Queenscliff Primary School
Teacher: Ms Hoskin
 

Environmental Specialist Teacher, Queenscliff Primary School

Location: Phillip Island Nature Park

Project:  CSIRO National Marine Debris Survey

Scientists from CSIRO working on the following project include:

Dr Denise Hardesty: Ecosystems Sciences CSIRO

TJ Lawson, Spatial Analysist: Land and Water CSIRO

Dr Chris Wilcox: Marine and Atmospheric Research

Plus

Geraldine Davis: Program Manager TeachWild

Graeme Bergan: Ranger (Education and Shearwater Recovery Project) Phillip Island Nature Park

Dr Peter Dann: Research Manager, Phillip Island Nature Park

Dr David Boyle: Retired Molecular Scientist CSIRO, lead us on the sightings of the Short-tail Shearwaters, sunset and sunrise

Doug Cameron: bird handler extraordinaire

Roger Kirkwood: Marine Mammal Researcher, Phillip Island Nature Park

Day 1                   10 October 2012

Arrived at Volly House at Phillip Island Nature Park.

The gathering of scientists and teachers

I was greeted by a friendly group of people teachers from other schools, scientists and ranger, who are involved in the Marine Debris Project.

That evening we walked to the Penguin Parade and saw the parade of penguins at night.  What a wonderful experience, I wasmesmerised by the little penguins, the way they waddled  up the beach in groups and their interaction with each other.  I was able to see them up close and personal from the boardwalk as they made their way to their burrows.

Discussion at the Education Centre

I was so mesmerised by the experience that I misplaced the group and had to wander back in the dark, by myself to the volly house.  Fortunately, I had my head torch with me and I retraced our route and arrived without too much drama.

Day 2          11 October 2012

Talk at the Education Centre about the scientists work and watched video: Plastics Oceans

Link to Catalyst show:   http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/vodcast/       Plastic Oceans Episode 16  Look for “Plastic oceans” download

Fieldwork

National Marine Debris Survey:   Transects and Emu Parade survey methodology.

Marine transect looking towards the shoreline   
Emu parade survey technique
Using a chart to size a piece of soft plastic
It was a bit cold, windy and slightly wet.  However, as the day progressed into the afternoon, the sun came out.

After the marine debris surveys, the scientists showed us how to do a necropsy.

Necropsy: is an examination and dissection of a dead body to determine cause of death.  In this situation it was a Short-tailed Shearwater that was found dead at Phillip Island Nature Park, presumed to be a road kill.  Therefore, it was a potentially healthy specimen.  This necropsy was done to determine the condition of the animal and whether it had ingested any plastics.  Combined with the ongoing research on the short-tailed shearwaters at Phillip Island, the findings of the necropsy link with the foraging area of these birds and has potential to answer somee important questions about food source and marine debris.  A large piece of plastic was found in the stomach of this Short-tailed Shearwater.

Short-tailed Shearwater specimen (road kill)
Fine mesh sieve for sorting contents of gizzard, stomach and intestines
Finding a piece of plastic in the stomach

If you are interested to see more about a necropsy on a Shearwater watch the video from the link below: Dr Jennifer Lavers 7.30pm report

Lord Howe’s mutton bird in decline  http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2012/s3405538.htm

Short-tailed Shearwaters at dusk at Cape Woolamai:Phillip Island is home to fourteen breeding colonies with a total population more than a million breeding birds.  The largest colony of around half a million birds is located at Cape Woolamai.  We visited there to see the birds come back to land for the night.  We sat or stood on the cliff overlooking the ocean, waiting for sunset.  Watching masses of birds flying just above the ocean waves or rafting on the ocean waters.

Then it is time for them to come ashore.

It’s an amazing sight, as birds swirl all around you.  They are silent as they swoop in, thousands of birds at the one time.  Then the noise begins as they land and search for burrows, find mates, spending the night on land.  Its a social occasion for the birds, so they are noisy.  They appear very awkward on the land as they are attracted to our torch lights.  We were fortunate to have Dr David Boyle as our guide.  He explained to us the amazing journey of these birds and how frequently they fly long distances just to get food (foraging).  It was difficult to get a good picture of the birds as it was dark when they where flying overhead.

The TeachWild participants at Cape Woolamai

One way to watch Short-tailed Shearwaters fly overhead

Day 3:      12 October 2012

Dawn at Cape Woolamai

Early morning start to see the Short-tailed Shearwaters depart from the land out to sea.  They take flight just before sunrise.  Therefore, we needed to be at Cape Woolamai very very early.  It took us 15 mins by car then another 20 min walk to the site and we needed to be there well before 5.30am.  What time do you think we left the Volly house?  What time do you think we needed to wake up?

Shearwater taking to flight in the morning

Early morning departure of the Shearwaters

Watching the departure

Shearwater Festival: Today we were given the opportunity to listen to presentations from the Park Staff.  Ranger Graeme Bergan (Education and Interpretation) about the Shearwater Project and Festival (24th -25th November at Phillip Island).

Seals and entanglement: Roger Kirkwood, Mammal Researcher, Phillip Island Nature Park, spoke to us about seals and entanglement.  It was interesting to see and hear about how they capture seals, at Seal Rocks, to remove the nets that are usually entangled around their necks.

To find out more information about seals at Phillip Island go to: http://www.penguins.org.au/education/nature-notes  then click on the picture for Australian Fur Seals.

Size Sorting: Later, we sorted the marine debris from the survey on Day 2 (Emu parade or Emu bob method) into class sizes 1 to 6.  After that we learnt how to enter this information onto the TeachWild National Marine Debris database.

This practice will also enable us to conduct our own surveys with students and then be able to enter this data  for scientists to analysis.

The data collected for this project will contribute to addressing the four fundamental questions on marine debris:

1)   What are the sources, distribution, and ultimate fate of marine debris?

2)   What is the exposure of marine wildlife to debris?

3) When wildlife are exposed to debris, what factors determine whether animals ingest or are entangled by debris?

4)   What is the effect of ingestion or entanglement on marine wildlife populations?

Sorting debris into size classes

Later that night we went to check nest boxes of the Short-tailed Shearwaters, for banded birds and data loggers, attached to legs.  Data loggers are tiny computers attached to birds that collect information about were they have flown, where they land or stay for a while.  This can indicate where the birds nest, forage for food and travelling distances.  Scientist collect this information for analysis, and relay this information back to the community, so we can better understand this species and help protect its habitat and foraging areas.

The Phillip Island Nature Park provides a sanctuary for the Short-tailed Shearwaters. Rangers protect them through predator control programs, habitat management, education and Shearwater Patrol (Phillip Island Nature Park rescue chicks stranded on the roads during migration).

For more information go to Phillip Island Nature Park notes and look under Short-tailed Shearwaters

http://www.penguins.org.au/education/nature-notes

Some questions to answer are: How many are on Phillip Island?  How far do they fly for migration?; What places do they visit on their migration route?  What time of year are they here? How long do they stay?

Day 4: 13 October 2012

Back to Woolamai Beach for a Marine Debris Survey on the Beach.

Here we practice our methodology and record our findings.  This data will be later entered onto the TeachWild site for the National Marine Debris database. 

We also do a survey at the Shearwater Colony inside it and outside.  This is a different type of quadrat survey, where we are looking for evidence of birds (bones, scats and feathers) and burrows.

The weather was very pleasant with blue skies and sunshine.  The view was particularly nice, as well. 

We spent most of the day doing these surveys then headed back to the Volley house to enter data, eat and do some net recordings for the seal entanglement project.

Day 5:      Pack up    14 October 2012

This was the finish of our EarthWatch experience, for now.  Usually these TeachWild events last for 7 days.  We had cramped a lot into this short period of time.  Even though I am a bit tired, it was well worth it.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience and learnt much about the techniques for the survey, how to do a necropsy and the knowledge gained from working with scientists in the field.  I now have a better understanding of how important the reasearch into marine debris, is. 

 

 

 

 

FURTHER RESOURCES:

Trashed – No Place For Waste

Youtube video link:   http://youtu.be/7UM73CEvwMY

Published on 3 May 2012 by TrashedFilm

Trashed – No Place For Waste with the participation of Jeremy Irons, looks at the risks to the food chain and the environment through pollution of our air, land and sea by waste. The film reveals surprising truths about very immediate and potent dangers to our health. It is a global conversation from Iceland to Indonesia between the film star Jeremy Irons and scientists, politicians and ordinary individuals whose health and livelihoods have been fundamentally affected by waste pollution. It ends on a message of hope: showing how the risks to our survival can easily be averted through sustainable approaches that provide far more employment than the current ‘waste industry’. (C) Blenheim Films 2012