Off Track

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Want to be taken somewhere different? Put on your headphones. Recommended listening: Off – which comes to an end at the start of 2022.

Ann Jones (@jones_ann) hosted this weekly trek into outdoor Australia. This is one of our long-time, fave podcasts and one of one of the most innovative programs from ABC’s Radio National. Links to several episodes are featured on because the program is must-listening for a deeper understanding of local and wilder Australia.

Key Links
Program Home
Past Programs
Podcasts and Feeds

About the Show
ABCRN: Off Track is an exploration of the many ways Australians live with and enjoy our natural (and not so natural) environment; from suburban backyards to the remote wilderness—and everywhere in between. Off Track speaks for the environment beyond policy and politics, as told by the people who live in and love it. On the show you’ll hear stories in situ, told by farmers, fishermen, conservationists, palaeontologists, painters, foresters, and climbers, as well as surfers, rangers, photographers, bushwalkers, environmentalists and expert scientists from fields as diverse as ornithology and anthropology.

The host of Off Track is Ann Jones @jones_ann

The host of the first two seasons was Joel Werner @joelwerner

Fire, fire everywhere – How can you appreciate the ecological importance of fire, but also fight fires with all your might? 

The real magpies of Western Australia – Western magpies live in groups, breed cooperatively, ‘cheat’ on their partners and sometimes shirk their chick-rearing responsibilities. Associate Professor Amanda Ridley (@mandy_ridley) uncovers the real magpies of WA. With sounds of the western magpies from Sarah Walsh (@Sarah_LWalsh), Stephanie Mason, and Mylene Dutour.

The other lyrebird and its anthems  – The Albert’s lyrebird – a completely separate species – is found in a tiny area in the mountains on the border of NSW and QLD. It might be a small range, but within it is a proliferation of culture, where groups of lyrebirds sing contrasting songs.

Are we ‘burning in ignorance’? – In South West WA, there are concerns that prescribed burning is negatively impacting an internationally recognised biodiversity hotspot.

The unlikely tale of the Murchison meteorite – It startled the cows, intrigued the locals and excited scientists around the world. Fifty years on, the Murchison meteorite still defines a town and yields new discoveries every year.

The princely snow leopard and its poo – Preserving species that are both rare and elusive has led an Australian whale specialist to the Himalayas to search for big cat poo.

Looking forward, looking back – In the Murchison district in Western Australia you’re surrounded by low lying ranges where rocks have been found that are 4.4 billion years old — they’re almost as ancient as the planet itself. And resting just the other side of the crests and dips of Wajarri country are 36 radio antennas, cutting-edge astronomical instruments, all sitting in this quiet place in Western Australia and listening to the dawn of time.

Favorite Features from 2016
Flying for your life: An unlikely saviour
02:40 It’s like sitting next to someone you love who is dying
03:10 There’s not enough habitat left in their staging sites
03:24 If you are driving from Sydney to Brisbane and you need to stop at one petro station on the way. If anything happens to that petro station, you cannot fill up your car up and make it to Brisbane. That’s exactly what we’re seeing with migratory shorebirds.
04:45 Songbirds …
Flying for your life: China’s new great wall
Flying for your life: The journey begins
Flying for your life: The journey begins – Millions of shorebirds fly between Australasia and the Arctic every year. They navigate over oceans using stars and magnetic fields, they sleep with half their brain at a time while they’re on the wing.
But for some of them, this will be the last flight.
18:30 Rapid decline
19:27 Everytime a species goes extinct, we lose something we can’t get back.

Hobart’s history a moist affair – Could it be, that the Waterworks Reserve on the edge of Hobart is actually one of the triggers of the green political movement? Could a love of old man ferns, and of crystal clear water be at the root of all that?

Tasmanian night, endemic delight – Off the tourist trail in Hobart is a small reserve brimming with species endemic to Tasmania, many of which can only be seen at night.

Are national parks our future or our past? – Are national parks remnants of our past or the seeds of the earth’s future? Special guests from across Australia discuss what they expect of Australia’s national park system both now and in the future.

Favorite Features from 2015
The Blythe Star sinks off Tasmania: part one.

All ten crew members of the Blythe Star got out alive after she capsized and started to drift across the ocean in a life raft. Not all would survive the ordeal that followed.

Oceans of plastic – It is estimated that 8 million tonnes of new plastic debris enters the world’s ocean every year.

Bovine brains, curious cows and herd politics – Not human politics, but rather how cows relate to each other, the internal herd structure and, in turn, what they might think of us.

Loving your environment to death – If you have ever stepped foot into a park, remnant of bush, national park or reserve, then this story is about you.

Minute 21:45 Estimates of over 1.9 million seeds being carried by walkers into national parks, not intentionally but just by being picked up by going for a hike
Minute 24:30 Some of us look at the forest and we see this as beautiful. Other people on campus look at this and think this is messy, maybe we should clear it out and get rid of the dead wood. I look at the dead wood and I think ‘habitat’ and if we tidy it up, it won’t be the same.

Walking across the desert for science and silence – His business card says ‘desert walker’ and he’s not afraid of death.

From unused pool to ecosystem cool / Dragons in suburbia – A converted pool in Sydney’s north has become the home for a breeding pair of eastern water dragons, Australia’s largest dragon species. This brightly-coloured lizard enjoys stickybeaking at whatever you’re doing in the garden. Ann Joneswent to find out more.

Favorite Features from 2014
Walpeup Dryland Memorial Garden – About 30 kilometers west of Ouyen, Walpeup is not thriving. Rather, it stands rather stoically in face of its challenges. And yet, the town is neat and well looked after. On one corner, where some of the first shops were built when the town was founded, stands a memorial to the pioneers of the area. It is the Walpeup Dryland Memorial Garden.

It is solved by walking – A comment in an airport lounge in Albuquerque led one woman to raise a half a million dollars for a public labyrinth in a Sydney park.

Go outside and play – What do the first female mayor in Australia and a glamorous ballerina with a diplomat husband and a Russian pseudonym have in common? They established marvellous playgrounds.

Saving the Ocean

Favorite Features from 2013
Formidable Vegetable Sound System
Charlie Mgee sings songs about permaculture.

Naree Station
Off Track explores Naree Station, 153km north-west of Bourke in New South Wales.

To climb, or not to climb?
Should we be climbing Uluru?

Ocean of noise
Marine conservationist Professor Callum Roberts joins Off Track at the Sydney Fish Markets.

Little Penguins
Off Track explores the Little Penguin (Eudyptula minor) colony on Bowen Island.

Favorite Features from 2012
Urban foraging
Come on an urban foraging adventure, with Diego Bonetto. Men of the Trees Off Track delves into the ABC archives to present a 1979 interview with Richard St Barbe Baker, founder of the Men of The Trees. Professor Waterhouse’s wonderful plant Professor Peter Waterhouse on wonder plant Nicotiana benthamiana. WIRES Wildlife Rescue Van Spend a day with Joanne Wenban, driver of the WIRES Wildlife Rescue Van. Exploring the Illawarra Escarpment Steve Allen and Graham Ross lead a bushwalk along the Illawarra Escarpment. The Casual Cyclist Wendy Zukerman catches up with Matthew Hurst, the casual cyclist. The Tank Stream Off Track heads underground to find out what remains of Sydney’s first water supply, the Tank Stream. Flying fox relocation In May 2012, the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney commenced a project to relocate its colony of flying foxes. To date, the project’s been a success – but not everyone’s happy about it. The Gardens of Stone Exploring the Gardens of Stone, an area rich in geo- and bio-diversity located off the back of the Great Dividing Range, north-west of Lithgow, NSW. The science of a changing climate Off Track takes climate science back to first principles. Standing in the warmest light ‘Standing in the warmest light’ is an artwork made entirely out of moss; a line of John Anderson poetry transformed into nature art. Native like a fox When does an introduced species become native?

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