Category Archives: Deakin University

The last straw- Deakin grad helping to change worldview on plastic pollution

Fellow Deakin Warrnambool marine biology graduate Nicole Nash has had, by the sounds of it, a pretty envious post-university career so far – ranger with Queensland Parks and Wildlife and founder of a campaign to end single-use plastics by tourist boats known as The Last Straw on the Great Barrier Reef.


Plastic straws are one of those absurd plastic implements people may use on a daily, once-off basis, throw away and then forget about – think plastic-handled cotton earbuds, cheap disposable razors.

While there are bamboo and steel straws on the market, like reusable coffee cups they rely on the user having the forethought to take them in their bag to a cafe, restaurant or bar. I have several reusable coffee cups and can count on one hand the time I’ve used a single-use plastic cup in the past year (always because I was caught out with no alternative).

Nicole is having some success convincing tourist boat operators to ditch plastic straws and has the backing of Tangaroa Blue and other partners to produce this video and push the message further. Well done!

More info via How to Join

Scales tell the story of a farmed rainbow trout

Scales tell the story of a farmed rainbow trout

There are common grumbles during my Marine Biology degree (sometimes from my direction, often from others) that there’s not enough practical work and too much theory.
While both are necessary, the most visually interesting is obviously those good prac classes that people go away raving about, such as yesterday’s look at methods of ageing farmed (and somewhat sickly-looking) rainbow trout.
This  photo is taken from a scale reader – showing scales from below the lateral line on a 1+ year old trout, with growth lines (annuli) helping indicate the age.
The trick is picking scales from the fish that haven’t regenerated and so have been on the fish for its lifetime – not an easy task on a small fish brought up in a farmed environment!
My ancient phone doesn’t take the best shots (I drowned my smartphone on another field prac earlier this year and reverted to the old Nokia) but you can still make out the circular lines on the larger right portion of the scales.
The lecturer also showed us how to remove the otolith (ear stones) from the fish to assist with age identification by measuring the growth rings, and also measuring the teeth and intestine to determine feeding category (such as herbivore, omnivore, predator).
I’m in the middle of writing an essay on the age, diet and reproductive capacity of southern bluefin tuna (thunnus maccoyii), so practical work such as this helps to give an appreciation of the work that goes into academic research on those topics.

Sunset, llamas and alpacas

Sunset view from my balcony

In an earlier post on my local area, I talked about the advantages of living on the coast, in a town passed by many tourists in their campervans on the way from the 12 Apostles or other Great Ocean Road attractions.

One of the other bonuses is the rental place I scored for at least my initial stay near the university (longer stay will depend on how a drafty former church handles the winter!). The sunsets views from the balcony have been amazing and it’s great to come home after hours of talking about fish and ecosystems and climate change to relax and watch the llamas and alpacas from the balcony as the sun sets.

OK, so life isn’t always that laidback, thankfully, or I’d go nuts. Llamas and alpacas aren’t the most friendly creatures but their fights and spitting contests are amusing to watch.

LLamas expecting food and disinterested in the sunset

Swamp frog at Tower Hill

Swamp frog at Tower Hill

While taking part in an ecological survey of a 32 square metre section of marshland in Tower Hill game reserve near Warrnambool, we found several well-camouflaged swamp frogs. Hard to spot and seem to prefer logs and large rocks than open areas.

From journalist and PR pro to undergrad in marine biology

A quick hi to anyone who reads this and thanks for dropping by. As my bio will no doubt say when I get that started, I’m studying marine biology as an undergrad as of March 2012!

So this blog will look at some of the projects we work on in the cool little coastal town of Warrnambool, Victoria (Australia) and beyond. Plus the side trips that may have nothing to do with science but still may be of interest.

To give you an idea of what I was doing before an abrupt life change led to studying marine science, check out my other blog, Yeah I know, never got to fix that title but it’s all pretty much sports-focused and written when I was working in PR in the UK. While I still enjoy sport, doing PR in that field no longer holds much interest – obviously researching fish have been my passion so that’s where I’m heading!

Cheers and happy blogging, Stumbling or whatever else you get a kick out of.


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