New era in conservation as purpose-built field station opens
The $1.1 million Michael Tichbon Field Station was officially opened on Friday at Bush Heritage’s Red Moort Reserve. (Supplied: William Marwick)
A purpose-built ecological research facility will be the new base allowing environmental workers to monitor threatened species in West Australian wilderness from the field.
The $1.1 million Michael Tichbon Field Station at Red Moort Reserve in south west WA was officially launched on Friday, becoming the first purpose-built construction for non-profit conservation organisation Bush Heritage Australia.
The unique, sustainable facility was designed by local female-led architects and builders who completed the station on budget and on time.
This facility will now provide accommodation and work space for visiting ecologists, researchers and volunteers who monitor the highly diverse and threatened biological species located on the reserve.
The station is powered by the sun, with a huge solar array and battery storage system featured into the design. All water on the site is supplied from the rainwater tank and composting toilets reduce the number of litres required.
The sustainable, off-grid structure is located near Boxwood Hill in the Great Southern region of WA. (Supplied: William Marwick)
A first for Bush Heritage Australia
Inside one of the dorm rooms at the Michael Tichbon Field Station. (ABC Great Southern: Ellie Honeybone)
Bush Heritage staff and volunteers spent many years driving hundreds of kilometres from their base in Albany to the Red Moort Reserve located between the Stirling Range and Fitzgerald River National Park.
The idea of a permanent field station in the area was first floated seven years ago by Bush Heritage ecologist Angela Sanders and South Coast Healthy Landscape manager Simon Smale.
“Normally we inherit the infrastructure that comes with the properties we purchase,” Mr Smale said.
An aerial view of the Michael Tichbon Field Station. The Station is located between the Stirling Range and Fitzgerald River National Parks. (Supplied: Leigh Griffith)
“This is the first facility that Bush Heritage has custom-designed and built and it has been a great opportunity for us to meet our own green principles and make a bit of a statement.
“We wanted something durable, easily maintained and completely off the grid.”
Red Moort Reserve is a 1,042 hectare sanctuary purchased by Bush Heritage in 2014. (ABC Great Southern: Ellie Honeybone)
The field station consists of three sleeping quarter buildings, an office and wet-lab building, kitchen, gathering area and shower block, all with disability access.
Mr Smale said anybody associated with Bush Heritage’s conservation mission was able to use the facility.
“Volunteers, researchers, our contractors and consultants — we are going to have a whole range of people using the station,” he said.
“Our colleagues at Parks and Wildlife and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions will be using it in the near future… and I am sure there will be lots of uses that we haven’t even thought of yet.”
World-class biodiversity hotspot
The 1,042-hectare Red Moort Reserve was one of the last unsecured patches of bushland in the region and forms part of Bush Heritage’s Monjebup Cluster.
It was named after the red-flowered Moort eucalypt, Eucalyptus versiculosa.
The conservation work taking place in the area is part of the bigger Gondwana Link mission, aiming to achieve a healthy, 1,000km band of reconnected bush across south-west WA.
Red Moort Reserve is home to a number of priority conservation species including the Western Pygmy Possum. (Supplied: William Marwick)
“This is really Australia’s only significant biodiversity hotspot,” Mr Smale said.
“We are really concentrating on large scale ecological restoration and lots of monitoring associated with that and it’s coming up trumps.
“We’re getting extraordinary results just after a few short years of putting paddocks that were once wheat and canola back into bush.
“Following closely to the vegetation coming back, we are seeing the return of pygmy possums and honey possums and malleefowl and a great abundance of birds and all the other fauna that need that vital habitat.”
Michael Tichbon — conservation champion
Conservation champion Michael Tichbon stands alongside his portrait at the opening of the Michael Tichbon Field Station on Friday. (Sourced: Bush Heritage )
The Michael Tichbon Field Station would not have been possible without the generosity of conservation advocate Michael Tichbon, who has donated nearly $1 million to Bush Heritage in the last 10 years.
Naming the Station after Mr Tichbon was an obvious choice for Mr Smale.
“We had the idea of the facility, but we had no idea how we were going to actually make it happen,” he said.
“It was first raised at an event in Albany in 2013 and Michael was in attendance.
“He came out with us the following day, saw the restoration work we were doing and quietly slipped a cheque into our pocket for the design fees.
“He maintained really generous annual contributions to the organisation from there which were targeted to the construction of this facility.”
Mr Tichbon has long been a supporter of the environment, also donating funds to the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and Kings Park among many others.
He said it was an honour to have the purpose-built station carry his name.
“This station is important because they’re [Bush Heritage] doing a great job in revegetating all these unviable farms through this country,” he said.
“It saves the people a lot of time and they have a good, secure premises to rest up in at the end of the day.
“It quite an honour really to have it named after me,” Mr Tichbon said.
Women in control
It’s quite unusual to come across a building site operated by women but this was the case during construction of the $1.1 million Michael Tichbon Field Station.
H + H Architects director Julie de Jong and architect Grace Schlager at the opening of the Michael Tichbon Field Station. (ABC Great Southern: Ellie Honeybone)
H+H Architects director Julie de Jong and assisting architect Grace Schlager joined forces with Katie Woodhams from KBuilt Construction to deliver Bush Heritage’s dream facility in the wilderness of WA.
“It is more or less a cluster of architect-designed sheds,” Ms de Jong said.
“It is very modest but designed to suit the practicalities of everyday activities out here.
“It allows people to come in and off the land as they are doing their research.”
Despite the challenges of building on a remote site some 130km away from the office, Ms de Jong said the project ran very smoothly.
KBuilt Construction director Katie Woodhams, far right, with Bush Heritage CEO Gerard O’Neill to her left. (Supplied: Bush Heritage )
Builder Katie Woodhams agreed and said girl power played a role in the success of the job.
“I think that is why I feel the project went so well,” she said.
“It was very easy to understand what we were trying to achieve… and females talking to one another and understanding each other is better.
“It was a great project to be a part of. It was amazing that is was on time and on budget.”
On time and on budget is something Ms Woodhams said she did not comes across very often.
“And to throw in the middle of that, I actually had a baby so we did pretty well I think,” Ms Woodhams said.