Zoologist turned cotton grower embarks on journey to track river health

A zoology degree is not a traditional qualification for a cotton grower, but for Southern QLD grower Mark Palfreyman it provides an ideal grounding for his new role as national Cotton RiverCare champion.

The role forms part of the newly launched Cotton RiverCare program, which aims to support the responsible management of riverine areas within Australia’s cotton growing regions.

Under the program, cotton growers and the wider cotton community can follow the progress of Mark and his family as they care for their farm and its natural environment; including discovering what biodiversity lives on their farm, how their management decisions impact on the condition of their riverine areas and the benefits healthy riverine areas can provide to their farming business.

Cotton RiverCare program manager and CottonInfo technical specialist for natural resources, Stacey Vogel, said the program provides a unique way for the cotton industry to see first hand how best management practice leads to healthy riparian areas.

“Under the program, we are establishing long-term monitoring sites on the Palfreyman family farm, which will look at water quality, the condition of native vegetation and the diversity of the local fauna,” Stacey said.

“We’ll are doing water monitoring and assessments, setting up photo points to accurately capture snapshots of riparian condition over time, and conducting visual and technological assessments of fauna, through such methods as sightings, scats, tracks, camera surveillance and even burrow monitoring.

“And, as part of the project, an ecologist will be brought in to undertake a microbat and fauna survey next year.

“It’s all about proactively monitoring the condition of riparian areas and determining how on-farm decisions can positively impact these environments, for the overall benefit of the farm.

“Mark has a real passion for maintaining healthy ecosystems on his farm as part of running his farming business, and a keen interest in native fauna, which makes him the ideal Cotton RiverCare champion.

“This journey is going to be a fascinating one for Mark and his family, and, most importantly, all interested growers and cotton communities are invited to follow along with their progress. We’ll be sharing our results via social media - you’ll be able to see, for example, into our burrow cameras in real time,” Stacey said.    

The Cotton RiverCare program is supported by CRDC and CottonInfo. Further information, and links to the program’s social media accounts are available here.