mitchThe critically endangered Mitchell’s Rainforest Snail (Thersites mitchellae) , or ‘Mitch’ as the snail is affectionately called, is the subject of a current local research project.

Byron, Ballina and Tweed Shire councils’ natural resource management staff have teamed up with Southern Cross University students and staff to undertake ecological research on the threatened species.

‘Mitch’ is confined to north-eastern NSW between Lennox Head and the TweedmValley. 

Byron Shire Council ecologist Mark Robinson said despite Mitch’s habitat being close to the coastal towns, there have been very few specimens of the snail observed.

“We are fortunate to have a research institute, such as Southern Cross University (SCU), in our region to undertake this important research,” Mr Robinson said.

snail“The project team from SCU includes Associate Professor Alison Specht and SCU honours graduate and local resident Mr Jonathan Parkyn.

“The research team also includes two undergraduate students from overseas adding an international dimension to the project.

“Ms Lira Andrade from San Paulo, Brazil, is completing an environmental science degree at SCU.

“Ms Anouk Klootwijk is completing her environmental science degree from Wageningen University in the Netherlands and is incorporating this research project into her degree program.”

Research being undertaken includes population dynamics of the snail, understanding of habitat use and its distribution across northern NSW.

“Though the research literally occurs at a snail’s pace, initial observations by the SCU students have already revealed new insights into the ecology of this threatened species,” Mr Robinson said.

“The SCU students have recently developed a working relationship with a private land-holder at Suffolk Park and it looks like being a very promising site to undertake parts of the research.”

NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC) is sponsoring the research and recently issued a scientific licence.

The project team is also supported by Australia’s foremost expert on land snails, Dr John Stanisic, from the Queensland Museum and BAAM (Biodiversity Assessment and Management), DECC project officer Mr Mark Fisher and DECC ranger Michael Murphy, who developed the recovery plan for the threatened species and has written Mitch education material for schools.

If you think you have seen ‘Mitch’ anywhere, please contact Byron Shire Council ecologist, Mark Robinson on (02) 6626 7049.

Recently the Ballina Shire Advocate reported that a dead specimen of the snail was found by a man near Ross Lane at Lennox Head.

Dr Stanisic identified the find as being Thersites mitchellae.

PICTURES: A Mitchell’s Rainforest Snail, and members of the project team – Southern Cross University students Anouk Klootwijk (left) and Lira Andrade (right) with Associate Professor Alison Specht from the SCU with snail expert Dr John Stanisic from Queensland Museum.