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Thursday, February 19, 2015

AUSMEPA; what teachers should know!

To ensure that teachers understand what AUSMEPA has to offer in the way of free, and copyright free, educational resources here is a short video to help you.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Looking for Signs – What’s Left Behind?

Rhondda Alexander Marine Grant 2014

On 2 December 2014, thirty students from three schools - St Joseph’s Primary School Black Rock, Beaumaris Primary School and Stella Maris Primary School Beaumaris  - participated in a whole day excursion at Rickett’s Point Marine Sanctuary facilitated by EcoCentre teacher Andrea Eales.

The students learned to identify indigenous sea birds, explored an Aboriginal shell midden with Dean Stewart from the Boon Wurrung Foundation, and collaborated to conduct mollusc and marine plastics surveys. The students also created an alphabet of Port Phillip Bay marine life, and interviewed 18-year-old naturalist Gio Fitzpatrick, the EcoCentre Youth Wildlife Ambassador.

The students then visited each others’ schools to edit film clips about their experience, the survey procedures, and tips they wanted to share with other schools. They also action-planned how they will share and promote what they learned. For many students, this was their first experience seeing another school campus, and the participants enjoyed collaborating.

Shell survey sheets submitted to the Baykeeper
Rockpool Ramble & Foreshore Shell Surveys

Students worked in four groups to conduct Baykeeper shell surveys and record their findings including measurements, descriptions and photos of shells. 

This data contributes to ongoing research comparing climate data to the size and distribution of molluscs.

We found a shark egg! They are camouflaged like seaweed for safety.

I liked finding the crab in the rock pools.                

Tideline Microplastic Nurdle Surveys

Students used various methods to search for nurdles, pre-production plastic pellets, in the organic material along the high tide line in one square metre quadrats. 

The students found fewer than ten nurdles, an excellent result (particularly when compared to neighbouring beaches where thousands can be collected in 15 minutes). 

The students hypothesised why the numbers might be low, for example tide patterns or the shape of the coast “protecting” one spot from nurdles. 

They also compared the quantity of post-consumer litter and considered prevention strategies.

Whenever I’m down at the beach [in future],  I will try to find nurdles.

How many nurdles are there [everywhere]?

Aboriginal Culture
The students visited an Aboriginal shell midden and compared modern packaging to the footprint of the First Peoples. After a smoke ceremony to cleanse and welcome the boys and girls to Country, Dean Stewart shared the geographic history of Port Phillip Bay and the customs of Boon Wurrung culture, particularly the journeys of young people the same age as the students -- and their observational skills for knowing Country.

In addition to a reflective group discussion at the beach, students were asked to write personal reflections. They were especially curious about gastropods in the rockpools, and passionate about nurdles. The group said the Aboriginal cultural stories will stick with them “because the Boon Wurrung were real people who were really here.” 
The students had a number of fantastic questions for further investigation.

Some of the student reflections included:

Today I loved…
I loved the shell surveys in the rock pools because it reminds me of Grandpa.
I loved being outdoors and working with everyone.
I loved learning about microplastics.
Making a movie about shells with my friends.
I loved the fire because it smelt nice.
 Loved hearing about Aboriginal history and traditions.
I loved finding nurdles!
Finding an egg mass of gastropods and giving it a chance at life.

I learned…
I will know for a long time not to pick up alive crabs out of the water.
What will stick with me is that Rickett’s Point used to have Aboriginal homes and a very good emu hunting place.
The names of different shells.

I wonder…
I wonder if other people realise what happens when littering.
My wondering is why people don’t pick up rubbish when they see it?
I would like to find out more about gastropods.
What other things didn’t Dean have time to tell us?!
How do animals find nutrition in rock pools?
I wonder what other beaches used to be.
Why are moon snail egg masses shaped like a horse shoe?
I wonder why we didn’t find more nurdles.

Conclusion and Future Directions

While the coordination time of any multi-school project is tricky, the resulting program was a great success that demonstrated learning outcomes, and connected students to their local coastline and community. The students were enthusiastic collaborators and shared their new knowledge and passion during the follow-up filmmaking workshops. Students stepped up as ambassadors for their school, their community, and their local marine habitat while connecting to the longstanding cultural history of the Boon Wurrung. The EcoCentre and all three schools look forward to potential partnership with AusMEPA for future collaborations in marine education.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Seadragons & their Friends

A guide to Seadragons and other Syngnathidae (seahorse relatives) will be launched in South Australia this week. 

It will showcase the amazing and delightful diversity of seahorse relatives in South Australia.
You may not live there but you will be enchanted with this publication anyway.

For more information contact the Conservation Council of SA here

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Global Ocean Commission present "A Rescue Package for the Ocean"


AUSMEPA takes time to look at what information is available across the world that will help inform teachers and students about matters concerning the ocean. This presentation is a very thorough and broad scope view of what is happening in the ocean, why and what the authors believe is the way forward.

Find the Global Ocean Commission website here

Friday, January 9, 2015

GHOST NETS; act, engage and educate

Across the northern part of Australia there is an organisation called Ghost Nets Australia

For some years now they have been working with Indigenous Rangers, northern Indigenous Communities, as well as scientists and other partners on a variety of actions and activities to remove the wandering death traps known as ghost nets. These silent predators continue to entangle and kill long after the are discarded or lost by fishing vessels. The nets are often found washed on shore, deposited by currents enmass into estuaries and onto beaches and rock, often with creatures still entangled. 

Just in time! This beautiful turtle was found barely alive during patrol by Dhimurru Rangers. Photo by Jane Dermer.

If the nets haven't reached shore they may lie unseen near the surface and can damage boats traveling across the water. To get some perspective on the problem an example is sited of a six tonne gill net extracted from the coast of North East Arnhem Land in 2006. It required a partnership effort from several organisations to get the heavy cumbersome net off the beach.

Collection of tonnes these of nets by Indigenous Rangers and volunteers has continued over many years. One outcome has been the re-use of nets through art workshops and exhibitions. This active innovation has resulted in a wider public understanding of the nature of the ghost net threat and greater community engagement.

Workshop participants at St Pauls Village on Moa Island, Torres Strait. Picture by Dennis Newie.

Well known ghost net artist Nancy Nawwi (pictured in red) from Darnley Island very graciously devoted a lot of time to working on the fish. Photo by Greg Adams

For more information click here and to request an electronic copy of their newsletter here

'Art and the walls of death' (click here) is another article with great photos about the Ghost Nets project.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Mystery object at Coogee Beach

How exciting is it to discover some new strange thing as we walk along our amazing Aussie beaches on hot summer days.  

AUSMEPA was recently contacted about this magnificent specimen found on Coogee Beach, NSW. 

Looking at this mysterious object it would be hard to guess that it is egg of a shark! So many things to think about, questions to ask. What kind egg is it and did it wash up prematurely with an embryo inside? Why does it look like this? What are the long stringy bits?

The first thing we can observe is the shape of the egg case. It has raised edges like a screw or something twirly. It is brown and although you can't see it in the photo one end has an opening.

A google search can help to find the right one. 

A screw shaped egg case tells us that it one of the horn shark family (Heterodontidae). Australian horn sharks are Port Jackson Sharks however there is more than one species.

This particular egg case belongs to the slightly smaller duller coloured Crested Horn Shark. It is a Port Jackson shark with a twist, it has raised ridges over the eyes. 

The two small sharks look much the same and yet they differ in how they secure their eggs when they lay them. Both have brown egg cases to blend in with their surroundings. However the Port Jackson Shark takes its egg in its mouth and gently screws its egg into cracks and crevices between rocks. The Crested Horn Shark uses the tendrils of its egg case to tangle up and secure in seaweed. (Notice in the photo above the amount of seaweed washed up on the beach where the egg case was found.)

Well, we've solved the mystery of this egg case except for one thing. Was there a baby inside? I guess we'll never know however the family who found it took great care to take the egg back out into the water and to secure it as well as possible just in case.

To find out more about about the differences between Port Jackson and Crested Horn Sharks click here

What will you find on your next trip to the beach?

Friday, December 19, 2014

VNPA Reef Watch; inspiring volunteers

Over the last 12 years Wendy Roberts has been the primary liaison for the Victorian National Parks Association’s Reef Watch program. Although she is moving on she recently reflected on "a wonderful journey, filled with incredible discoveries" by volunteers surveying their local reefs along Victoria's coastline. Wendy has been an inspiration to volunteers wanting to get their hands wet and an invaluable resource for the wider community and we wish her well into the future. 
Some of the accomplishments during her tenure?
  • More than 24,000 species records from 126 locations, which, with the assistance of Museum Victoria, being uploaded to the CSIRO’s Atlas of Living Australia database.  
  • The successful running of ten Great Victorian Fish Counts involving hundreds of divers across the state that helped build greater awareness of our precious temperate marine species and reef habitats (a report will be completed in 2015).
  • The confirmation of the Western Blue Groper in Victorian waters and the ultimate protection of both species.
  • Two Victorian Coastal Council Awards for Innovation and Education.
  • Successful partnerships with Museum Victoria, Parks Victoria, Port Phillip and Westernport CMA, Coastcare, Melbourne Aquarium and the diving industry, all of which supported and enriched the program immensely.
Is it time for you to join in the fun and discovery of citizen science in your neighbourhood? There are many volunteer programs that make an incredible difference to our body of knowledge and Reef Watch is one of them.
Reef Watch Victoria

Reef Watch is also active in South Australia