hair analysis without plates to compare our samples with?
Hans Brunner does not want to reprint it, it needs revision, and anyhow the first edition sat on the shelves for a decade or more until interest in the method started to grow, so it is not a publisher’s delight. Barbara is interested in producing a CD version, and a contact of hers is trying to get a grant to get that underway. In the meantime, as an act of trust and generosity she has lent us a set of slides of cross sections of hair of all native animals we are likely to find in the Grampians, which we are allowed to scan on to our computer, and use.