Mount St Benedict College is fortunate to have a remnant Blue Gum High Forest on its grounds of great heritage value. Listed under Australian legislation as a critically endangered ecological community, there is now less than 5% of Blue Gum High Forest remaining in Australia.

In addition, the College recently took on the lease of the neighbouring Ludovic Blackwood Memorial Sanctuary from The National Trust.

Reflecting the College’s growing ecological responsibilities and with the College value of Stewardship firmly in mind, it became apparent that professional expertise was needed to support and protect the biodiversity of such a large area of forest.

The College has employed social ecologist, Natalie Edmonds to development and implement a comprehensive plan to care for and learn about the bushland.

The plan includes the Bennies Bushcare volunteer team of eight students in Years 10 and 11 as well as a weekend bushcare group with ex-students and external members of the community meeting on a Saturday once a month. The aim is to restore and maintain ecosystem health by helping the natural regeneration of indigenous plants.

The bushcare teams have recently become involved with an Australia-wide citizen science project run by The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. The Hollows as Homes project aims to conduct the first landscape-scale assessment of tree/nest box/cut-in hollow distribution, type and wildlife use. Using the College’s protected Blue Gum High Forest, Bennies Bushcare is monitoring selected tree hollows to help build a comprehensive picture of the hollow resources available for native wildlife.

“Together with our students, we are getting to know this wonderful space. Through monitoring the many tree hollows we have onsite we have already identified abundant wildlife including a colony of native bees and even a resident echidna,” says College Social Ecologist, Natalie Edmonds.

Bennies Bushcare Year 11 member, Olivia Staal is embracing her role as an environmental ambassador for the College and the wider community, “Before my involvement, I would look out the Blue Gum Forest each day and know little about it. Now I have learnt about the native plants and wildlife and understand the threats that this area faces. I am enjoying being part of the Hollows as Homes project and now know how to record tree height and width without measuring instruments.”

Bennies Bushcare meets on the 4th Saturday of the month, 9.00am - midday in the Ludovic Blackwood Memorial Sanctuary. MSB students, parents and ex-students are invited to become involved in caring for an important piece of Bennies and national heritage. No experience necessary.

If you are interested contact Natalie Edmonds nedmonds@msb.nsw.edu.au who will provide more details.