Take 30 undergraduates and 20 experts from the Research School of Biology at The Australian National University, and put them together for 10 days in the high-altitude environment of Kosciuszko National Park in the Australian Alps. Challenge them to first identify research questions of potential importance to the survival of one of Australia’s unique ecosystems under threat from climate change, and then to answer those questions in scientifically rigorous and competent ways.
The successful outcomes of this challenge are evidenced in this volume of selected and fully peer-reviewed papers. They are all written by students who—after intense pre-field preparation—isolated intriguing research questions, postulated hypotheses, collected and analysed data, and interpreted their findings in the context of functional ecology theoretical frameworks and empirical evidence in the scientific literature. The experts acted as guides and supporters rather than lead researchers, so that the students—most of whom were at the end of their first year of studies—were all tasked with fully realising the concept of self-actuated research.
This book has much to offer ecologists, plant and animal scientists, protected area managers and anyone else interested in knowing more about the species of Kosciuszko National Park and how they live, survive, behave and interact. This book is also a showcase of just how much can be accomplished by bright and enthusiastic students who are trusted and guided to use their scientific and ecological knowledge and skills immediately. Much of the knowledge made available in these papers would simply not have seen the light of day except for this innovative intensive approach to research-based education. It is reassuring to know that the future of ecological research is in such capable hearts and minds!