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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.

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.


Marine Biologist for a Day

Over the past few years, hundreds of primary schoolers have enjoyed our holiday sessions that inspire them to care for the ocean – now it’s time for the high schoolers to get in on the action.

Due to popular demand, our Marine Biologist for a Day program has been adapted to cater for an older audience who want a more in depth look at the world of marine science.

Students will have the chance to examine in detail our impact on the ocean including environmental stress on coral reef systems, water acidification and plastic pollution.  We will discuss a wide range of ideas on how to better care for the health of our seas.

The aim of the program is to making learning fun and relevant, examining animal classification to discover how each creature fits into the aquatic world.

The program will be very interactive, with students observing the dissection of a dead fish to reveal the organ make-up and development of a mullet.

And our most popular feature will still be included – the chance to gently touch our living sea creatures – an opportunity that never gets old at any age!

This program will provide a valuable insight to the workings of the aquatic world for any high schooler who has a passion for the ocean or is considering a career in marine sciences.

But we haven’t forgotten the younger students – our classic Marine Biologist for a Day will still be running in school holidays – we’re just expanding the program to grow with your kids.

For more details check out

Shark Soup

They are possibly the most misunderstood of all the sea creatures – apex predators capable of inspiring both fear and fascination in equal measure.  But far from being the killing machines portrayed in the movies, most sharks are more at risk from us than we are from them.

Of the almost 400 species identified, only a dozen or so are considered dangerous to humans. We’re certainly not their preferred diet, but we can easily be mistaken for more tasty morsels such as seals.   Statistically, we’re more likely to be killed by a rogue champagne cork than a shark.   On average only 5 people are taken every year, whereas humans slaughter 100 million sharks annually, causing all sorts of problems.

Sharks are a natural part of the marine ecosystem.  From their perch on top of the food chain, they help to maintain a balance in our oceans, preventing smaller species from overpopulating, which can then cause a ripple effect, threatening our delicate coral reefs.

And most of the time we don’t even know they are there.  More often than not, sharks will actively try to avoid us when we venture into their territory.  And while they populate the shoreline all around the Australian coast, Queensland numbers tend to increase in the winter months when their food sources move into the warmer waters.

They may not be as extrovert as the humpback whales, but grey nurse sharks cause just as much excitement amongst scientists. It’s estimated only 1500 of these animals still live off the East Coast of Australia giving them the unenviable status of critically endangered.

Part of the problem with the grey nurse sharks is they look fairly fearsome while remaining relatively sedate underwater – they’re often referred to as the Labradors of the sea due to their docile nature. But this has also made them easy targets for fishermen, with the grey nurse often snagged on hooks as they take up the offer of an easy feed.  Added to which they are slow to mature and reproduce few young.  While they are protected, it doesn’t stop accidental death at the hands of humans.

But marine biologists are studying the grey nurse and trying to figure out ways to help them to repopulate including banning fishing in areas they are known to congregate.  Ocean Life Education’s Shark Discovery program looks at the issues facing endangered species like the grey nurse and tries to separate fact from fiction to make us finally appreciate that the greatest threat in the ocean is not from sharks but humans.