We all go to Darwin from Setember to January. We stay at NARU (North Australia Research Unit) which is the ANU's research station in Darwin. It is a lovely, quiet property right in the middle of Darwin's northern suburbs. The property is ajoining the Charled Darwin University campus and it is a five minute walk to the beach and a ten minute walk to a large shopping mall. We rent two houses at NARU: one for the students and one for Pat.



Street address: (no mail delivery)

23 Ellengowan Drive

Phone numbers:

Administrator: 08-8920 9999
Fax: 08-8920 9988
Pat's house: 08-8920 9909
Student's house:08-8920 9910
Pat's mobile: 0402 677 968

Postal address:

Fiddler Crab Research Group
PO Box 41321


Police, Fire, Ambulance: 000
Local police (Casuarina): 8927 8888
Local Fire Brigade (Casuarina): 8927 1222
Taxi: 131008

Electronic address:
email administrator:

To email Pat or students in Darwin: use their normal anu email address

PHONE CALLS: You can make and receive phone calls on the house phone at any time. Calls within Darwin are free. Calls to other parts of Australia are charged to the house. Each student must buy a phone card (from the newsagent in the Mall) and use that to make phone calls home. Then we are not left with a bill at the end, and lots of arguments about who phoned when.
It is important that you tell your family and friends that there is an odd system with the NARU switchboard: if the house phone is busy, then the call gets automatically transferred to the main office. This is fine during office hpours, but if it is after hours, then the office phone will put through a message that says the office is closed. If your caller gets this message, they must make the assumption that the house phone is busy and they should call back a little later.

EMAIL: ANU staff and students have access to their ANU accounts. Intgernational students and visitors can get a hotmail account, or find out how to access their home email accounts from a remote location.

INTERNET: There is internet access in each bedroom of the student's house, and in the living room. Access is free, but it is monitorred for the usual ANU rules: you may NOT download music or movies and you may not access pornography. They actually DO moniter the system and I have been called in to explain the rather dodgy sites that were accessed by my students. This is extremely embarassing for me.

ACCOMMODATION: Students will usually share bedrooms. I leave it up to the students to decide who stays in which room but the general rule is that the most senior student gets first choice. If the house is not full, then it is the senior student who gets a room of their own.

VEHICLES: We have two vehicles in Darwin: a seven-seater Tarago and a small Ford sedan. Fieldwork is always the priority and there must always be a vehicle at the study site when a student is in the field. The tarago is not for student use. The little blue car can be used for shopping and entertainment only when it is not being used for fieldwork. Please remember that all the students need to use the little blue car, so don't hog it. It may not be taken out of Darwin. If you want to go to Litchfield or Kakadu, then you need to hire a car.

ARRIVALS & DEPARTURES: I will fetch you from the airport when you arrive and take to there when you leave. Most flights are at terrible times, so don't feel bad if you arrive in the middle of the night: I know it's not your fault. The airport is only five minutes from the house, so it is not a problem. It is YOUR responsibility to email or phone me a day or two before you arrive to make sure I remember to fetch you. Do not make the asssumption that I know when you will arrive because I booked your ticket. I have a terrible memory and the chances are that I forget you.

THE HOUSE: The house is airconditioned. Sheets, pillows, towels etc are provided. You must, however, take your own swimmming towel because you are not allowed to use the house towels at the pool. There is a fully-equipped kitchen, a washer and dryer, a TV, DVD player, iron etc. There are some things to remember: Darwin is hot and there are lots of flies. Keep the kitchen rubbish bin closed and take the packets out to the main bin regularly. Kepp the lid to the main bin firmly closed. Always use the recycling bins for recyclable materials. Also, this is a communal house, it is only fair to keep it fairly clean and to make sure the bathroom, kitchen and lounge are respectable. You can arrange to cook communally if you wish, or you can cook on your own. There is only one fridge, so you will have to buy small amounts of fresh supplies regularly (there is agreat vegetable market nearby on Sunday mornings).

WEATHER: Darwin is hot. It is always hot. Synthetic fabrics will kill you. Bring light-weight clothes. Shorts and t-shirts are good. It is important to use sunscreen even when you are not in the field. Darwin is very sunny. Sleeping is not a problem because all the bedrooms are airconditioned. There is a swimming pool at NARU, so bring a towel and swimming costume.

HEALTH: As far as I am aware, there are no particular vaccinations or precautions you need to take. If you are worried, I suggest you speak to your doctor about it before you leave. You must use mosquito repellent in the field and whenever you are outdoors. Bring the medications you need, but remember Darwin is a big town and you can buy whatever you need at the Mall. Often it is better to bring a prescription and get fresh medications up there rather than keeping pills at the high temperatures in Darwin.



light clothes
swimming costume & towel
fieldwork shoes (strap on sandals)
insect spray
pens, data books, computer disks (so you can take a copy of your data)
your laptop (Honours & PhD students)
water bottle

You are very unlikly to have to dress up, but it is a good idea to bring a pair of long trousers and a long-sleeved shirt for the evenings (to stop the mossies).

Don't worry if you forget anything, it's all available up there anyway.


I do not like rules and I do not like enforcing them. I am, however, responsible for students when we are in Darwin, and so I have to have some limits. I really encourage you to just follow them so that we never have to fight over this kind of stuff. I do not believe they are unreasonable, and most of them are to ensure your safety. Some of them are to comply with OH&S standards and the ANU code of conduct.


  1. You must wear sunscreen whenever you are outdoors
  2. You must wear a hat while doing fieldwork
  3. You must drink as much water as possible during fieldwork; at least 2 litres a day. It is difficult to tell that you are getting dehydrated until it is too late. You will get terrible headaches and can do serious physical damage to your body by not drinking enough water. You need far more than you think. The wind keeps you relatively cool so you don’t feel like you are sweating and loosing liquids. Also, you will be busy collecting data and your mind will be elsewhere. MAKE SURE you drink water ALL DAY.
  4. You must have a first aid kit in the field whenever you are there. Make sure there is a bottle of vinegar in the kit for the treatment of box jellyfish stings.
  5. You must not swim in the rivers or sea at any of the study sites: there are crocodiles and box jellyfish. Do not wade across streams, do not paddle on the river banks. Avoid all naturally occurring water unless it is specifically signposted to be a safe swimming area.
  6. Do not go to the study site when you have been drinking alcohol, and do not drink alcohol at the study site. You must be alert and totally capable at all times when you are doing fieldwork.
  7. Be aware of incoming tides, make sure you know what time the tide will rise each day. It is easy to get trapped by the tide, so make sure you have a clear path out of the mangrove.
  8. You must leave the study site if there is any lightening or if the weather turns stormy. This often happens in the afternoons in Darwin, and even though you may not want to miss out on data collection, no data is worth risking injury for.
  9. You can eat while doing fieldwork, but be careful to wash your hands before handling your food. The mangrove mud can be nasty.


  1. You may never drive the car when you have been drinking (or taking any illegal drugs), not even after a single drink.
  2. You may only drive the car if you have a valid driver’s licence (from any country but valid in Australia).
  3. You may only drive the car if you have a valid ANU BoZo driver’s licence (which you can get through Alan before you leave for Darwin). For international students & visitors, organise this permit through Pat.
  4. You may only drive if your name has been put onto the list of insured drivers.
  5.  You must be a responsible driver and obey ALL traffic laws and rules, especially speeding limits.
  6.  You may not use the car to travel outside of Darwin city and may not use it off- road or on gravel roads.
  7.  The first priority for car use will always be for research. The second priority will be for shopping. Private or sightseeing trips will have the lowest priority.
  8. Do not leave the car dirty or full of rubbish. If it gets muddy during the course of transporting field equipment, it is the duty of all the users to help clean it.



  1. Be very aware of mosquitoes: avoid evenings outdoors, wear repellent, wear long sleeves and trousers when outdoors in the evenings and at night. The mossies in Darwin can carry some nasty diseases. It’s not worth the risk.
  2.  Read the first aid book that will be at NARU to re-familiarise yourself with treatments you may need. It is important that you can give the appropriate treatment to yourself and those in the field with you.
  3. You may drink alcohol in reasonable quantities at the Research Station. Please remember that, if you choose to drink alcohol after working hours, then it is your responsibility to ensure that you do not contravene acceptable standards of behaviour. You may NOT drive the vehicle after drinking, not even after a single drink. There are NO exceptions to this rule.
  4. Please be very careful when out at night. I cannot forbid you to go out alone at night, but I do not like the idea. Don’t fool yourself that you are invincible. There are dark and dangerous corners around Darwin city and I don’t want you to get into trouble because you are wandering around alone. Remember you are in Darwin to do scientific research, not to go boogying all night long. Of course you can go out at night and have a good time, but it’s much safer if you go out in groups, stick to well-lit, well-used areas and don’t do anything stupid.
  5. You may not bring friends (new or old) to the Research Station or the study site without first clearing it with Pat.
  6. You must let me know where you will be at all times. If you are going out, tell me. You may not stay out overnight without first telling me. I have to be able to find you or track you down in case of emergencies.
  7. Please make sure I have a full set of contact details for your next-of-kin, family, friends etc. One of your contacts must be clearly labelled as the person I should contact in the case of a crisis. Select this person carefully, e.g. not an elderly parent with a weak heart. You should also give your next-of-kin and close friends the contact details for the research station so that they can get hold of you while you are there (see information page attached).
  8.  Smoking is banned within the accommodation unit, within any building at NARU and in the vehicle. You may smoke outdoors only. You may take no illegal drugs. And no, a quick joint behind the mangrove trees is NOT alright. If you smoke at the study site, make sure to take your cigarette butts away with you.



  1. You must let me know of any prior medical problems, allergies, or any other medical issues that could impact on your health and safety during the fieldwork. It is extremely important that I know about any health problems that might arise, however unlikely they are to cause problems. This includes pregnancy, allergies, heart condition, hay fever, asthma, and anything else you can think of. Tell me if you are on any medications I should know about.
  2. The university rules regarding sexual harassment as well as racial, ethnic, religious or other forms of discrimination are applicable while you are in Darwin.  No form of derogatory or hurtful language or behaviour will be tolerated.


There are several risks associated with fiddler crab work. Make sure you have read the following document entitled “The Dangers of working on the Darwin Mangroves and Mudflats”.

The most important danger is dehydration. You are going to get extremely sick if you don’t take my warnings about drinking very very seriously. You MUST drink 2l of water every day you are on the mudflats.

Please speak to Pat if you have any questions about the dangers of fieldwork.

Make sure you have read the ANU’s Fieldwork Health and Safety policy document. Check the website for any updates of this information:


The area of Darwin where you will be working looks pretty and idyllic, but don't let this fool you. There are many dangers that you need to be aware of when working there.

There are crocodiles in the creek below the study site. Never walk along this creek. There is a large mudflat between the mangroves and the creek, don't go walking on the mudflat. Just stay up in the tree areas. If you are extremely unlucky, you will see a crocodile at the study site. If this happens, you need to know what to do. The first thing is to RUN away. You have to keep away from them, so if you see it in time, just run as fast as you can. Climbing a tree is NOT a good idea. Crocodiles can jump and you are unlikly to get high enough up a tree to be out of its reach. If it is too late to run away, and you find yourself in it's jaws, then poke it in the eye. Not gently, gouge its bloody eye out!

They are potentially lethal. Do not swim in the sea or rivers during the entire fieldseason. I don't care if other people are swimming, I don't care if it's hot. DO NOT SWIM anywhere except Lake Alexander and the NARU swimming pool. If you DO swim and you DO get stung by a box jellyfish, then pour vinegar onto the woulnd immediately. There is abottle of vinegar in both the cars.

There are a few mossie-borne diseases in Darwin, the worst being Ross River Fever. Avoid being bitten, especially by the salt-water mossies that you get at the study site. Always use mossie sprey. And remember that it doesn't last forever, so re-spray yourself regularly. Select the spray according to the amount of DEET in it. You want the maximum DEET available. Do not be fooled by the wierd stuff your auntt swear by: lemons don't work; the noise whistle thing doesn't work. Only DEET works.

Darwin has some absolutely amazing storms with the best lightening you'll ever see. But lightening can kill you. If there is a storm brewing, or any signs of lightening at the study site, you must leave immediately. As soon as you see the clouds rolling in, pack up. Make sure you are off the boardwalk before the storm arrives (the boardwalk is metal).
In January, the cyclone season starts. At the beginning of the cyclone season, we will be given pamphlets on what to do and where to go in the even of a cyclone. We will go through these precautions at the appropriate time.

Do not go wandering about the mangrove forests when the tide is about to come in. It is remarkably easy to get lost and get trapped by the tide. There is a clear and obvious exit from the study site, but that may not always be the case if you go wandering over creeks that can fill and block your path out. Make sure you know the tide times before you wander away from the normal study site.

You may not go to the field without sunscreen on. It is a very hot sun in Darwin and you will burn in a very short time. You must use sunblock with an SPF of at least 15. Don't even THINK about getting a tan on this trip.

This is the BIG one because it gets students every year. You have to drink all day. It is extremely easy to dehydrate on the mudflat, even if you don't feel hot. The symptoms will come on quickly and then it will be too late to pull right and we will have to take you home. This is a pain and none of us will be amused to lose a day's work. JUST DRINK. Drink about 2l a day. The symptoms are: firs you will get a headache, then you will feel sick all over, Then you will vomit (making it even worse). Then you'll beg me to take you home. Then I will look at you with the "What did I tell you?" look. I have seen this a million times before. DRINK.



We are in Darwin from September to Christmas each year.

frog in the toilet


Data collection follows the tidal cycle. You can get tide charts from the following website:

Or you can ask me for a copy. I will show you how to read the tide tables when you get to Darwin.




There is some paperwork you need to do BEFORE you go to Darwin. Please note that "BEFORE" is in capitals.

DRIVER'S LICENCE: If you are going to drive the vehicles (and most of you will), then you need an EEG licence. To get this, you take your driver's licence to Jan Elliot (in EEG) and she will fill in some forms, add you to the insurance list etc, and give you an EEG licence. No one can drive the vehicles without this licence because they (and the car) will ne be covered by ANU insurance.

TRAVEL DOCUMENT: You have to fill out an official EEG travel document that ensures you are covered by ANU insurance. This is a legal requirement and if you have not completed it and handed it in to Jan (two doors up from the reception office) then you are NOT ALLOWED to even set foot on NARU soil. Go to the travel document online and fill it in. Print out the final form and give it to Jan Elliot.


INFORMATION DOCUMENT: You need to complete the Information Document and give it to Pat either before you arrive or immediately on your arrival in Darwin. You can get this form from Pat. Please also give a copy of this form to Jan Elliot in EEG.