Category Archives: Marine Education

The Cost of Christmas

“Tis the season for excitement and excess… and while our waist lines and bank balances may bear the brunt of our festive good cheer, the oceans suffer too.

Every year Australians spend more than $16 billion celebrating Christmas (which is almost $1,000 per adult!) – half of that goes on gifts.

The vast majority of presents come shrouded in plastic –  the enemy of all things marine.

In Britain alone, 125,000 tonnes of packaging is purchased at Christmas – multiply that by all the other countries who have also bought into the December consumer frenzy and that’s a whole lot of waste that needs to be dealt with.

When it comes to gifts, ideally we should embrace the idea of experiences over physical items – a ticket to a Marine Biologist for a Day Program run by Ocean Life Education will be remembered long after the holidays have passed!

Likewise, donating to your favourite charity – be it humanitarian or conservation will help improve the balance on this planet.

But if products need to be bought, how the packaging is disposed of becomes paramount – artificial floating debris gets ingested by curious marine life making it the scourge of the sea.

Most plastics and cardboard can be recycled – but not the polystyrene foam often used to protect electronic presents.

The paper the gift comes wrapped in also takes a massive toll on nature – it’s estimated 50,000 trees are harvested every year in Australia just to produce the colourful embellishment that is ripped and discarded within seconds of reaching its recipients.

Paper is a preferable choice to foil but a better option is to use homemade wrapping created from recycled material or reusable presentation boxes.

Batteries too have become a major headache for the environment – 8,000 tonnes of them are thrown away in Australia every year.  Switching to rechargeable options has a third less impact on the planet.

Ocean Life Education has a range of programs that help to inform people of all ages about ways to be more mindful of our footprint on earth – our mobile aquarium can come to you for all sorts of occasions, giving the gift of interacting with our beautiful marine animals.

Being conservation minded in the festive season is not about sucking the joy out of Christmas – it’s about finding a way to celebrate that doesn’t cost the earth it’s future.

Ocean to Outback – Sights, Sounds and Smells of the Sea Go Bush

Considering they’re very basic creatures, sea stars have some pretty amazing abilities (like regrowing their own leg if they lose one!) but they don’t normally travel hundreds of kilometres inland… until now.

With a little assistance from Ocean Life Education, our Blue Linckia’s, along with the rest of our marine life menagerie, have temporarily migrated away from the coast to help students who rarely get to see the sea understand more about the challenges these animals face.

In a road trip lasting 3 days and covering close to 500 kilometres, Ocean Life Education is making sure children in Blackbutt, Nanango and Kingaroy don’t miss out on the chance to touch and learn about our wonderful animal ambassadors.

The Ocean to Outback initiative is supported by the State Government through its Advance Queensland Engaging Science Grant.

Why go to such extreme lengths to facilitate these encounters?  Oceans cover almost three quarters of our planet and produce more than half of the oxygen on earth while absorbing harmful carbon dioxide.

Ocean currents also move such a large body water between the equator and poles, they help to regulate the global climate which impacts all of us – even those that live well beyond the shoreline.  Keeping the oceans healthy is in everyone’s best interest.

But travelling with a crew of sea stars, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, hermit crabs and a shark is not without its challenges as water quality and oxygen levels are vital to their survival, especially in the hostile bush environment.

One thousand litres of salt water have been transported along with the animals to ensure they are stress free on their little adventure.

But all the planning, all the logistics have been worth it just to see the excitement on the faces of a whole new batch of ocean lovers, who may rarely hear the waves crash or smell the salt in the air but know the importance of caring about the underwater world – even this far from the coast.

Have Tank will Travel

Usually our sea animals bask in the 5 star luxury of their home tanks on the Sunshine Coast, where everything is carefully monitored to create an optimum environment, but when they hit the road to educate our next generation of ocean lovers, things get a little more tricky.

Our touch tanks are a home away from home for our animal ambassadors and we work hard to ensure things are as stress free as possible while they play a vital role in helping children understand and appreciate the aquatic world.

They travel all over Brisbane and the rest of South East Queensland, visiting early learning centres, schools and shopping centres, giving youngsters the opportunity to get up close and personal with these exotic creatures.

Under careful supervision, children are able to gently interact with our sea stars, sea cucumbers and spiny urchins, using our one finger touch policy that ensures our animals remain relatively undisturbed while cocooned in their cases.

To protect both animal and young enthusiast, our baby sharks are carefully contained in see through containers which allow for thorough inspection without causing damage.

Likewise, the colourful tropical sea cucumbers have such delicate feeding tentacles, they need to be kept clear of probing fingers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9VrClr6maY

But the fresh water turtles are only too willing to subject themselves to some soothing shell massage, all in the name of fostering a greater human/animal relationship.

We limit the amount of time our animal ambassadors spend away from their homes, rotating our starfish, cucumbers, urchins, sharks and turtles to make sure they are well rested and fed before embarking on their next mission to help save the oceans.

 

Monitoring marine debris

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Marine Debris event at Sealife Mooloolaba

By Katie-Anne

During my time as a Marine Education Officer I have been invited to many open conversations, workshops and conferences, so when I was invited to attend a night of conversation around marine debris at Sealife Mooloolaba, I thought it was a great networking and information sharing opportunity. What I wasn’t expecting, was that the night would cause a shift in my understanding of the importance of data collection and the sway that citizen science can have.

The night was organised by the Sunshine Coast Council and included guest speakers from Targaroa Blue, Sealife Mooloolaba, Coolum and North Shore Coastare, Reefcheck Australia and the SCRC Turtlecare program. These stakeholders have a volunteer or not-for-profit element to their conservation work and as such the passion exuded by each speaker was all encompassing.

One statement said it all.

Naomi Edwards from Tangaroa Blue foundation opened with a statement:

“If cleaning the beach is all we do, it is all we will ever do.”

A very bold statement which had everyone sitting up and listening with open ears. What Naomi meant was that collecting debris is an amazing opportunity to identify what is washing up, where it comes from and how it entered the marine environment.

Citizen science creating real change

Through this train of thought the Australia Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) was born. The organisation has a global database in which volunteers, community groups and organisations can input data based on the size, material and type of item collected from the beaches and river clean ups. This means me, you and the little old lady down the road can contribute to the collection of scientific data.

Tangaroa Blue then uses this data to work with Industry and government organisations to create change on a large scale. Once upon a time this type of citizen science was dismissed as ‘not scientific’, however, it appears this broad quantitative science is gaining more traction within the scientific and government communities. The exciting thing that I discovered was that local government authorities are willing to see this as a feasible data collection means for identifying possible trends within the environmental systems.

But how is the raw data used to do this? Well, I thought the same thing until I discovered that the data can be viewed by anyone and can be collated to create reports on the website and can be (including a variety of graphs…..everyone loves a good graph) tailored for specific beaches or communities. This opens the opportunity for the identification of trends and problematic pollutants within this locality and to identify where the most common types of pollutants have originated from. Once specific pollutants or trends have been identified, this data can be used as a basis for change in the form of prevention by a strategic approach within the local community.

It is this type of focused solution planning, or pollutant focused planning, that the Sunshine Coast Council is showing an interest in. An example of the positive use of this data is with the implementation of a ban on the release of balloons at council events and in council-managed reserves by the Eurobodalla Shire Council. This was the direct result of collation of data relating to balloons found on the local beaches and the education on balloon impacts on the marine environment that was given by the local environmental officers.

Community action is important for scientific data

This is the key shift in thinking from simply cleaning the beach (which I do not want to underestimate the importance!) to using this necessary and vital community action as an opportunity for data collection and potentially as a platform for societal change. Essentially this database and others like it are enabling members of the community access to relevant data to drive changes from a community based ground roots level.

More information

For more information about Tangaroa Blue, the Australian Marine Debris Initiative or upcoming clean up events, visit www.tangaroablue.org.

Other organisations mentioned:

Sunshine Coast Council TurtleCare program

Sealife Mooloolaba

Coolum and North Shore Coastare

Reefcheck Australia