Science at the Snowies

Written by Montana Coombes

If you’re studying at the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society, why should you take a field trip to Australia’s snow sports hotspot, the Snowy Mountains?

Not for the skiing or the snowboarding, but for the contentious and often competing views you’ll find there—both on and off the slopes—on how the land should be used and managed.

Over the course of our three-day field trip, we met with a variety of stakeholders to understand their perspectives, including the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services, cattle farmers, sustainability-focused farmers, environmentalists, traditional Indigenous land owners, recreational users like skiers and mountain-bikers, as well as deer hunters.

One of my favourite parts of the field trip was learning from a park ranger about endangered species in the area, such as the corroboree frog, pygmy possum and sphagnum mosses. We even saw these mosses during a hike on Porcupine Ridge Trail.

After the trip was over, we wrote up a report comparing the landscape perspectives of two different stakeholders. This involved the creation of systems thinking diagrams to visually represent the different values between stakeholders’ land uses, and to discover where interventions to reconcile these differences would be most effective.

Studying environment and society at ANU can take you to the snow, the surf, and everywhere in between. Find out more about our science field trips.

  • Montana on top of Porcupine Ridge Trail

    At the top of Porcupine Ridge Trail after a rainy and cold hike. Unfortunately, the intensity of the mist prevented a view of Mt Kosciuszko…but I promise it’s there!

  • Fenner student on a farm visit.

    Fenner student, Gaenor Gibbs-Harris, at a farm visit where we spoke with Dr Charles Massy about his research and practice in regenerative agriculture.

  • Snow gum near Charlotte Pass

    As an avid tree-lover, I was astounded at the snow gums near Charlotte Pass in Kosciuszko National Park. I had never seen eucalypts with these trunk formations or patterns before!

  • View from farm visit

    The view from a farm visit where we spoke with Dr Charles Massy about his research and practice in regenerative agriculture. Sadly, this whole area was cleared by cattle grazers shortly after settlers inhabited the area. Some sustainability-focused farmers in the area are seeking to restore aspects of the landscape to its previous state.

  • Chair lifts

    Snow sport chair lifts waiting for the snow to fall and for snow sport enthusiasts. The usual habitat of the endangered pygmy possum is under rocks like these.

  • One of the Snowy Hydo Scheme's Dams

    One of the Snowy Hydro Scheme’s dams. The alpine forests have never regenerated since the 2003 fires swept through the whole region.