Day 1 – Monday 26th August
One day in and already my head hurts from the amount of marine information I have been exposed too!! It’s amazing – startling – scary – the facts and figures about marine debris and the sheer level of information that even the cutting-edge scientists DON’T yet know. Hence, the reason it is sooooo important to involve and inspire the next generation of inquiring minds …. thats you guys – our students.
So here’s a sample of what I’ve learnt:
- North Stradbroke is the second largest sand island
- It is being seriously mined – for sand …. not-so-slight ecological issue!!
- The sand is used for primarily glass production and the manufacturing of digital tablets (Yep – iPads! etc)
- Sea turtles decompose quicker in the ocean than on the land/sand
- working in the Science world involves thinking outside the square, statistics, policies, raising money and working in amazing landscapes
- Working as a Marine Biologist is NOT just about whales – its chemistry, physics, ecology, finance, enviro science, etc
- Shells can easily be mistaken for plastic debris
- Plastic debris comes in all sorts of colour, shapes and sizes
- For each person of the Australian population there is at least 3 itemsof plastic debris on our beaches
- Sth Australia’s beaches are cleaner – there appears to be a direct link to the 5c return on their plastic bottles
- Plastic is everywhere on the beach ….
Today we completed 3 beach transects.
We gathered plastic debris on each transect, within a 1m zone either side of the line. The amount we gathered was eye opening
Where is it from? Research suggests that it is most likely to have Australian origins!
Day 2 – Tuesday 27th August
How and why do we use a Transect? Thanks for the Question Darbi!
- A transect is a measurable line that is set-up to measure and count whatever the focus of your study is.
Yesterday, we lay out a measuring tape (we did this 3 times and the lengths were 80m, 85m & 80m) this was the length from the water to just beyond the high tide mark. We then counted and collected every piece of plastic litter (marine debris) within 1m either side of the measuring tape. Also, the transect was split into 10 equal sections and we recored detailed information about the first piece of litter we found – this included shape, size and other details.
All of this info is being up-loaded onto a national data-base. I’ll try and find out some more details about what is being done with this information by the scientists here … have a great day! I’m off & out on the boat to undertake some turtle research!
Our morning was out on the water – a beautiful day, quite calm and warm. We were all eager to get stuck into the research – viewing many a majestic sea bird on the trip out. Below, is the first pelican I saw for the day.
PLease note its grace. Remember
this for later….
We were out in the field with Cathy who is the head scientist here. Her focus is on Sea Turtles.
From her research, she has revealed that 1/3 of the turtle she encounters have ingested (eaten) plastic! Yuk!
Beneath each float was a turtle or a fish – suspended in the mid-water below. In total, there were 7 turtles and 7 fish. For each basket, we hauled the decaying animal aboard and noted obvious signs of decay. The turtles and fish have been in the water for 5 days and had scales starting to fall off (on turtles they are called scutes) and their flippers were starting to go mushy.
This research will give the scientists here an idea of how long it takes for a sea turtle to decay in the ocean. This information will then be linked to Ghost net fishing. I’ll chat about this massive issue in the future.
This afternoon we were back on dry land and working in the outdoor lab (I later found out that this is a wise move when dissecting dead sea birds – they, like the decaying turtles, DO NOT smell very good!).
Here is a sea bird that had a deathly experience fishing. The hook found today was the size of your thumb … imagine being an animal that is smaller than the size of your foot and swallowing a hook that size? DEAD. Disturbing.
We finished the day on a positive note. Discussing the ways that individuals, families, schools, towns, governments & everyone who wants too, can make a difference. In the end, its the small things. Imagine, making a change each week that decreases your use of plastics.
What would you do?
What can you do?
When will you start doing it?
Tomorrow, I am taking my ceramic coffee mug to the cafe to order my morning caffeine fix …. small steps
Signing off – chat tomorrow!
PS – remember the GRACEFUL pelican … well I sure do feel differently about them after looking inside this one (see above). Either side you can see the ribs, then the 2 light pink areas are its lungs. You will notice the black blobs – these are a fungal disease that affected this pelicans life – it may have been the cause of death?!?
Day 3 – Wednesday 28th August
Today began with another trip out in the boat to see the turtles and the fish that are deteriorating rather quickly. There are 2 locations for the samples – testing variables is an important part of scientific method. The turtles we observed today are suspended in waters with high flow currents, whereas yesterday the turtles were suspended in low flow waters.
Which turtles and fish do you think will deteriorate more quickly? Why?
Hopefully, I can let you know by the end of the week.
The reason it is important to know this is so that Maine scientists can determine how long turtles can last if they are trapped in a net.
Thanks Jesse for the question about where the turtles come from – would you believe that they are sourced as dead specimens from rescue organizations? This includes Australia Zoo and other local Northern NSW and southern QLD groups. All of the specimens are young – and for a sea turtle that’s between 15 & 20 years!
How many turtle species are there? I’m not sure Mitch but I will endeavor to find out …. why would you like to know?
What I do know about marine turtles, is that in our waters, right near our homes in Southern Victoria, we have THE largest marine turtles. They are called Leatherback turtles. They can live beyond 50 years in age, weigh over 900kg’s and grow over 2 meters in length … most Victorians don’t even know that they are out there!
This afternoon, we were in the lab. Getting down and Super-scientific! We were sorting out plastic samples taken from the birds that have been dissected. Each piece of plastic is measured, weighed and has its density/buoyancy tested.
I’m hoping to do this back at school with marine debris we find on the beach (or in our school yard!). From here the scientists will use the data to try and determine if marine birds are feeding on certain types of plastics. Lauren who is studying for her Honours, is undertaking the study about birds and the plastics they are consuming. She tells me that by far, the party balloons she removes from birds stomachs are warm colored – red, pink, orange, etc. Interesting!
Hi Will & Cam - Wish you were here! Willo you would be really interested to see all of the different types of plastics we are finding – and how we are testing them in the laboratory. Cam I wish I had you on the boat with me – you’d LOVE it! Yesterday we saw a pod of dolphins (there were a couple of baby dolphins), a dugong popping its head up for air and a sea turtle. The Dugongs enjoy living here because there is sea grass on the bottom of the ocean, especially in areas where it is not too deep, and this is what this amazing creature feeds on. Both of you would love the water up here – swimming, snorkelling and surfing xx
Day 4 – Thursday 29th August
Back out on the boat this morning – and another fine day of sunshine! We took observations today of the turtles in the Low Flow zone. Phew, were they smelly! You can see from the images that the turtles are really starting to break apart. Some of them have lost fins, scutes(that’s the segments of their shells), eyeballs, etc. It appears that the deterioration rate is really increasing.
Before lunch we squeezed in an Emu bob – collecting any rubbish we could find. It never ceases to amaze how much litter is on a beach when you take the time to look!
This afternoon we headed to the north of North Stradbroke Island. Here we undertook 3 more beach transects and another emu bob. It was really interesting to see that there was less debris on the beach than expected, given the measurement from the water to the dune was in excess of 90 meters. We wondered if the litter was being hidden by the track marks – as you can see this beach is used by 4WD’s.
Such excitement! At the top of our first transect there was a great deal if tiny bird activity. Upon observation, we discovered that it was a breeding pair of hooded plovers. Those of you who visit any beach between Queenscliff and Torquay, should know that we have hooded plovers who nest on our beaches – and they are super-rare, super-precious and not very clever at concealing there nests! The photos shows you what their nests look like …. not exactly a well-protected egg!
Note: the 3 specks of white in the sand …. they’re plastic!?!!
End of the day – ready for a good snooze! Chat tomorrow
Day 5 – Friday 30th August
Back out on the water first thing this morning. We were off to observe the high-flow turtles. The decompostion is really significant with one of the turtles – it has now lost sections of intestine, most of its scutes, facial definition and has many bones protruding on flippers and around the margins of its shell. Interestingly, the least decomposed turtle, is the one who has spent most of this week floating – so clearly the lack of water and increased level of interaction with the air is significantly slowing the decomposition process down.
Once the data was collected we had an amazing encounter with multiple locals. We got up-close and personal with
- a juvenile seal – it frolicked by the boat for many many minutes, spending time snoozing, stretching, basking, preening, swimming and playing!
- a number of sea turtles – mostly around the sea grass beds. They can stay submerged for up to 20 minutes!
- dugong- it was quite some distance from the boat & had come up for a breath before returning to the sea floor for some grass to nibble on. In Moreton Bay, the dugong tend to herd – sometimes the group is up to 100 dugong strong!
- dolphins – swimming in a small pod in the boating channel
It is easy to see how careful, humans driving water craft need to be to avoid hurting these amazing sea creatures – it is their world, after all.