What a beautiful sunny day and clear blue water at the Penguin Parade at Phillip Island. We looked forward to the day ahead finding out about the impacts of marine debris on the environment and animals.
We listened to a talk on the study of the fluctuations of the Penguin population on Phillip Island due to foxes, grass fire, cars and the Summerland housing estate. The strategies that were successful to combat these impacts and improved penguin numbers in the 1990s were fox baiting and hunting and Summerland buy back. However in 1995 there was a sudden decline in the population and scientists found that their food source, pilchards, was affected by a virus. Penguins eventually changed their diet to include anchovies and other small fish so their numbers increased.
Scientists continue to monitor penguin populations and their habitats using transects and placed artificial burrows across the Penguin reserve. Scientists also are on the watch out for oil spills and have developed a successful oil cleaning strategy using fine iron filing that binds to the oil in the penguins feathers and removed using a magnet.
After lunch we watched an interview of Denise Hardesty and her research on Marine debris on the program Catalyst.
The evening Penguin Parade was the highlight of the day. The penguin approached the beach in groups called rafts and headed towards their burrows. We were fortunate to watch the penguins from the Sky box with Pete the ranger whose job was to count the penguins every night.
We woke to a drizzly day and drove to Cape Woolamai to conduct a marine debris survey. Even though the beach appeared clean from a distance, whilst performing the survey, we were surprised that we collected a lot of tiny pieces of rubbish, in particular, small white plastic balls. We later found a large piece of Styrofoam which we believe the balls came from.
Over lunch we entered the data onto Marine debris database which has been developed by CSIRO so that students and teachers can enter data on a national marine debris database via an online portal.
Following a presentation on how to dissect birds, we participated in necropsies on Shearwater and Penguins which involved measuring becks, wings, skin fat content, oil gland sampling and finally documenting plastics in the gut.
In the evening we watched ‘Bag it’ a documentary film exposing the effects of plastic bags and other plastic consumer merchandise, and its effects on land ecosystems, the marine environment and the human body.
The sun was shining this morning and we were looking forward to bird necropsies. The necropsy on the adult little penguin was most informative as the animal had complete intact organs. We were able to identify organs and examine gut content for plastics, which were not found. Short tailed Shear water birds were also dissected and checked for plastics.
During lunch we listened to a talk on seal entanglement at Seal Rocks, VIC. The study found that juveniles were more susceptible to entanglement than adults. Nets, packing tape, plastic bags, and fishing line were causes of entanglement. Most nets were mono fishing line from gill netting and green twine netting for trawling. Continued research will be on the colours of nets, how they are made and mesh size to build up data to develop environmentally friendly fishing techniques.
After lunch we conducted Marine Debris surveys on Smith beach.
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