Andrew Harper – 2019 Survey Program (Northern Territories, Australia)


Andrew Harper walking alongside camels


Andrew Harper is organising a series of 13 surveys - Songlines & Shared Journeys - Knowledge Mapping the Simpson Desert - which will be carried out during 2019 by Australian Desert Expeditions. These surveys are taking place to document the flora & fauna, indigenous occupation, and invasive species across the southern, central and eastern Simpson Desert (Australia). Australia has the largest desert region in the southern hemisphere, with a third of the continent classified as desert, and the ten recognized deserts comprising approximately 18% of the mainland. Three-quarters of Australia’s biodiversity is yet to be identified and 45% of continental Australia has never been comprehensively surveyed by scientists. Much of that 45% is contained across the arid zone.

The principal scientific aims are to conduct fauna and flora surveys using systematic and standardised census methodology across the more remote and isolated parts of the Simpson Desert using traditionally outfitted pack camels. The 3-year project will use modern survey techniques, historical benchmarking and traditional knowledge to explore extensively. Of primary interest are those areas acting as dry-period refugia, especially those linked to cultural significance (e.g. waterholes, native wells or mikiri). Historically, these areas are known to provide important habitat for native birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, which are able to maintain populations during otherwise unfavourable conditions. Surveys within these areas will provide an inventory of species, insights into their significance, as well as the distribution and extent of key threatening processes. The information gained can be used in adaptive management strategies, especially for those relating to fire regimes, feral animals, weeds and climate change.


Andrew Harper ascending a dune Simpson Desert


The program is interwoven with and closely linked to the Wangkangurru-Yarluyandi Songlines.


This project will undertake targeted and opportunistic scientific surveys to provide an inventory of plant and animal species in a number of ecosystems and bioregions. These results will provide insights into the status, distribution and extent of many arid-zone specialist species, as well as key threatening processes and adaptive management priorities.


If you are interested in joining the Survey Program, please contact Andrew Harper (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). You can also get advise on accommodation options and any connecting tours from BackTrack Adventures (leaders in small group independent travel).


Australian Desert Expeditions

BackTrack Adventures

222A Barry Parade,

PO Box 132

Fortitude Valley, Queensland 4006

Clare Davissen (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Prue Barker (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Telephone: + 61 7 3850 7600

Fax - + 61 7 3854 1079


Follow the Survey Program's progress on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.


SES Members and all other participants in this SES Endorsed Expedition take part at their own risk, and will not hold SES, its trustees, employees, volunteers, partners or agents liable (whether in contract or in tort or in negligence or for breach of statutory duty or otherwise) for any loss, damage, personal injury, delay or expense suffered or incurred on any such expedition. SES endorses the aims and objectives of this expedition only.