Camden Haven High

Day 1

Hi guys – I hope you aren’t missing me too much! I had an amazing first day. This morning we caught the ferry across to the island and on the way we saw dolphins and a Dugong. My first wild Dugong ever – so I was very excited!

I learnt heaps about the problems of marine debris and impacts on wildlife from the expert scientists.

I then went out on a boat and we had a really stinky job of examining turtles (dead ones) that are in an experiment – suspended in cages about 2 metres below the water surface. We are looking to see how long they take to decompose which is helping with some research on trying to estimate how many turtles actually get caught in ghost nets but are not accounted for because they have already decomposed before someone finds them. Amazingly turtles are usually almost totally decomposed after 2 weeks – even their shell! I was amazed….. Lots of turtles are found dead in ghost nets and therefore it makes you wonder how many actually die that we don’t know about because they would have already decomposed.

Tomorrow I will be doing a necropsy and examining what some of the sea birds have injested and then we will be doing beach surveys collecting plastics off the beach and trying to see if there is any comparison between the sea birds gut contents and the plastics that get washed up on the beach.

Tonight we will be working until after 9.00 pm – just to make sure that you don’t think this is a holiday!!!!!!

I’ll try to upload some photos!

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Dolphins on the way over                                                        Dead turtle – decomposing

Day 2

Another stinky morning looking at the gut contents of dead sea birds. Mine only had a stone and smelly fish in its gizzard, but someone else had a huge hook and fishing line in their stomach. I’ll upload some photos soon.

We are off out on the boat this afternoon to analyse the turtles again – they should be even more decomposed by now!

Ummmmm yes they were! Very stinky! Had a problem as one of the turtles was all blown up with gas and was making the cage floating on the surface and then the boat engine got hooked on it! So one of the scientists – Dr. Cathy Townsend ended up plunging into the ocean to disentangle the boat. It took a lot of fiddling but she finally managed to seperate turtle with cage from boat. Lucky I took some photos – although I felt mean at the time because the water was very cold! I’ll up load those too, so that you can see what scientists have to deal with sometimes when doing field work.

I also went to the local public school today to watch Dr Cathy in action in her”Mad Scientist’ sessions. Once a week she visits the school and does fun experiments with the year 1 and 3 kids. Its very cute – they all dress up in lab coats. I have seen Dr Cathy on You tube before – but it was fun to see her live in action! The kids loved her and they were very enthusiastic about science.stradbroke day 2 016stradbroke day 2 019

This evening I saw some of the results from the marine debris survey and it appears that the more remote beaches with 4 x 4 access have more debris on them – indicating that people are dumping their rubbish on the beach and running – literally! Beaches with small communities appear to be cleaner as there seems to be some amount of stuardshipness – Is that a word!

It will be interesting to see what the results are on our beaches – so I’m really looking forward to your help.

I also learnt today that the short tailed shearwater bird is selectively picking up hard plastics rather than soft plastics. There are more soft plastic floating around in the ocean than hard ones (in Australia anyway) but they prefer to injest the hard plastics.

We watched a documentaryabout plastics called ‘bag it’ tonight which has the guy from Sienfeld in it – my husband will appreciate it as he is a big fan of Sienfeld. I must say I am missing my little family……

Thanks for your comments Nasa, Sue and Mark. Mark tell Brittany and Bre arna that sea birds like hard plastics, but many have balloons too! I was quite amazed that so many like to eat party balloons and you wouldn’t really expect that many to be floating around in our oceans! People need to stop releasing helium balloons! Fishermen need to stop using them on the end of their bait! Party people need to be more careful when they dispose of them! Some birds have hundreds of pieces of small hard plastics inside them!

Hi Mark – As for the turtles they decompose faster in water than on land. On land they tend to mummify – in water they decompose fast, probably faster in warmer water but they haven’t tested that yet! Also Mark we can probably organise a time for me to talk to your class live from the field if you want. I have my ipad – do you have skype? I could skype or face time you if we can get the timing right?

Some more photos:

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Day 3

Hello – another lovely day in paradise! It was really warm today, beautiful blue skies, sand, sea, blue water and stinky turtles!

This morning we did a transect of Main Beach which is on the east side of the island.  A beautiful beach as long as you can imagine. We did 3 transect lines up the beach and identified and collected plastic and other marine debris. There was sooooooo much rubbish on this beach including glow sticks, shoes, tires, lots of plastic bottles, lots of tiny pieces of different coloured plastic, lots of polystyrene…

It took a while to collect the information that we needed. It was very hot too, but I really enjoyed it. Here are some pictures.

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At lunch time I poped into the museum and saw the largest turtle shell I had ever seen! It was washed up on the beach here. They also had a Sperm Whales Jaw that was also washed up on the beach – I couldn’t believe the size of it. No wonder the sailors were scared of Moby Dick! Here are a couple of photos:

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This afternoon I went out and looked at the turtles again. The worst one was very bad – its shell had come off and the ribs were sticking out of a gelatenous white mass of flesh. I can still smell it – it was fowl!!! I must take a photo for you to see! But not a scratch and sniff one!

Here is a photo of the Marine Station from the boat:

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 Day 4

 Hi Guys – all good here on the island. Had another interesting day. This morning we analysed the gut contents from several birds. A poor Pelican that had died had an empty box of condoms inside him, plus the outer wrapper, plus glass. See picture below:

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Here are some more pictures of other birds gut contents:

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We weighed and measured each piece of plastic / debris and then did a buoyancy test to determine which type of plastic we had – a new skill that I learnt, which I will be teaching to my students! We examined each individual bird and put all the data into the computer so that we can determine if the birds are being selective and choising the plastic they consume or to see if they just pick pieces at random. Here is a photo of the lab I was working in:

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Then I went out an did another beach survey and we collected all sorts of rubbish – bottles, cans, cigareete butts, rubber, small pieces of multi-coloured plastic.

Then I went out on the boat and looked at the decomposing turtles – very manky by now. One turtle had all its intestines hanging out and its shell had gone and what was left were his ribs and white gelatenous flesh – not good! Here he is:

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 Since then we have been busy putting all the data into the computer – so another busy day in paradise! Time is 8.45 pm and I think I have finished for the day…..

Day 5

 Hi Guys – my last day. It has gone very fast.

Today I did some some beach transects. Then we went over to another part of the island (Point Lookout) where I had not been before. I managed to have a nice swim – the ocean was a bit chilly! I also found a nice galato shop – yum yum!

It was a lovely beach but there were 1000s of tiny broken up pieces of plastic on there.

This afternoon we had to clean up the labs and equipment etc because we depart early in the morning.

It has been a fantastic week and I have learnt lots about marine debris. I’ll fill you all in when I return.

See you Monday!

  1. Mark Canterbury

    Hi Deb!

    What an action packed day you have had. I will be showing your blog to my kids tomorrow in class so that they can try and keep up with your discoveries.

    Surprised that hard tissues such as shell decompose so quickly. I wonder if it is temperature dependent or affected by the level of acidity in the seawater?

    Looking forward to the photo’s

    Mark C.

  2. sue rust

    Hi Deb
    it was lovely – very exciting – to read your blog. It would be stunning to see a dugong.

    Sue xoxox

  3. Mark Canterbury

    Hi Deb!

    My year 8 class would like to know about your seabird work today. They want to know how much plastic is found in a single bird? (Brittany)

    What types of plastic did you find? (Bre’Arna)

    Mark C

  4. Now we have a close encounter with the hard job you do.

  5. Year 9 marine Studies

    Hi Deb,
    This is my year 9 Marine studies, they want to ask couple of questions:
    1. Do the birds only eat a certain colour or type of plastic?
    2. Are large size animals affected by the plastics, do they eat it too?
    3. How can we help to prevent this?
    4. Are there many different bird species affected by plastic debris?
    5. Is there any contributing factor affecting the turtles? eg predators?
    6. Have you gone fishing? What did you catch?
    7. The turtles that are in the cage, are they already dead, when you started the research?
    Thankyou…… Don’t fall in the water….. Enjoy your last days, we miss you
    Maria Koch

    • admin

      Hi Maria,

      Thanks for the questions year 9 – I am really looking forward to doing the plastics surveys with you.

      The birds eat lots of different colours of plastics – red, blue, green, white, pink (you name it!) Yes the large animals do eat it but mostly so far studies have been done on turtles and birds. The ways to prevent this would be to stop humans from littering on land and at sea and put traps on river mouths to stop the plastic entering the ocean. Also to stop making things out of plastic!

      So far studies have shown certain species of birds to be more susceptable than others e.g. The Albatros, Fairy Prions, Shearwaters. But there is research being done at the moment on lots of other species. Ones that can regurgitate are less prone to storing plastic.

      The main threats to turtles are humans!

      The turtles in the cages were dead and died of natural causes before being used in the experiment.

      Best wishes guys – see you soon

  6. Year 8C Science

    Mrs Geronimi, we would like to ask you a couple of questions.
    1. I would like to know why the short tailed birds like eating hard plastic instead of soft plastic?
    2.What is the average percentage of the turtles dieing by being caught in nets in Australia?
    3.Are you only doing research on turtles and birds or are you extending your research onto other marine life?
    4. How far from the island did you go to study the turtles?
    5.What reptiles have you seen?
    6.Why did the chicken cross the road? lots of love Max Wilson
    Love to hear from you and good luck on your next assignment.
    From Mrs Koch and Year 8C

    • admin

      Hi Mrs Koch and year 8.

      Thanks for the questions.

      We are not sure why the birds are selecting hard plastic – perhaps it looks like food to them? I don’t know how many turtles are caught in ghost nets? The research will be done on other marine animals but it depends on the funding they get. We traveled about 20 minutes to study the turtles. The only reptiles I’ve seen is turtles!

  7. Nicholas Robinson

    Wow that’s really interesting about the turtles! I would’ve thought it would take ages for their shells to break down.

    • admin

      Yes Nic – I was really surprised. Today they were a big gelatanous mess with shell pealed off, eyes hanging out and very very stinky! Hope you have had a good week with Mrs Miller!

  8. Mark Canterbury

    Hi Deb!

    I have Year 8 from about 12:40 to 1:30 tomorrow.

    We would love to talk to you, if you have the time. Face time would probably be the best.

    I will take my iPad to class and if you get the chance, give us a call. If you are working don’t worry. We will still follow your bolg and might have some more questions for you.

    Cannot wait to talk to you when you get back.

    Mark C.

  9. Stephanie

    Hi Deb
    Just letting you know my Border Collie also eats water bomb balloons but she passes them the other end.
    You are doing some great stuff up there and I know you will have lots to tell us about when you get back. Wish I was there with you.
    Not too many more sleeps and you can cuddle your boys.
    Enjoy the smell and sunshine

    • admin

      Hi Steph – thats interesting about your dog and the balloons! Glad she passes them ok! Yes looking forward to cuddling my boys. Having a great time! Will tell you all about it soon xx

  10. 8A Science

    1) how many turtle die each day? or year? on average.
    2) what other rubbish is diegested by the birds?
    3) how many species of birds have you seen?
    4) What was the most amount of rubbish you have found in (1) bird? Love Matt :)
    Hope your having a good time see you soon :) lots of love xoxo
    P.S. Olivers cut is healing…

    • admin

      Hi Matt,

      We don’t know how many turtles die each day, but 640 000 tonnes of ghost nets are roaming the oceans as we speak – so there would be lots wipped out! There was a lot of smelly fish in the birds, but they can’t digest the plastics. There were 176 pieces of plastic in one bird! Yes I’m having a great time – thanks Matt. Glad Olivers cut is on the mend.

  11. 8A science

    Hey Ms, we hope you are having a wonderful time. we cant wait for you to get back to hear first hand what you are doing. love alyssa :)

    have you learnt a lot and enjoyed your research… love u heaps ebony :) <3

    how much plastic is washed on beaches each day on average? Joel
    hi how you going hope you come back nice and refreshed hope you having a good time jacob :)

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