TIM Ealey loved Coronet Bay, where he lived for some years after retirement.
Though an internationally acclaimed scientist, Tim was a simple man who spoke in simple terms and acted in simple ways to demonstrate his convictions. The environment was his passion and, if he didn’t know how best to protect it, he taught himself how.
Countless local children in 10 schools, including Bass Valley, Lang Lang and Koo Wee Rup, learned the importance of mangroves from “Dr Mangrove”. As they propagated mangrove seeds or sloshed around in mud on the Waterline mudflats planting mangroves, he taught them at first hand what they had to do to help restore a degraded environment and combat climate change.
In early 2016, when locals were fighting a Bass Coast Shire Council proposal to rezone part of The Gurdies from Farm Zone to Rural Activity Zone, he appeared as an expert witness for one of the objectors at a panel hearing for the Bass Coast Planning Scheme Amendment C140. He wrote the following short and simple statement for all to understand:
Importance of habitat linkages
The home range of blue wrens is about the size of one household block. Cut it in half and the wrens will disappear. A dingo has a range of about 70 km. All animals including birds, reptiles, insects have predictable home ranges. Except for the mountains, Victoria has a pitifully small area of bushland preserved. Bass Coast Shire is fortunate in having more habitat preserved in private hands and public spaces than most other Shires. Different species have different needs. Kangaroos need some scrub but enjoy grazing on pastures while wallabies usually browse on bushes.
Several small bush areas linked by bushland corridors can constitute a large space and so can accommodate more species. Any development which disrupts these links reduces the carrying capacity for a number of species. Any planning scheme which leads to fragmentation of the habitat will actually diminish the numbers and diversity of the wildlife. This is well documented and understood by some planners.
The problem is that the actual presence or absence of wildlife is not obvious although well documented scientifically. It therefore becomes a matter of knowledge or faith which all planners do not have. Happily I believe our Bass Coast planners are aware of this unseen but very real planning complication and will bear it in mind when considering planning changes.
To give credence to his contribution, he provided a list of his academic qualifications and awards. Apart from a Bachelor of Science from Sydney University in zoology and physiology (1950), and a PhD from WA (1960), his biological research on Heard Island in 1949 “added to the data bank which later led to the island becoming a Reserve”. A glacier over which Tim used to sledge was later named Ealey Glacier. His research in the Pilbara from 1951 to 1959 on hill kangaroos (Euros) “indicated they were not responsible for pasture degradation and so obviated the need to exterminate them”. While in the Pilbara, he discovered several mammals including a small marsupial carnivore later named Ningaui timealeyi.
From 1960 to 1973 he taught ecology and researched native mammals and fire ecology at Monash University. In the late 60s, he realised students had little knowledge of the real world, so set up courses on applied ecology and environmental conservation. Data gathered by his students contributed to the Little Desert becoming a national park.
For seven years in the late ’60s he taught adult education courses on environment and conservation. For six years as Dr Tim, he also did weekly TV programs about wildlife and conservation on Channel 7.
In 1973, he started the Master of Environmental Science course at Monash University, the first course of its kind in Australia and one of the largest in the world with over 100 candidates enrolled. In time the program became the Graduate School of Environmental Science with Dr Ealey as Director until his retirement in 1986. Many graduates went on to work in government departments, shire offices and industry.
Dr Ealey led student research teams in Australia and to Papua New Guinea and North Borneo. He worked in Thailand, in Honolulu, China and as a senior consultant with the United Nations Environment Program. He also worked with the Walpiri people to help them gain land rights to the Tanami Desert. His skin name was Tim Japananka.
His work commitments did not interfere with his love of water colour painting. In 1984 he became president of the Australasian Wildlife Artists Society and after his retirement he taught landscape and bush painting at the U3A in Grantville.
Over a lifetime of work in conservation, Dr Ealey received many awards. They include the Victorian Coastal Award for Excellence for species protection, the Commonwealth Award for the Coastal Custodian of Australia for 2006 for efforts to regenerate mangroves and stop coastal erosion in Western Port, and an Order of Australia Medal 2008 for service to conservation and the environment. The National Library Canberra nominated him as a National Treasure.
Tim Ealey left a huge environmental legacy. May Bass Coast heed his wise words about habitat linkages and continue his mangrove plantings to help ensure a sustainable environment is left for current and future generations in this beautiful part of the world.
For two video tributes to Tim Ealey by his daughters, see The road you take sung by Jenny Ealey on and Tim Ealey––Dr Mangrove sung by Wendy Ealey.