Job well dung for poo-ologist

Poo-ologist and Landcare volunteer Graeme Stevenson dishes the dirt


SALT OF THE EARTH: Landcare volunteer Graeme Stevenson was one of three finalists in the prestigious Bob Hawke Landcare Award last year.

SALT OF THE EARTH: Landcare volunteer Graeme Stevenson was one of three finalists in the prestigious Bob Hawke Landcare Award last year.

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You're a what? On the ground with poo-ologist Graeme Stevenson, who dishes the dirt on his job.

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When your job title is “poo-ologist”, it is bound to be a conversation starter with people young and old.

Dr Graeme Stevenson, 73, is passionate about soil, particularly Tasmania’s red basalt soil, and speaks widely about the benefits of introducing dung beetles and earthworms into gardens and pasture.

“I love soils. We have a yummy soil here,” he said.

The Somerset resident uses his knowledge in volunteer work for Landcare groups in the state’s north-west, working on various projects along the coastline.

He has helped groups with everything from willow removal and riverside fencing to managing soil slippage as well as helping write grant applications for new projects.

“Landcare works on a 50-50 basis,” Graeme said. “We provide the fencing, seedlings and tree guards and the landholder does the work.”

Like the TV show Doctor Who, there is more to Dr Stevenson than meets the eye – and he considers Landcare in the same way.

“Landcare is like the Tardis – it’s bigger on the inside. It looks big on the outside, but by crikey it’s bigger on the inside!”

So far Graeme has managed almost $1.5 million worth of projects for Landcare Tasmania.

He also works with farmers as a soil assessor and agronomy consultant and has written a number of books showcasing his expertise, including Ruminations of a Poo-ologist: Dung Beetle in Tasmania and Earthworms in Tasmanian Agriculture.

Before his volunteer work, Graeme was employed in the dairy branch of Tasmania’s Agricultural Department and studied for a Diploma in Agriculture, Bachelor in Rural Science and PhD in Animal Science.

He also worked in Papua New Guinea as a “didiman” – an agriculturalist –  and was a farm labourer and manager.

“We are trying to protect agricultural land,” he said.

BEEN THERE, DUNG THAT:  A dung beetle at work. Photo: John Green/CSIRO Entomology

BEEN THERE, DUNG THAT: A dung beetle at work. Photo: John Green/CSIRO Entomology

On top of his project management, consultancy and volunteer work, Graeme shares his soil knowledge with school children as alter ego Dr Spluttergrunt.

“I’ve been keen on getting the message to kids,” he said. “They’re just like big sponges and they absorb it.

“When they go home and mum and dad ask them ‘What did you do at school?’ Oh we had a poo-ologist. Mum and dad hears the messages at home – bingo!”

Graeme does this with the aid of Sally the sick soil, who is wrapped in a bandage because she was run over by a tractor when wet and now can’t breathe properly.

Landcare is like the Tardis. It looks big on the outside, but by crikey it’s bigger on the inside. - Dr Graeme Stevenson, poo-ologist and Landcare volunteer

“Sally has to take dung beetle and earthworm pills every day,” he said.

“The kids love it, I love it and it gets the Landcare message across.”

Crowd favourite

Graeme was one of three finalists in the prestigious Bob Hawke Landcare Award late last year, with Landcare Tasmania emphasising how valuable his work is for the state organisation.

“Graeme’s enthusiasm and passion for caring for our soils was a clear crowd favourite at the [National Landcare Conference] awards ceremony, but alas he was not the ultimate winner,” said Landcare Tasmania.

The National Landcare Awards is a key biennial event that acknowledges and celebrates local Landcare achievements at a national level, and sees 65 finalists from across Australia feature in nine categories.

In the end, NSW biodynamic farmer and grazier Charlie Arnott from Boorowa took home the 2018 Bob Hawke award.

The prestigious award acknowledges a person who has demonstrated a remarkable commitment to caring for the land, champions better practices, and gives their time to share knowledge.

Read more: Clean4Shore wins people's choice Landcare Award

Read more: Fur flies over NZ town's 'cat ban'

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