These school holidays, kids are invited to become a Junior Ranger Detective and go undercover to solve the mystery at the new Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve Operation Botanica exhibit.
Some of the plants in the rainforest are under threat and others are strangling each other so visitors need to follow the clues to solve the botanica mystery.
Along the way they’ll meet a cast of botanical characters – the good guys, the villains, the stranglers, the victims – and learn about the amazing plants that fight for survival in the tough rainforest environment.
Environmental Education Officer Dr Lisa Ryan said the team at Mary Cairncross changed the exhibits every five to six months to keep it fresh for returning visitors.
“Each year more than 180,000 people visit Mary Cairncross and our exhibits are an opportunity to inspire a sense of wonder and amazement in nature by highlighting the many unique species that live in our reserve and their incredible life-histories,” Dr Ryan said.
“We spend months beforehand choosing a central theme that ties our stories together into a cohesive narrative and preparing interactive displays that best tell these stories in engaging, entertaining ways.
“Sometimes there are opportunities to connect stories of our species to broader environmental and sustainability issues, so visitors can see how issues such as climate change, weed infestation or light pollution are impacting resident species.”
Dr Ryan said Operation Botanica told the story of a significant, but fragmented, patch of rainforest.
“We want to inspire amazement at the many ways rainforest plants have adapted to survive the unique conditions of the rainforest including low light and high rainfall and humidity and raise awareness about some of the key threats our rainforest plant species are facing.
“One of these little-known threats is myrtle-rust, a fungal pathogen that is invading Australia’s forests and attacking members of the myrtaceae family (gum trees, lilly pillies, tea trees, bottlebrushes etc.).
“Indeed two of our rainforest species are critically endangered due to this threat.
“These stories lend themselves perfectly to an overarching narrative of a murder mystery in the rainforest, allowing us to tell the individual stories of the victims, the suspects, the detectives and the cast of other botanical characters all fighting for survival.
“We hope visitors enjoy the experience as much as they would a good detective thriller and maybe their visit will be all the more memorable for it.”