Research

Running of a measuring tape in a transect area (from the shore line into 2m of vegetation)

Marine debris surveys

TeachWild is a national three-year marine debris research and education program developed to better understand the global issue of marine debris and its impacts on Australian wildlife.

Marine debris is known to affect more than 270 species of marine animals worldwide, from the top predators in the food chain to plankton, but the full extent of the impact is unknown.

Research aims

TeachWild aims to:

  • Build knowledge, skills and change attitudes to issues impacting ocean health;
  • Inspire students to explore their world through science that is relevant to their lives, encourage, motivate and reward innovation in curriculum delivery by teachers;
  • Develop the capacity and networks of regional and remote teachers and inspire Shell employees to become environmental champions;
  • Help mitigate the risks of marine debris to breeding populations of threatened turtles, seabirds and other marine wildlife.

Watch the TeachWild video science education series

Research activities

TeachWild is a grass roots educational experience that engages Australian teachers and students, and employees of Earthwatch, Shell and CSIRO in research relating to the national issue of marine debris. Participants will assist with a range of research activities including:

  • Ocean trawls for debris;
  • Necropsies (autopsies on marine wildlife);
  • Beach surveys looking for debris and affected animals (sea birds, turtles etc). Data collection will include recording the rubbish on the beach in relation to the type and size of marine debris;
  • Laboratory work which may involve sorting through the contents from a necropsy, to analyse and record the debris¬† found inside marine wildlife;
  • Oceanography experiments; looking at how factors such as currents, waves, and climate change impact on where marine debris ends up;
  • Marine observations: observing and recording the behaviour of dolphins, whales (cetaceans) and turtles;
  • Mapping the communications of any cetaceans in the area using submersible sonar equipment that is lowered into the water to pick up on very soft sounds;
  • Conducting deep sea observations using equipment sent to the bottom of the ocean to take photos and video footage.

Recording the research

Data will be entered into the National Marine Debris database for ‘real time’ reporting on the health of our marine environment. This website will be used extensively throughout the TeachWild program. Participants and scientists will be able to log in at any time to add sightings or review all records (the data).

Log Your Data

Using a chart to size a piece of soft plastic

Using a chart to size a piece of soft plastic

How will the data be used?

TeachWild will survey and map the distribution of marine debris, identify the major sources of debris and measure the impacts of debris on Australian wildlife. The data will contribute to a national marine debris database to assist state governments and coastal councils in formulating waste management policies and practices intended to protect marine ecosystems. The data will also be used to:

  • Examine trends in marine debris to determine which solutions are effective and which sources of marine debris will require further control efforts;
  • Collaborate internationally and work towards:
    • An international marine debris database based on the Australian infrastructure;
    • International adoption of the TeachWild methodology to tackle the issue of marine debris.
  • Influence a range of stakeholders including:
    • Policy makers, on the need to protect marine life;
    • Organisations, to reconsider changing packaging of goods;
    • International decision makers, by publishing a paper and presenting it to the United Nations Environment Program. A TeachWild supported PhD student will also present research at international marine debris conferences.