Hi everyone! I am having a great time here at Stradbroke Island. I feel very privileged to be assisting some real live scientists in studying the marine environment particularly the rubbish we get in the ocean and how it affects the marine life particularly birds and turtles.
After travelling to the island on a car ferry our study group ( 7 other teachers) were shown around the Morten Bay Research Station where we will spend the next 5 days. Then it was off to the beach to conduct what is known as a transect study of the dead birds, mostly mutton birds or shearwaters washed up on the beach. Transect means to divide the beach up into areas in this case 500 meter sections.
To do this we drove in a troop carrier along the beach stopping to pick up some birds to take back to the station to put into the freezer for later study. Yes we got bogged.
After lunch we assisted with a turtle necropsy, see photo, (which is like an autopsy except not on humans) to find out why they died. When people find them they ring up the station so they can be picked up. This involved cutting the turtles up and removing samples of the organs and fat tissue as well as removing and emptying the digestive system. These samples will be studied with different types of scientific equipment here at the station. The aim is to see if there is any plastic in the systems of the turtles, what they had been eating and other clues as to why they died. Keep you updated with some photos tomorrow.
Hi, it’s me again for Tuesday!
Today we went out in the boat trawling with a net to find small plastic particles in the water. It was great fun, we got very wet due to rain, and did two trawls. In the afternoon we went through the trawl samples looking for debris. Apart from finding tiny plastic particles using microscopes we found many other interesting things such as tiny shells, fish, larvae and some things we did not know what they were.
This is Dr. Denise Hardesty introducing the program to us. She has lived and worked all over the world studying ecology. At present she is running a project on ‘ghost nets’ and a marine debris study right around the coastline of Australia.
We got up early this morning and went for a swim. The ocean was about 20 degrees C. Very Nice.
After breakfast we had a briefing then started the bird necropsy’s which again is like an autopsy but on an animal. The main aim for this was to find any waste material in the birds digestive system but also to take vital measurements for each bird so the scientists can find other things about the birds.
I am working here with Lee to remove things from the birds gut. We were amazed at what we found. In one poor bird there was a rubber balloon, some fishing line and hard plastic pieces. As you see we are wearing safety equipment and are using a sieve and a water squirt to separate material.
In this bird the heart is clamped in order to take a blood sample for a DNA test. We have to be careful not to mix any other birds parts with this one or the sample will be of no use. The only way to find whether the bird is a male or female is to look right inside the bird near the kidneys.
After lunch the weather fined up and we went to the beach to find some debris. We did a beach transect and an emu parade to pick up not only rubbish you can easily see but very small rubbish which you will see in the photo.
Thursday. Today we started with some spectrophotometry which is a big word for looking at the colour of various rubbish objects as a turtle would see them. Turtles do not see things exactly as we do and this study is trying to find out why turtles eat types of rubbish.
In the afternoon we did some more necropsy’s on mutton birds. It is now 9.00pm at night and we are still working putting the data into the computer about what we found.