A marriage of art and science

Art and science seem odd bed-fellows but in reality they lean heavily on each other, or should. But try telling that to a science department in our universities where the trends is towards 100% science. One former environmental science academic who is mixing the two together, beautifully, is Dr Johannes Bauer of O’Connell, near Oberon. Dr Bauer is a former senior lecturer in environmental science at Charles Sturt University and The University of Sydney, and owns a 500 Ha environmental farm at O’Connell. The following paintings and descriptions demonstrate what is meant by the marriage of science and art.

Death and rebirth by Dr Johannes Bauer

Death and rebirth
Dr Johannes Bauer


In Wishwell forest (part of our farm 4hills) the New Year’s fire of 2013/2014 has had a dramatic effect on Mountain Wattle. This Acacia, also called Broad-leaved Hickory or Tanning Wattle, which grows on the farm to 15-20 metres in height and 40-50 cm in diameter (in 20-30 years), even on poor to very poor soils (unlike Acacia dealbata), had started to populate the barren understorey in the mixed Eucalyptus rossii, E macrorhyncha- E goneocalyx forest (45-30-25 to 10-30-60) of trees between 5-15 cm BHD and 3-10 metres in height. The fire has killed about 20–80 percent varying between locations. For every killed 6-10 year old tree however 10-100 seeds have germinated, become seedlings, and now, one year later, form a dense Acacia forest layer (in particular on the broken gneiss/quartzite fell fields, a remnant of gold mining 150 or so years ago) which is around 100 cm high and will, over the next five years, grow into a dense and structured mid-storey in the Eucalypt forest. Currently, at this tender age, it is quite palatable and is browsed by four species of kangaroo. In 10 years it will also have become an important food source for insects and birds in December/January when it produces masses of pale yellow flowers. I consider the timber as superior and more beautiful than A. melanoxylon and A. dealbata, only inferior to A. implexa which, on 4hills, rarely grows to dimensions of Height/BHD beyond 15cm/8metres. I also believe its potential to draw CO2 (and Nitrogen!)  from the air and fix in soil and timber is remarkable (5000 x 10 = 50 000 x 2= 100 000= 100 tonnes CO2 /ha in 5 years (+Eucalypts). So, in conclusion, the fire has restarted and accelerated what has already happened in that forest and has drawn biological activity from the canopy into the ground and soil. It has also greatly accelerated carbon and nitrogen fixation from the bottom -up




– Some observations from 4hills

Insect Diversity

The dominance of Coleoptera

The Megapredators

The small predators

The dominants: The Mordellids and The Lycanids

The European Bees


‘Insektenhimmel’. J Bauer, 9. January, 2015, soft pastel, 30x 60 cm.

Insects, like birds or mammals or reptiles live in communities. These consist of a certain number of species, in the case of insects very many often, which share ecosystems and habitats. They share the space, plants and their life histories. While all of them co-exist and are mostly co-adapted, their life history strategies are entwined through a wide web of interactions. Such interactions might be predation, parasitism, commensalism, symbiotic or simply competitive.

As this summer progresses with my ‘heightened (and growing – I accuse my wife she spends too much time looking at faces on you know where while she retaliates with : ’better than beetles’) insect awareness, no doubt fed by ‘Temognatha variabilis’ Lukas brought home two days ago, I hop, like the insects, from shrub to shrub and from flower to flower, always discovering new wonders. These days I have paused at the two six year old tea tree  (Leptospermum) shrubs I planted at Nursery Dam and they are, if anything, even attracting more insects than Callistemon sieberii four weeks or so ago (>100 insect species). They also have an exotic competitor which is about as popular as any native: Fennel!)


Insect diversity and abundance

Insect diversity and abundance on Callistemon sieberii

Insect diversity and abundance on Callistemon sieberii

As on Callistemon sieberii, the abundance and diversity of insects attracted to the nectar on Leptospermum flowers is astonishing. Most notable amongst the estimated 500+ insects (mostly beetles) of the observed families on the two small shrubs (20m apart) were, yet again, the Mordellidae with at least three species (mostly one black one <3mm length is the Spotted Tumbling Flower Beetle with its – I think- spectacular dark black colour, white pattern and shape. They are all frantically feeding, yet always alert and difficult to capture in flight with my impaired Canon SLR. Also very abundant, somewhere in the 50ies is that small (6mm) species of Lycanid and it seems clear that the aggregations observed on the top of the shrubs are related to some pheromone.


More ‘Tumbling Flower beetles’ 9.1.2015 on ‘Leptospermum’sp. & Fennel

More 'Tumbling Flower beetles' 9.1.2015 on 'Leptospermun' sp. & Fennel

More ‘Tumbling Flower beetles’ 9.1.2015 on ‘Leptospermun’ sp. & Fennel


Observed species 8.1.2015
Extrapolated Species Numbers
Estim. Numbers
Unidentif., Cleridae?
1 (red green)
2 ( Spotted, brown)
8-12 +ants


Nectar and Insects, the two major food items



Nectar and Insects, the two major food items

Nectar and Insects, the two major food items

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