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Kids get unique view of marine life from the ferry

Marine life display

I previously posted a photo of the view from the Queenscliff fery and am skipping a class on my first day back at uni to catch up on everything I didn’t get done during the holidays – including a post about the trip itself!

We had four four volunteers and two staff helping out during a kids’ session by the Marine and Freshwater Discovery Centre (new name for the MDC) on the Queenscliff ferry, operated by Searoad. Being school holidays, ferry passengers were mainly families and parents seemed very happy we were providing fun activities to keep the kids occupied.

As well as the usual colouring-in project, the most popular table was full of children making origami animals such as turtles, pelicans and frogs. I attempted the turtle three times and struggled to get it right, only to be upstaged by a six-year-old who made two perfect replicas!

The displays also included the ID table above, which asked children to identify the creature that once inhabited the shell or egg sac or, with the cuttle bone and penguin feathers, what animal it came from. I’m still amazed by young people’s ability to soak up this information and retain it and it should give environmentalists hope for the future that many of them were aware of ocean conservation issues.

Origami project for the kids


Plastic is the new driftwood

After all the words that have been written about plastic’s deadly effect on the ocean (I previously mentioned some well-publicised examples which were tackled by Miriam Goldstein), the above photo shows one recurring feature on many of my recent beach walks: plastic bottles or buckets that have become home to colonial molluscs and barnacles.

Where once you may have seen pieces of driftwood from wooden ships or small boats wash up on the shore complete with barnacles attached, the plastic tide has given these creatures some new playgrounds to inhabit and use as transport.

It’s not the sight we want to become used to though and I suspect that anyone who tries to claim mollusc populations can benefit long-term from plastic production could be in the pocket of a big manufacturer.

Plastic Oceans has some simple and interesting fact pages on the issues involved, including this on the transport of invasive species:

The hard surfaces of plastic debris is providing an attractive and alternative substrate for a number of organisms.  The introduction of non-endemic species can have a catastrophic impact on indigenous species and biodiversity and the increase in synthetic and non-biodegradable material pollution will accelerate the process (Gregory, 2009)

Anyway, HAPPY OCEANS DAY! Hope those living on or near the coast took the time to get out there, do some cleaning up or at least talked to people about how important the oceans are to our survival.

Whales sighted on Australia’s eastern and southern coast

I’m excited for whale watching season: this doesn’t mention that they’ve also been spotted at Port Fairy on Victoria’s southwest coast and we’re hoping for lots more sightings in the next few months!

Sea Change

It’s that time of year again

In honour of IFAW’s National Whale Day today, I decided to celebrate the fact that the annual Humpback Whale migration has returned to Australia.  They’ve been spotted from Sydney to the Sunshine Coast in the East, and Augusta on the West Coast.  And the season is just beginning.

Humpback whales migrate annually from their winter feeding grounds in the krill-rich Antarctic to warmer waters where they breed and give birth.  In Australia we are fortunate that the whale migration comes closer to shore than most places in the Southern Hemisphere.  The best place to see the migration on the East Coast is either on a dedicated whale-watching tour or (from personal experience) North Stradbroke Island in Queensland, where the whales are forced closer to land by the current they follow North.  I haven’t been out Humpback whale watching on the West Coast yet, but…

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Surfing seal at Rhyll pier, Phillip Island

Seals are pretty smart creatures, especially when they can see a free feed comes from entertaining humans. This friendly pup makes a habit of surfing in on a boat’s wake in the hope of scrounging leftover bait, burley or a whole fish.

Random shots from Phillip Island fishing trip

Before I began this marine biology degree, there were many discussions with friends about the issues of being a mature age student, moving from a cosmopolitan city to a small country town and being three and a half hours away from my closest friends.

But one of the things my mates were worried about was that my uni degree would make me hate fishing and try to convince them to do the same. While I’m opposed to large-scale bottom trawling, illegal fishing operations and similar environmental disasters, I doubt anyone could convince me not to enjoy a quick weekend boat trip with friends. This past weekend was spent on one of those, finding some small pockets in the small regions of Western Port (a bay 1.5 hours southeast of Melbourne) to catch flathead, snapper, barracouta, whiting and tailor.


Tony lucked into a small school of couta. We had several severed lines courtesy of the couta’s razor-sharp teeth but he snagged this one on pilchard bait. Not great eating thanks to the plethora of small bones.


Whale tail wake from our fishing boat. Late afternoon return to Rhyll pier, Phillip Island.


An overly friendly local seal pup. This Australian seal hangs around the Rhyll pier, begging for fish from boats returning to dock and scooping up the fish guts under the cleaning table.


Had a sick feeling in my stomach when my mate’s dad hooked this Port Jackson shark. Luckily we were able to get the hook out without too much damage and returned him to the water.

Photos taken on my Samsung WB500, ISO 80, f/7.5, 1/125

Why you don’t need marketing slogans when coastline shots do the job much better

The small town sitting next to my uni campus is one not usually recognised by many people outside the city of Melbourne or the state of Victoria (and even some living in it). It’s at the end of the Great Ocean Road, past the more touristy spots such as the Twelve Apostles (large pillars of rock that, obviously, used to number 12 many years ago and are now worn down to 7 or 8, depending on who you ask) .

Before I began planning to study marine biology at the Deakin campus at Warrnambool, I had never been within about 140km of the place. And the first trip I made was a midweek drive last December to accept my early round offer of a place in the course (which, as it turned out, I could have completed online). But moving here at the tail-end of summer, before the whale-watching season and bad weather kick in, has given me a pretty good idea of what this place has to offer a nature-lover, greenie or, specific to me, someone studying the coastal environment.


This shot was taken today with my less-than-brilliant phone camera (Sony Ericsson Xperia, if you wanted to know), showing a reef outcrop near the Breakwater (some places call them long piers, in Perth they call them groynes). No retouching was done, in case you haven’t been to Australia or seen a sky that blue.

Just an average, cloudless but slightly windy day, 24 degrees C (75 F) and a small 2 foot swell. Which made shooting pics of the features of rockpools like the one below easy.


If the top description sounded a bit too much like a tourist brochure, forgive me: I worked five years in PR and eight before that as a journalist, so spitting out words to suit an agenda was a way of life. But the point of this whole post was: how much there is to see in our coastal areas when your eyes are opened to it.

I could no doubt google up a quote from someone famous to make this same point. But I’ll be spending at least the next three years quoting and referencing scientists in my essays, so will refrain from that here as much as possible.

But as a nod to someone who’s written about this much better than me: the idea that the ‘nature’ that used to impress us as children (this is pre-Xbox and iPhones) but in most cases no longer does as adults was explored by Richard Louv in Last Child in the Woods. To be honest I got through three chapters and then went back to an ocean-related book but I liked the message I took away, that nature is there to be appreciated, conserved and the same ideas taught to our children.

This became more philosophical than I intended but those who know me wouldn’t be too surprised. In a way there is the underlying need to explain why I love the ocean, why it inspires me and the concern I have when others seem to disregard it. But there’ll be more practical and probably less philosophical posts to look into that in future.

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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