Category Archives: Marine knowledge

Bringing Nature into the Classroom

 

“Bringing nature into the classroom can kindle a fascination and passion for the diversity of life on earth and motivate a sense of responsibility to safeguard it”,

Sir David Attenborough.

 

Ocean Life Education’s Director of Education, Richard Coward, is a firm believer that education is the key to protecting the ocean. So, Richard has spent the past 14 years visiting schools, early learning centres and community events, passionately educating and inspiring young minds to feel a responsibility to protect the our seas.

“Our goal is to educate Australians about how our lives are interconnected with our oceans and to inspire them to feel a responsibility to take action to protect them”, Richard Coward, Director of Education, Ocean Life Education.

 

A Passion for Protecting the Ocean

Ocean Life Education was set up in 2006 by Director of Education and Marine Biologist, Richard Coward. Richard studied Marine Ecology at Queensland’s Griffith University and commenced his career running Sunshine Coast’s Underwater World education programs and was later promoted to Curator of Fishes.

Richard went on to work on the creation of a new aquarium in South Korea. Whilst diving in the ocean, he was astonished by the complete lack of marine life. This was the first time he had experienced first-hand the devastating consequences of human impact caused by over-fishing. This education inspired him to take action. Richard saw this as a wakeup call and was determined this was not going to be allowed to happen in Australia. Thus, his passion for protecting the ocean was born.

Richard’s career went off down many paths: managing exhibits in aquariums worldwide and working with sharks, seals, penguins, turtles, sea jellies, fish, octopus, and invertebrates, to name a few.  He has been involved in research projects and breeding programs as well as whale rescue and his knowledge has frequently been reported on television, including a whole feature on the Totally Wild television show. Throughout all this, promoting conservation has always been at the heart of what he does.

 

Taking the Ocean into the Classroom

Richard soon realised that educating future generations was the key to them understanding why the ocean is so important to us and inspiring them to take action to protect it. “You protect what you love”, he quotes.

But many children were unable to get to the ocean or even to an aquarium to experience ocean life first-hand, so the idea of taking the ocean to the classroom was hatched and Ocean Life Education was born.

 

Our Programs & Marine Educators

Since 2006, Ocean Life Education has promoted the protection of our oceans to hundreds and thousands of Australians throughout Queensland and New South Wales. Our aim is to bring the sea to the community or classroom.  Marine educators arrive with live marine animals, fascinating artefacts, games and resources and students get a hands-on experience interacting with the animals. They hopefully finish off knowledgeable and inspired to want to protect the ocean and passionate to tell their friends and families why they should do the same.

                       

Our Programs

Early Learning – Ocean Discovery Program https://www.oceanlifeeducation.com.au/programs/early-learning/

Primary – Curriculum based and tailored themes and activities https://www.oceanlifeeducation.com.au/programs/primary-schools/

Holiday Programs (OSHC) – Human Impact, Sharks, Weird & Wonderful https://www.oceanlifeeducation.com.au/programs/holiday-program/

High School – Curriculum based and tailored themes and activities https://www.oceanlifeeducation.com.au/programs/high-school/

Events – live marine displays, beach walks, lectures, workshops (tailored to requirement) https://www.oceanlifeeducation.com.au/programs/events/

 

Further reading

For more information about what we can all do to protect the ocean, check out our blog:

https://www.oceanlifeeducation.com.au/how-can-i-protect-the-ocean/

 

Hope to see you soon!

 

Sharks Down Under – Amazing Australian Shark Facts

Hammerhead

Contrary to popular belief, mainly brought about by scary shark movies, you have more chance of being killed by a coconut than a shark! Over-fishing and unsustainable practices are causing shark populations to decline worldwide. Amazing sharks play an important role in our oceans and on our majestic reefs and we should all be concerned about their numbers declining. We believe that the big danger is not sharks; the big danger is shark extinction.

Here in Australia, we are luck to have bountiful species of shark living off our coastline. Read on to discover some interesting facts about sharks of Australia, why we need sharks in Australia and why we need to protect sharks living off the coast of Australia.

 

Sharks in Australian Waters

Shark resources

There are considered to be around 180 species of sharks in Australian waters and 400 species worldwide. In fact, around 50 species of shark live right here, off the Eastern Coast of Queensland. Eastern Australia’s grey nurse sharks are considered critically endangered and school sharks (sometimes known as flake in fish and chip shops) and scalloped hammerheads are on the endangered shark list too.

 

Sharks Commonly Found off Australia

The following sharks are commonly found off Australia’s coast: Great White, Port Jackson, Thresher, Zebra Shark, Tiger Shark, Tasselled Wobbegong, Whale Shark, Oceanic Whitetip, Blacktip Reef, Grey Nurse, Bull Shark, Bronze Whaler, Great Hammerhead, Blind Shark, Pygmy Shark

 

Why Do We Need Sharks?

 There is no doubt that we need sharks. As apex predators, sharks help maintain the balance of life in the sea. Sharks are a vital part of the food chain, controlling mid-sized predators and allowing small reef fish to thrive. Small reef fish take care of our amazing coral reef, therefore sharks help keep coral reef healthy. Without sharks, we would be denied the pleasure of exploring amazing underwater habitats such as the world’s largest natural wonder, Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef. The global economic impact on tourism and of declining fish stocks would be huge. So, have no doubt, we need sharks!

 

Why Are Shark Populations in Decline?

Shark populations are in decline globally and in Australian waters. 100 million sharks are killed in worldwide fisheries each year and habitat degradation, pollution and climate change are also impacting international shark populations. Controversial shark nets and drum lines (designed to protect human populations) add further to the decline.

Sharks live a long time (20-30 years), grow slowly and take a long time to mature and reach reproductive age. This means that even if we slow the decline in shark populations now, populations will take a long time to recover.

 

Sharks Facts QuizShould I Be Scared of Sharks in Australia?

No! We don’t think you should be scared of sharks. The ocean is their home and when we visit their home we need to be very aware and respectful of them.

  • On average, one person a year is killed in a shark attack in Australia.

To put things in perspective…

  • 5 people die from falling out of bed
  • 10 people are struck down by lightning
  • 1,100 are killed on our roads

 

Ultimate Shark Facts 

Check out our ultimate shark facts and discover how much you really know about sharks.

  • The largest species of shark is the whale shark
  • Baby sharks are called pups
  • Shark bones are made of cartilage
  • Many sharks have multiple rows of sharp teeth – they can grow 35, 000 in a lifetime
  • Shark skin feels like sandpaper
  • The collective noun for a shark is a Shiver (or School, Shoal)
  • The fastest shark in the ocean is the Shortfin Mako Shark (up to 74k an hour)
  • The smallest species of shark is the Dwarf Lantern Shark (smaller than a human hand)
  • Sharks have eyelids but they do not blink
  • Sharks do not see in colour
  • 10% of shark species are bioluminescent – they light up in the dark
  • 180 species of shark live off the coast of Australia – 400 species worldwide
  • Bull sharks can live in fresh and salt water
  • Some sharks lay eggs (oviparous) others give birth to live young (viviparous), and some are a combination of these two, they start life inside their mother as an egg, hatch inside her and then are born live (ovoviviparous)
  • Egg laying sharks lay egg cases known as mermaid’s purses
  • Unlike humans, sharks breathe through gills, so their nostrils are purely dedicated to smelling
  • Sharks are able to detect blood from 5 km
  • Sharks can identify which of their two nostrils have picked up a scent – enabling them to determine the direction to swim to find food
  • Some species of shark can survive for up to 3 months between meals
  • Sharks can sense vibrations from 3 kilometres away

 

What Can I Do to Help Protect Sharks?

  • Educate yourself and your friends
  • Share your love of sharks on your social media channels
  • Join a volunteer shark conservation organisation like sharkconservationorg.au, marineconservation.org.au, seashepherd.com.au (make a donation if you can)
  • Join a beach clean or just clean as you go!
  • Buy sustainable seafood and check restaurants have done so. Avoid flake at the Fish & Chip shop as it may be endangered shark
  • Ask politicians to support ocean acidification research

Ocean Life Education is passionate about protecting all marine animals and focusing on the important role sharks play in our oceans.  We aim to separate fact from fiction when it comes to the most feared fish in the sea.

Check out our Shark Discovery Program for more information on how to inspire kids to love and respect sharks: www.oceanlifeeducation.com.au/programs/holiday-program/ 

Want to know more about sharks?

online shark course

Check out our Amazing Sharks Online Course

Annual Humpback Whale Migration – East Coast Australia

Each year between April and November, Australia’s eastern coastline comes alive with the spectacular acrobatic displays of humpback whales. After a summer of feeding on krill in Antarctic waters, these charismatic animals migrate north to sub-tropical waters where they mate and give birth. And we are lucky enough to be able to easily spot them on their travels from our majestic coastline!

During their annual migration of up to 10 000 kilometres, humpbacks can easily be seen off the coast of New South Wales and Queensland.

The exact timing of the migration period can vary from year to year depending on water temperature, sea ice, predation risk, prey abundance and the location of their feeding ground.

Humpback Migration Route and Timing

The majority of humpbacks in Australian waters migrate north from June to August, and back towards the Southern Ocean from September to November.

Migration Grouping

Groups of young males typically lead the migration while pregnant cows and cow-calf pairs bring up the rear. Adult breeding animals form the bulk of the migration in the middle stages.

Humpback Whale Facts

  • Humpback whale length: 12- 16 metres
  • Humpback whale weight: up to 50 tonnes or 6 elephants!
  • Average birth weight of humpback: 2 tonnes
  • Birth length: 4-5 metres
  • Humpback whale gestation period: 11 months
  • Favoured birth temperature: 22-25 degrees
  • Origin of Humpback Whale name: the name comes from their very long pectoral fins and knobby looking head which looks a bit like a hump!
  • Easily tracked as identifiable by the unique markings on their tail fluke – so we can learn lots about them!
  • Humpback whale travel speed: up to 8 km an hour
  • Migration travel speed: humpback average only 1.6km an hour during the migration as they rest and socialise along the way
  • Humpbacks sing songs that may be heard hundreds of kilometres away
  • East Coast Australia’s most famous humpback whale is white and has an Aboriginal name, ‘Migaloo’ which means white fella.

The humpback whale is not the largest whale found in Australian waters but we reckon its’ the most iconic.

Click here for our Eastern Humpback Whales Online Mini Course

Click here for our Humpback Whale Teaching Resources

How oceans help fight Covid-19

There is no doubt that our health is intimately tied to the health of the earth and its’ oceans. According to UNESCO, our oceans not only help in the detection of COVID-19 but could also help combat it.

 

How oceans help detect Coronavirus

Bacteria found in the depths of the ocean are currently being used to carry out tests to detect the presence of COVID-19. The bacteria were identified years ago and have been used to diagnose other viruses such as AIDS and SARS.

 

How oceans could help treat Covid-19

 

 

In addition to diagnosis, many commonly used medicinal products already come from the ocean, including ingredients that help fight cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and heart disease. The potential health benefits lie in the diversity of microbes found in the ocean’s hydrothermal vents. These are currently being researched as a potential treatment for Covid-19.

 

 

 

Our lives depend on healthy oceans (and a healthy planet) in many ways. Oceans cover nearly three quarters of the Earth’s surface; contain 97 per cent of the Earth’s water and support life on earth by providing oxygen and food to an astonishing range of ocean and non-ocean life.