Why do kookaburras laugh? Why are fairy wrens so blue? Why do cicadas click inunison?

Professor Leigh Simmons, an evolutionary biologist from UWA’s School ofBiological Sciences, explores the answers to all these questions and many morein a new book, Naturalist on the Bibbulmun.

Over the Noongar seasons of Kambarang and Birak (November to January) 2018-19he walked the Bibbulmun Track with his son.

To distract from the rigours and sometimes painful realities of carrying 17kgacross 1000km of WA’s remote bushlands, he documented the flora and fauna ofthe southwestern corner of Western Australia.

In Naturalist on the Bibbulmun, by UWA Publishing, he details his findingsand much of the research discussed in the book was conducted by scholars atThe University of Western Australia.

Director of UWA’s Centre for Evolutionary Biology, Professor Simmons has spent40 years studying animal behaviour, ecology and evolution.

The book is a beginners’ guide to evolutionary and ecological processes, andan insight into the trials and tribulations of the long-distance walker. Butperhaps more importantly it is a call to arms.

The South West of WA was recognised in 2000 as one of the world’s 25biodiversity hotspots – a region that is a significant reservoir of plant andanimal species that is critically endangered.

A criterion to be part of the biodiversity hotspot club is that anthropogenicchanges to the natural environment – through burning and clearing of land, andthe warming and drying effects of human-induced climate change – have resultedin the loss of 70 per cent of the natural habitat.

And with human impact comes the loss of species of plants and animals that areunique to the region.

Professor Simmons believes now may be our last chance to witness and to savewhat remains of the ancient wilderness through which the Bibbulmun Trackpasses.

He hopes that his book will in some small way arouse a sense of country(boodja) and draw the reader into the small but growing mob who recognise theneed to preserve the wilderness of this place, and of planet earth morewidely.

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