Elizabeth Murdoch College
Saturday 29 September
Boat strike

Taking all the measurements

Our working day started with a Green Sea Turtle necropsy. We opened up two turtles simultaneously. We determined the cause of death for one to be organ failure due to parasite invasion and the other was due to a boat strike that caused severe hemorrhaging.

The open turtle

Opened up ready for inspection

After lunch we finished up the last few tests, completed all paperwork and debriefed. We finished the trip with a Thai feed at the local RSL and a stroll through the cemetry (the second oldest in Queensland) under the full moon on the way home.

Entering data

Data Entry

Friday 28 September

Sampling the beach debris

After our 6:00 am surf and swim at the beach it was off to the lab to finish processing all our samples and paperwork. The morning was also spent with film crews from Channel 7 and a marketing group working on the SE Queensland Healthy Waterways Plastic Pollution Revolution launch for 3 October. Along with lots of plastics we also studied a wonderful array of invertebrates under the microscope ranging from blue bottle jellyfish, tiny squid, shrimp and many many others.

Sorting the beach debris

After dinner we had another slide show and discussion of all the data that has been collected in the study to date with lots more opportunity for questions and information sharing.

Transect collection

Thursday 27 September

This morning we went to Home Beach and conducted our three transects 50 metres apart and our Emu Parade between the first two transects collecting all the debris in our path. Back for lunch and then off to the lab to sort out our find. All the debris is sorted into size classes and categories. Fifty pieces of debris were randomly selected to be colour checked using the spectrophotometer and a further fifteen samples of varying colours were also tested.

The Emu Parade

We emerged from the dark lab at the end of the working day to find that a large number of stingrays had been washed up dead on the beach nearby and many hands were required to identify and record their details. We then opened them up to remove tissue samples for toxicology screening and also took the opportunity to remove their guts to add them to the marine debris study. It was a very unusual and unfortunate find of 51 rays of varying sizes and ages covering six different species and two silver bream. Many hands made light work and we were cleaned up and in bed by midnight.

An adult Reticulated Ray

Wednesday 26 September

The Trawl Net

Trawling the water

We had an awesome morning trawling near Blaksleys Beach. We conducted two trawls of 30 minutes each and transferred what we collected in the net to a bag so that we could sift through it back in the lab.

The Trawl Sample

Collecting the trawl sample from the net

The purpose of the surface trawl is to collect all the materials that float on the top of the water where the turtles are feeding. Whilst trawling we spotted a dugong and turtles swimming around, lots of jelly fish and we caught and released a seahorse from our net.

Trawel sample floating

Floating the trawl sample

In the afternoon we sifted through trawl samples picking out anything that looked like debris and checking it under the miscroscope.

Microscope work

The microscope sorting step

All debris is identified as best as possible, measured, recorded and carefully filed away for any future requirements. It is quite amazing to see the quantity of plastic and other remnants that are in the water, often not easily seen by the naked eye.


On 24 September nine volunteers met at the Ferry terminal in Cleveland, QLD ready to head off to North Stradbroke Island to work with staff from CSIRO, Earthwatch and the University of Queensland on the marine debris project. Monday afternoon was spent being inducted at the University’s Moreton Bay Research Station and learning lots about the research project we were to be involved in.

Tuesday 25 September: We were all keen to get started and headed off in our two groups at 8:30am to be trained in the first part of our program participation. My group walked to the local beach to conduct three transects and collect the debris. It was quite windy and whilst we didn’t find alot of debris we did collect over 50 samples of items ranging from broken out door chairs through to polystyrene, straws, cigarette butts and rubber bands. Back for lunch and then we spent time sorting our debris and conducting colour spectrometry on each of the items. We also sorted various volunteer trawl samples and collected further information on the debris using microscopes and callipers.