DAY 1 – Tuesday 8/10/2013

A beautiful sunset and clear blue sky greeted me when I arrived in the evening at the Phillip Island Nature Park. We were greeted by Geraldine from Earthwatch and given an introduction to the house and our TeachWild housemates for the next few days.

We set off on our first learning task – to view the penguin parade at around 7pm. Graeme, an educator on Philip Island gave us a detailed introduction about the penguins breading patterns, feeding patterns and types of wildlife we are going to come across over the next few days.

It was interesting to watch the rafts of penguins appear between the breaking waves as we waiting patiently for their arrival. Penguins often group together before they reach the shore, rafting, it assists them to travel safely. When penguins get shallow enough to stand, they pop up together and begin a waddle up the beach, move into the rocky shore and waddle up the dunes to find their burrows. Some of the little penguins have laid their eggs and are keeping them safe in the penguin burrows. It was interesting to hear the penguin squawk, an unusual sound for such a cute, innocent little animal. The adult penguins find their young by sound.

Humans are not allowed to take pictures during the penguin parade.

Tomorrow we are starting early with some marine debris transecting field work and collection.

briefing page

 

 

DAY 2 – Wednesday 9/10/2013

What are we doing?

There are seven teachers here on Philip Island at this time working with scientists to help collect data about marine debris. This data will help inform others about the impact that human debris has on marine life. On this research field trip, we are looking at the local shearwater birds and penguin populations.

After a filling breakfast, we started our day with a safety talk and outline of the TeachWild program by Dr Denise Hardesty. Denise got interested in mid 1990s in plastic debris, working on Albatross that breed at Midway and bring back  4-5 tonnes of garbage to feed to their chicks every year.  It was found that the Albatross were feeding their chick these pieces of rubbish. Marine Debris include toothbrushes, cigarette lighters, small bottles and more.  Denise got motivated through this work to look at plastic Marine debris as it is both a local and global problem. The Earthwatch TeachWild project is funded by CSIRO, Shell and Earthwatch.  The work is leading to collection of data that is being used by CSIRO in their research.

 

Where does rubbish come from?

  • Beachgoers
  • Storm sewers
  • Commercial recreation vehicles
  • Industrial facilities
  • Recreational activities
  • Landfill
  • Waste disposal activities
  • Offshore industrial activities

 

Our team of teachers set-out to the Penguin Parade beach to conduct our first Marine debris transect sample and learn the process so we can perform this by ourselves tomorrow and with our students, when we get back to school. This was a fun process and we are now confident in leading transect survey to collect samples. Once back in the headquarters, we entered our debris data into the EarthWatch website, to be used by researchers and EarthWatch.

Below are some pictures of our hard work

 

 

 

DAY 3 – Thursday 10/10/2013

Today was a packed day full of interesting activities. We started early with an Emu Parade Marine Debris sample at the Penguin Parade beach. This technique is a little different to the transect sampling that we worked on yesterday. We found a large amount of debris, most of which was hard plastic knoodles (small worn down pieces of hard plastic).

Here are some photos of out Emu Parade sampling work.

After returning to the headquarters we sorted our samples into size and colour groupings. We then tested our hard plastics to investigate what type of plastic they were made from. This technique was an easy and useful way to classify plastic types.

These photos are of this typing technique.

 

 

 

In the evening we were lucky enough to venture of into the dunes behind Penguin Parade beach to view Shearwater birds, more commonly known as “mutton birds”. These birds fly from feeding in the ocean to nest in these dunes at night, some birds nesting in boxes set up for fieldwork on the birds. The group were able to participate in the field work on these birds, banding, measuring and sampling oil glads. This data is gathered and used to monitor bird location, feeding and mating patterns. The night was cold and a little wet, but we still managed to see lots of birds and all had a chance to participate in the fieldwork tasks.

 

 

 

DAY 4 – Friday 11/10/2013

Another day, full of adventure. We started the morning with some Shearwater and bird dissections on the deck of our headquarters. This was a great experience, as the dissections gave us a chance to analyse what types of marine debris are present in these animals and what type of hard plastics these samples are made from.

I dissected a magpie bird, which had been injured and killed the previous day on the island. We also dissected and analysed a penguin and shearwater birds in this activity. We took lots of great photos of the team preforming these dissections and everyone had an important role to play.

These pictures are taken from the dissections

 

 

 

 

Before lunch we were lucky enough to receive a talk about penguins on Philip Island, by Andre, a head researcher on the island. It was great to hear in detail, lots of interesting facts about these amazing animals.

Back out into the field tonight to see and catch more Mutton birds. We travelled to Wollamie beach and saw the birds coming in at dusk, this was a beautiful and surreal experience watching the birds glide in almost silently to the nesting sites as the sun set behind the cliffs.