Have you noticed a strange looking unit near the First Creek Wetlands at Adelaide Botanic Garden? Did you know this machine is collecting valuable biodiversity data which will be used to safeguard South Australia's Myrtleceae trees against a deadly disease.
So, what's with the big chimney?
The large chimney-like structure you see in the wetlands is known as a sentinel.
This sentinel is a mobile, solar-powered device which monitors weather conditions, insect life and fungal spores.
The large device is made up of both a six-metre suction trap and a two-metre suction trap, which collects flying insects, and an air sampler - at the height of two-metres, which collects fungal spores, pollen and other airborne particles each and every day.
Collected samples are barcoded, allowing scientists to track them from collection to species identification.
Why is Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium (BGSH) so interested in this information?
Invasive pests and other pathogens (organisms which spread disease) threaten the biodiversity of our native plants in our controlled environment.
These pests can also have a significant impact on commercial agriculture practices taking place right across Australia.
These insect traps monitor insect diversity around our Botanic Gardens and help researchers understand how climate change and other factors are affecting these diverse populations.
Using this sentinel, staff monitor the Botanic Garden for 'Myrtle Rust' - a serious fungal disease which infects and kills many plants in the Myrtaceae family including eucalypts, bottlebrushes, paperbarks and tea-trees.
The sentinel alerts them to myrtle rust spores which have drifted into the grounds.
Sentinel units have been set up at both Adelaide Botanic Garden and Mount Lofty Botanic Garden.
This technology was developed as part of the iMapPESTS Sentinel Surveillance for Agriculture program. For more information, visit the project website.