Historical Records of Australian Science Historical Records of Australian Science Society
The history of science, pure and applied, in Australia, New Zealand and the southwest Pacific

Putting Science in its Place: The Role of Sandringham Station in Fostering Arid Zone Science in Australia

Christopher R. Dickman and Libby Robin

Historical Records of Australian Science 25(2) 186 - 201
Published: 11 November 2014


For the past fifty years, Sandringham Station has provided a major focus for scientific work in southwestern Queensland, an arid region that includes the Simpson Desert and the Channel Country (together 'Desert Channels'). This paper explores the role of place, chance and private enterprise in supporting science in this region. Unlike other parts of inland Australia, where government initiatives were prominent, science in Queensland's arid country was privately supported, and research there had an ecological or eco-physiological rather than an economic focus. It began later than elsewhere (1960s), and its scientific questions were different from those framed in research stations set up to address agricultural and pastoral imperatives. The location of Sandringham on the ecological edge between the ephemeral wetlands of the anastomosing channels and the dune country of the Simpson Desert created an ecotonal area that was rich in animals adapted to living in Australian desert country, and a particular opportunity to observe their adaptations to the boom-and-bust ecological conditions. The role of local observers, particularly station managers and naturalists, has been critical in studying the often cryptic animals of the region, and the ongoing support of the station itself was essential to investigations that were mostly on private leasehold lands.


© Australian Academy of Science 2014

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