Arrived Tuesday evening to meet the fellow participants who have travelled from all over Australia to take part in this expedition. There are participants from Perth, Townsville, Adelaide, Hobart, Sydney and Melbourne. The two lead scientist running this expedition are Dr Brita Denise Hardesty and Geraldine. To find out more information about Denise and the work she has completed you can follow the link below. More information to follow about Geraldine…
We spent our first night settling in and going over to see the Penguin Parade, which is actually where we are staying! There were 410 penguins coming in to shore after a hard days work of collecting food for their loved ones warming the eggs back on the island. While at the parade we got VIP treatment and had Graeme, one of the rangers talking to us about the projects they are currently running. We also snuck into the rangers Box that overlooks the whole beach and got prime viewing position for the penguins coming up the beach. We were able to see some of the strategies that the rangers use to monitor the penguins such as the weigh bridges which electronically weigh the penguins and sends the data back to the research lab on the island. There are numerous weigh bridges set up along tracks that the penguins use to access the dunes where their burrows are located.
Afterwards we headed back to our house to relax and prepare for Wednesday.
Today we started the day with an outline of what the program will entail for the next few days as well as an outline of the current issues around marine environment debris.
We then headed back to the Penguin Parade beach where we took numerous transects of the area. In total we took 5 2m transects across the beach. From the information we could collect it was found that this beach had very little to no rubbish. This could be attributed to a number of factors, such as the beach being closed to the public during the day and also cleaners coming in to the Penguin Parade and cleaning each morning after the visitors have been to view the penguins. An interesting piece of debris we found was a dead shearwater bird on the water’s edge. Later in this week we will be performing a necropsy (a dead animal autopsy) to determine what was in the bird’s stomach. We then came back to our house to begin our data entry from the day’s events.
Once we had entered our data Graeme came over to have a chat to us about the environmental history of the island and the kind of work that he does around the place.
This morning we got up and headed straight for Smith’s beach where we took part in an emu parade. Our emu parade had a perimeter of 75m by 20m. As we walked through this section we found over 900 pieces of rubbish in our area. The majority (860) of these bits of rubbish were micro plastics called nurdles (small tiny bits of recycled plastics). With all these pieces of rubbish collected we then headed back to our lab (volunteer house) where we separated all bits of rubbish based on their size using a size class chart and also based on their composition. Once separated all the data was entered online. We then took our bits of rubbish and performed a buoyancy test on the items to determine what type of plastic they are made up of. From our tests we found that 85% of the hard plastic was HDPE (High density polyethylene), 10% LDPE (Low density polyethylene) and 5% PP (Polypropylene).
This evening we headed out with two men from VORG (Victorian Ornithological Research Group). Our plan was to check all 30 burrows set up in the Penguin Parade area for the shearwater birds. As we trekked out in the dark of night crossing plank bridges and stumbling through the muddy swamp we came across a small track where the burrows are located. As we opened up each of the burrows checking to see if there were any birds present we had to be aware of red back spiders in the burrows. Unfortunately we only found 3 birds out of all the burrows but we took each of them out and measured them and weighed them. While walking along the track however we found birds watching us so we were able to catch them and perform our measurements on them. Of the birds we measured we also tagged them if they had not previously been tagged. After a few hours of this process we made our trek home. Unfortunately on the way home we got slightly lost and ended up in the middle of a swamp where we were almost knee deep in mud. After getting back around midnight we cleaned ourselves up and headed for bed in preparation for Friday’s activities.
Today we started our day with necropsies of various bird species. In total we completed necropsies on 3 shearwaters, a magpie and a little penguin. Our aim was to observe the contents of the stomach, the crop and intestines to determine whether there are any micro plastics present. We only found a small number of micro plastics which were predominantly nurdles inside the bird’s digestive tract. It was amazing to see the difference in sizes of the bird’s intestines. The Shearwater and magpie had similar sizes of approximately 50cm however the penguin had an intestine length of approximately 2-3m.
After an early lunch we headed over to the education centre where we met Andre who is down at Phillip Island researching the penguins. He went over a lot of the work that he is completing in the area and where his research goes and to what programs it assists.
More to come as well as photos….