Astrebla Ecology Grass Identification Skills Workshops

Do you need to identify grasses to species, or have an interest in learning how?

Then this course is for you!

Workshop dates are scheduled periodically.  Or, if you have 5 or more attendees, you can arrange an in-house workshop.

The next workshop will be held 15-16 August, 2024.

You can secure a place via the Humantix website @

Workshops are held at The Hut, 47 Fleming Road, Chapel Hill, Brisbane.

This is the only publicly available, northern Australian grass-focused ID course based on hands-on microscope learning offered in Australia!

Learn to confidently recognise up to 20 major northern Australian grass genera & their ID features.

This course is designed for ecologists who conduct vegetation surveys & need to reliably identify grasses to species with scientific accuracy and consistency.

However, it is also suitable for anyone who has some background in grass ID and who wishes to extend their knowledge and skills base.

If you are grass beginner or novice, and don’t intend to delve into the field of grass ID in future, you may find this course too detailed and fast-paced – but you are still welcome!

You will use a stereo microscope (provided) to gain familiarity with the main diagnostic feature of grasses – the spikelet.  You will also gain skills in interpreting typical grass inflorescence types.

By becoming familiar with a broad range of grass spikelets, you can confidently recognise those features in the field using a simple hand lens.

At the completion of this course, you will:

  • Be familiar with up to 20 of the more common grass genera of northern Australia & the morphological concepts underpinning their ID (primarily C4 grasses).
  • Be able to recognise spikelet & inflorescence features & interpret the botanical language used to describe them.
  • Be able to find those features in grasses you examine in the field using a hand lens.
  • Be able to negotiate digital and dichotomous keys with more confidence and accuracy (and greater speed).  These skills are transferable to other families.
  • Most importantly, you will have built a solid foundation on which to continue a lifetime of independent learning in grass identification & botany.

This is a unique opportunity to learn basic grass ID and microscope dissection skills from an ecologist with 20 years’ experience.

The course notes (see examples below) provide clear ID pointers using microscope images that will assist you in your ID endeavours for years to come!

Course details

  • Course cost = $845 GST inc. for 2 days (8 am – 5 pm).
  • You will need to take a laptop (or you can use your phone) so that you can view the digital course notes and keys.
  • Course format is simple – a presentation explaining a particular grass genera or tribe, followed by a hands-on session with microscopes and samples of the target genera/tribe.  Each student will have their own microscope.
  • Class size is limited to 10 students.
  • Lunch (vegetarian and non-vegetarian sandwiches), snacks and morning/afternoon tea will be provided.
  • Each participant will be provided with detailed digital course notes including microscope photographs illustrating key features of 20 grass genera (see below).
  • In addition, each participant will receive to keep:
    • a pair of forceps for dissecting spikelets,
    • a pocket metal ruler ideal for use in field IDs.

Contact Simon at or on 0423 706 440 for further information

This course will be conducted by Simon Danielsen, a field botanist & ecological consultant with 20 years’ experience in botanical field surveys & identifications across northern Australia.

Simon has run his own ecological consultancy operation (Astrebla Ecological Services) for 9 years & is highly experienced in vegetation mapping, threatened plant surveys & the field identification of grasses & other plants. In 2014, he spent a year in the ID room at the Bangkok Forestry Herbarium in Thailand, completing over 400 botanical determinations in that time.

Unpacking a Panicum spikelet

Lateral compression

Keying out Panicum (Qld)

Update 2021

Well, its been 2 years since I last posted!

In that time, the world has turned upside down!

But it has been a busy time at Astrebla, in fact I haven’t stopped.  This period has been dominated by water projects – I have been primarily engaged during this period in providing the majority of botanical input to the following four major water infrastructure projects, for GHD and SMEC.

Hells Gates Dam Project – SMEC

This project is being managed by Townsville Enterprice, with funding form the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund.  Astrebla contributed botanical input to the Detailed Business Case for this project, being prepared by SMEC.  Hells Gates Dam is a proposed 2110 GL dam on the Burdekin River approximately 110 km north of Charters Towers.  It would supply water to 50, 000 ha of irrigated horticultural land and provide long-term water security to Charters Towers and Townsville.

Site of the proposed Hells Gate dam wall on the Burdekin River

Associated proposals are for a max 1200 MW pumped hydroelectric scheme, a 15 MW run-of-river hydro facility and a 20 MW solar farm (see the Hells Gates Feasibility Study).

The project involves a dam and four irrigation areas for high-value agriculture. The irrigation areas are proposed north of Charters Towers and west of the Burdekin River, primarily on areas of basalt and alluvial soils.

Services provided by Astrebla included a ground-truthed regional ecosystem (RE) map for the entire 270, 000 ha area – the largest ground-truthed RE map I have produced to date!  This includes the dam inundation area and the irrigation areas.

The initial survey involved 13 days of helicopter surveys, followed by 14 days of ground-based surveys.  Threatened plant surveys were also undertaken, during which Queensland bluegrass (Dichanthium queenslandicum) was recorded in grassland near the Basalt River – the most northerly reliable record for this species.

In addition, the Townsville botanist Chris Kahler found Acacia guymeri in the vicinity of the inundation area, which is 175 km further south than it had been recorded in north Qld previously.

Urannah Water Scheme and Collinsville Irrigation Scheme – GHD

Centred on the Broken and Bowen Rivers in central Queensland, the Urannah Water Scheme comprises a proposal to construct a 970, 000 ML dam on the Broken River, approximately 25 km (as the crow flies) downstream of the existing Eungella Dam.  The project includes approximately 200 km of pipeline corridors to the Moranbah district, and is an integral element of two other projects, the Bowen Renewable Energy Hub (pumped hydo, wind and solar power generation) and the Collinsville Irrigation Scheme (a 20, 000 ha master-planned irrigation scheme approximately 25 km west of Collinsville).

An EIS is in the process of preparation by GHD, to whom Astrebla was contracted to provide botanical input.

Looking over the Massey Creek valley, just upstream of its confluence with the Broken River

Services provided by Astrebla included the preparation of a ground-truthed RE map for 13, 900 ha of vegetation in the proposed Collinsville Irrigation Area, and threatened flora species surveys across the entire project area.

The Broken and Bowen River catchments contain populations of black ironbox (Eucalyptus raveretiana), a species listed as vulnerable under the EPBC Act but delisted in 2012 under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act.  In association with GHD ecologists, Astrebla undertook population surveys of this species, and data gained from these surveys was an important input into an application to have black ironbox delisted as vulnerable under the EPBC Act.  This application was submitted to the Department of Agriculture and Environment in early 2021 and will go up for public comment and review/decision in 2022.

Lakeland Irrigation Area Scheme – SMEC

This project involves a proposed dam on the Palmer River, approximately 85 km south-west of Cooktown and 23 km south-west of Lakeland, in far north Queensland.  The proposed dam wall is located approximately 16 km downstream of the Palmer River roadhouse (where the Mulligan Highway crosses the Palmer).

This project is being proposed by Regional Development Australia Tropical North (RDATN), with funding from the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund.  It will increase the volume and reliablility of water available for agriculture in the Lakeland Irrigation Area, which was established over 70 years ago on the rich basalt soils of the Lakeland area.  This water has the potential to significantly enhance the economic viability of this area without requiring further tree clearing.

Looking south from near the proposed dam wall, over the Palmer River valley

Astrebla conducted botanical surveys in association with SMEC ecologists in the proposed inundation area and pipeline corridors across a number of survey events in 2020-21.  This work included the preparation of a ground-truthed RE map for SMEC over 25, 000 ha in the vicinity of the proposed inundation area, and surveys for threatened flora species.

The wattle Acacia guymeri was found in relatively large numbers in this area – this species is listed as vulnerable in Queensland but was delisted some years ago under the EPBC Act.  Population surveys were undertaken, and an impact assessment completed.

Rookwood weir – GHD

The Rookwood weir project (currently being constructed) is located on the Fitzroy River approximately 55 km west of Rockhampton.  It is a $367 million water infrastructure project that will have a fully supply volume of 74, 300 ML, with an impoundment length of 60 km (including the Fitzroy, Mackenzie and Dawson Rivers).

Surveying for black ironbox on the Fitzroy River

Astrebla provided botanical input to the EIS and approvals technical manager, GHD, assisting with surveys required to meet EPBC Act and Queensland government approvals.  These surveys included assessments against threatened ecological community (TEC) criteria, Biocondition surveys, population surveys for the vulnerable species black ironbox, and ground-truthing over 1660 ha of RE mapping (a ground-truthed RE map was produced at 1:10, 000 over the entire impoundment area).

Its been an eventful 2 years, and I will be posting more in the coming months about some of my other work, and the interesting species I have been finding.