Conservation crew achievements applauded

An environmental army has descended on the local coast as part of the Federal Government’s Green Army programme – an initiative which has seen more than 330 conservation projects rolled out across Australia to date.

GORCC Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale and Green Army participants monitoring Hooded Plovers along the coast.
GORCC Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale and Green Army participants monitoring Hooded Plovers along the coast.

Green Army Service Provider Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) and project host the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) are working with young Green Army participants to protect and enhance coastal environments.

GORCC held a celebratory forum in August to celebrate the contributions made by participants, who have been working hard on a range of conservation projects and tasks including fencing, weed eradication, revegetation and mulching.

Green Army participants creating their own herbarium using the Surf Coast Nature Search program along the Jan Juc cliffs.
Green Army participants creating their own herbarium using the Surf Coast Nature Search program along the Jan Juc cliffs.

The day also offered learning and development opportunities for the group.

GORCC Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale said the event featured guest speakers and in-field sessions from a diverse range of professionals working within environmental or conservation industries.

“The day encouraged participants to continue to enhance their conservation knowledge and explore career opportunities within the environmental industry,” she said.

CVA Green Army Supervisor Jane Shearer said the Green Army participants had been eager to learn about the different aspects of coastal conservation and had enjoyed working along the Surf Coast.

Conservation Volunteers Australia Green Army Supervisor Jane , Green Army participants Caitlin Ball, GORCC Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale and Green Army participants take a break from removing litter along the foreshore.
Conservation Volunteers Australia Green Army Supervisor Jane , Green Army participants Caitlin Ball, GORCC Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale and Green Army participants take a break from removing litter along the foreshore.

“The group is very eager to get involved and learn from experienced conservation workers.

“They have a lot of fun and work really well together, so it’s been very positive working with this wonderful team,” she said.

Ms. Beale praised the dedicated team for their continual hard work along GORCC managed land.

“They have worked incredibly hard over the past four months, removing substantial quantities of woody weeds such as Coast Tea-Tree and supporting our conservation work.

“The Green Army team provides GORCC with a lot of manpower, allowing us to tackle larger projects that otherwise would take months to complete.

GORCC Education Activities Leader Hilary Bouma helps Green Army participants construct a local herbarium using the Surf Coast Nature Search website.
GORCC Education Activities Leader Hilary Bouma helps Green Army participants construct a local herbarium using the Surf Coast Nature Search website.

Green Army participant Scott Hives said he the appreciation the group had been shown by GORCC and local environmental volunteer groups was incredible.

“Every day is so rewarding and everyone is always so grateful for the work we do.

“It’s been great working on local projects and seeing the work you’ve been doing along the coast when you go out for a surf or just drive past the foreshore.

“The programme is providing us with invaluable experience and support for our future careers which is amazing,” he said.

The Green Army programme aims to encourage environmental stewardship among young adults and enhance their skills and knowledge. For more information about the Green Army programme or to get involved visit the Green Army website. 

How do you help encourage environmental stewardship in the community? Share your methods with us in the comments below.

Time to tidy up your backyard

Australians are being urged to tidy up their nearby waterways, roads and neighbourhoods as part of Keep Australia Beautiful Week.

From 24-30 August 2015, Keep Australia Beautiful (KAB) aims to remind all Australians what an amazing, and beautiful country we have. However, it won’t stay beautiful if we don’t clean up our act when it comes to litter.

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More than 9 billion tons of litter ends up in the ocean every year making litter a major environmental problem along our coast and worldwide. The 2013-14 KAB National Litter Index findings are obvious – we have a litter problem.

Whilst the annual report indicates that overall amount of litter is decreasing, there is still an enormous amount of rubbish polluting our natural environment, and cigarette butts remain the biggest pollutant.

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An assortment of rubbish collected by Lorne-Aireys Inlet P-12 College students earlier this year as part of GORCC’s environmental education program.

Not surprisingly, the most littered sites surveyed within Victoria were retail areas and beaches, making our precious coastal environment a high risk zone. So how do you stop litter from entering our precious waterways?

Here are some simple ways to reduce your rubbish consumption by following the sustainable R’s of living.

Rethink/ Reinvent

Only 1 in every 10,000 products are designed with the environment in mind, which is why it is so important to evaluate if there could be another use, or if you really need it in the first place. Ask yourself if you really need the product, or could you make do with something else you already have?

Refuse

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Say no to plastic bags and bring your own reusable shopping bag from home. Photo: Plastic Bag Free Torquay

This is the most direct method of cutting down litter – refuse to any items that generate unnecessary waste, such as plastic bags. Make sure you take reusable bags when shopping to lessen plastic consumption.

Reduce

To reduce rubbish the easy idea is to consume less, or rather, consume the right amount. Rubbish tends to accumulate from unwanted or excess items, so by reducing the amount you purchase, you can reduce your waste.

Re-use/ Repair

Do you ever go to the store to replace something that broke with a brand new version without even trying to fix it? We’re all guilty of it, and this is contributing to the massive amount of litter in our oceans. By finding new uses for what we already have, we can reduce the amount of packaging and save money at the same time. It’s time to be creative with what you already have in the home.

Recycle

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Items that can be recycled. Photo: Wyong Shire Council

The main point that we all know and have learnt about for years – recycling. Although it can seem like an annoying task, separating plastic bottles, cans and newspapers, is conserving our environment for future generations.

Replace/ Re-buy

Next time you need to purchase a product or item, think about going green and buying products made from recycled materials. Look for the labels on the packages that include a percentage off recovered materials.

The Surf Coast is already taking the first steps to a more environmentally friendly community with initiatives like Plastic Bag Free Torquay and Take 3 are helping reduce our impact on the environment.

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Australia has a litter problem and by following these easy tips you can help reduce your environmental footprint. For more information visit the Keep Australia Beautiful website. If you would like to do more in your community, why not check out some of our fabulous environmental volunteer groups here?

How do you use the 6R’s of sustainability? Do you have a favourite re-invention? Share them with us in the comments below. 

New online nature search launched

The Surf Coast Nature Search (SCNS), an interactive, online search tool for identifying weeds and indigenous plants in our region, has been launched.

The Surf Coast Nature Search homepage.
Surf Coast Nature Search homepage

The online resource, which has been developed by local volunteer group Jan Juc Coast Action (JJCA),   is a detailed database of hundreds of indigenous plants and environmental weeds on the coast between Point Impossible and Bells Beach.

Users are able to search based on a range of criteria including plant type, flower colour, size, leaf shape and more.

JJCA Chairperson Luke Hynes said the website is a great local asset for locals that will help support an increase in environmental awareness.

Jan Juc Coast Action Chairperson Luke Hynes uses the new database to search for the coastal shrub along the Surf Coast Walk.
Jan Juc Coast Action Chairperson Luke Hynes uses the new database to search for the coastal shrub along the Surf Coast Walk.

“The SCNS database has been a dream of the JJCA group for many years,” he said.

To date, JJCA volunteers have added 181 plant species to database, which is expected to grow as species are added and the tool extends to include fauna and cover more areas of the Surf Coast.

“It’s exciting to think that people with a limited understanding of botanical terms will now be able to identify local plants, pinpoint environmental weeds in their backyard and learn more about the environmental impacts and benefits of particular species,” said Mr. Hynes.

JJCA group volunteer Graeme Stockton said one of the aims of the database is to help coastal property owners create environmentally friendly gardens.

JJCA Chairperson Luke Hynes and GORCC Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale test out the database on their walk.
JJCA Chairperson Luke Hynes and GORCC Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale test out the database on their walk.

“The SCNS is a simple tool for identifying environmental weeds in your garden and selecting indigenous alternatives,” he said.

Weeds, which easily escape from local gardens, have been identified as the number one threat to the natural environment on the coast due to their ability to out compete indigenous species.

“Indigenous plants are vital, providing vital habitat for local birds and animals,” said Mr. Stockton.

Mr Hynes said the group had worked hard with locally based web design experts Boojum to ensure the platform was as interactive and easy to navigate as possible.

“Our biggest challenge was trying to incorporate complex plant characteristics in a searchable format that is flexible and user friendly,” he said.

Luke and Georgie using the database to identify the coastal shrub along the Jan Juc cliffs
Luke and Georgie using the database to identify the coastal shrub along the Jan Juc cliffs

The database can be accessed at www.scnaturesearch.com.au.

The project was supported by a $5000 State Governments CoastCare Grant, $2500 Great Ocean Road Coast Committee Coastal Grant and $1000 Surf Coast Shire Grant.

Check out the Surf Coast Nature Search today and see how many plants you can identify from your garden! Let us know how many indigenous plants you find in your backyard in the comments below. 

Surfrider community clean up for Jan Juc

The Surfrider Foundation, and Plastic Bay Free Torquay recently worked together to conduct a Jan Juc litter blitz, uncovering some interesting items of rubbish along the way.

Volunteers from and members from the local community helped collect 25 large bags of litter – litter that would otherwise be left to impact our oceans.

Volunteers display the 25 bags of rubbish collected on the day. Photo: Surfrider (Surf Coast)

Items collected included old carpet, a broken fishing rod, a body-board, a tent and lots of plastic and glass tumblers.

The Surfrider Foundation has been holding regular beach clean ups along the Surf Coast since 1996 to reduce the presence of litter on beaches and promote community participation.

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Volunteers gearing up to clean up the coast. Photo: Surfrider (Surf Coast)

Hot refreshments were provided by Mark Clatworthy from Ocean Gind who donated the day’s profits to the Surfrider Foundation.

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The Ocean Grind caravan at Jan Juc carpark to provide support the Surf Coast Surfriders Foundation volunteers.

The Surfrider Foundation Surf Coast partners with Plastic Bag Free Torquay and the Take 3 initiative, working in collaboration to reduce plastic pollution along the Surf Coast.

How can I help?

  • Remember to bring your reusable shopping bags when you go grocery shopping.
  • Keep reusable bags handy in the boot, glove box, backpack or handbag to use when shopping.
  • Reuse plastic bags you have accumulated at home as garbage bin liners, freezing food or while walking your dog.
  • Collect rubbish you see when walking along the coast and put it in the bin.
  • Help spread the word! Education is so important in reducing plastic pollution, so please help educate and inspire others to look after the environment.
  • Volunteer with a local environmental group and start making a difference in your area

And remember ….

Refuse disposable plastic, Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle and Respond by picking up rubbish.

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Photo courtesy of brother.com

Interested in volunteering and making a difference?  Visit our website here for more information on local coastal volunteer groups.

Have you found any strange items of rubbish on the beach? Let us know in the comments below!

Winter weed blitz

Despite the cold weather, winter is the perfect time to combat the spread of environmental weeds and revegetate residential gardens with beautiful (native-animal-attracting) indigenous species.

Agapanthus – a very popular garden plant – are also a noxious weed that have a devastating impact on natural habitats.

Environmental weeds are plants that displace native vegetation which impacts the vitality of indigenous flora and fauna.  Surprisingly, many environmental weeds are popular garden plants that have grown to become major threats to the biodiversity in the natural environment.

Freesias look friendly, but they can spread quickly, out-competing precious indigenous species.

Common garden plants such as Agapanthus, Arum Lily, Gazania and Freesia are all environmental weeds that are detrimental to native flora and fauna.

Gazanias are sold at many nurseries – but don’t be fooled. These invasive weeds are having a huge impact on our coastal environment.

Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale, encourages locals to remove environmental weeds from their gardens this winter.

“If we remove environmental weeds and plant indigenous species in their place, we are able to provide a haven for our precious wildlife and protect coastal habitats.

“Revegetating gardens in winter provides plants with ideal soil conditions and the best chance of survival.

“Seeds from invasive species are easily spread by the wind and animals, which is why it is important to avoid planting environmental weeds in the garden,” she said.

The flowering Moonah tree is a native alternative for Surf Coast gardens.
The flowering Moonah tree is an indigenous alternative for Surf Coast gardens.

Surfers Appreciating the Natural Environment (SANE) Chair Graeme Stockton is urging locals to think of plants as more than an aesthetic addition to the garden.

“Plants provide vital habitats for local birds and animals, and the type of plant determines the fauna it attracts.

“As a community, we have a large impact on the environment and it is up to us to choose whether  we have a positive or negative impact.

“Removing environmental weeds from the garden and coastal habitats is a great start to environmental stewardship,” he said.

Flowering Samphires at Painkalac Creek, Aireys Inlet is a native plant.
Samphires (pictured here in flower at Painkalac Creek, Aireys Inlet)  are perfect for coastal environments.

Weed eradication programs are a vital component of GORCC’s extensive conservation effort to protect and enhance fragile habitats along the coast.

Local schools and environmental volunteer groups actively contribute to GORCC’s conservation effort and dedicate hundreds of hours each year to coastal protection works.

Coastal volunteers in action
Coastal volunteers in action along the Surf Coast

For more information on what plants are weeds (and what alternatives to plant in your garden), check out the  Weeds of the Surf Coast Shire booklet.

Want to do more?  Environmental volunteer groups operate right along our beautiful coast.  For more information,  click here.

Want to purchase some indigenous plants or get a helping hand?  Otways Indigenous Nursery in Aireys Inlet is a great place to start.

Have you identified any weeds in your garden?

Research highlights vital hoodie sites

New research conducted by Deakin University and Birdlife Australia has found that endangered Hooded Plovers select breeding locations based on food availability.

The research compared 56 different beach sites in Victoria and collected more than 7,500 invertebrates to determine the potential food source available at each location.

Study sites along the Victorian coast, between Nelson and Lake Reeve, Gippsland Lakes. Photo: Anna Cuttriss
Study sites along the Victorian coast, between Nelson and Lake Reeve, Gippsland Lakes.
Photo: Anna Cuttriss

Deakin University Honours student Anna Cuttriss worked with Birdlife Australia examine known breeding sites and sites where Hooded Plover’s had not been recorded.

Researchers collecting invertebrate samples using pitfall traps along the Victorian coastline. Photo: Mike Weston
Researchers collecting invertebrate samples using pitfall traps along the Victorian coastline.
Photo: Mike Weston

Birdlife Australia’s Coast and Marine Program Manager Grainne Maguire, who co-supervised the research, said the findings were significant.

“This information will assist in the identification of potential breeding sites and help us to better understand how many Hooded Plovers should ideally exist in Victoria.

“An abundance of food was found in the vicinity of known breeding sites and these sites were largely dominated by amphipods (such as sand hoppers) whereas non-inhabited sites hosted more beetles,”

Hooded Plovers are tagged to track their nesting locations. Photo: Mike Weston
Hooded Plovers were tagged by Birdlife Australia to monitor and identify hooded plover breeding sites.
Photo: Mike Weston

The quantity of Hooded Plover food available on beaches across Victoria varies immensely, highlighting the importance of the current known breeding sites which are limited in number.

Deakin University Senior Lecturer in Wildlife and Conservation Biology Mike Weston said Hooded Plover’s have limited breeding capacity and need help to survive.

“This research has provided insight to how much habitat is actually suitable for Hooded Plovers and the types of food sources they look for when breeding.

“There are so many people in the community engaged in the conservation effort and this research is another piece of the jigsaw,” he said.

Great Ocean Road Coat Committee (GORCC) Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale worked tirelessly with volunteers last breeding season to protect three breeding sites on GORCC managed land.

It was estimated that the Friends of the Hooded Plover Surf Coast volunteers have donated over 1,800 hours of their time working to protect chicks.

Volunteers built huts to shelter nesting hooded plovers at Eastern View.
Volunteers built huts to shelter nesting hooded plovers at Eastern View.

“As a community we need to work together to conserve these known breeding sites and give the Hooded Plovers the best chance of survival.

“The research confirms that these local breeding sites are vital for the ‘Hoodies’,” Ms Beale said.

The full research paper will be published in CSIRO Marine and Freshwater Research Journal later this year.

Hooded Plovers are listed as vulnerable under the Environment Protection Biodiversity and Conservation Act 1999 and have one of the lowest survival rates of any species in the world.

More information on Hooded Plovers is available at our Save the Hoodie website.

Are you interested in helping our wonderful volunteers protect our precious hoodies? Click here for more information about volunteering in the Surf Coast.

Eco burn for Jan Juc cliffs

Jan Juc Coast Action (JJCA) has partnered with the local CFA to conduct an ecological burn as part of a trial to investigate how important grasslands respond to different treatments.

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Torquay CFA volunteers performing controlled ecological burns at Jan Juc

A five year ecological burn plan has been developed between JJCA group and Torquay CFA in an effort to optimise the flora vegetation at the Jan Juc cliffs.

The conservation plan is designed to increase overall biodiversity in the area by allowing plants time to set seed before the second fire.

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Local CFA volunteer monitors the planned burn to ensure the fire remains under control.

Australian flora needs fire for plants to seed and regenerate evolving from thousands of years of controlled burns by Indigenous Australians.

JJCA Chairperson – Luke Hynes is hopeful the ecological burns will improve the coastal vegetation along the cliffs and was grateful for the local CFA support.

“Our main challenge organising the ecological burns was finding a day to complete the burn when the weather is appropriate.

“We rely on fantastic local CFA volunteers to undertake the burns and really appreciate the time they put in,” he said.

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Six CFA volunteers helped clear the tussock grasses to create space for other native species.

The fire creates space between native grasses which allows smaller, indigenous herbs and plants room to grow.

Torquay CFA Captain, Phil Campbell was pleased at the outcome of the ecological burn, and said that the day was well organised and uncomplicated.

“We were very lucky with the wind and weather conditions. It was a coincidence that the weather on the day was perfect for burning, which made it a lot easier for us to control,” he said.

Mr Hynes is eager to see the results from the initial burn and hopes more native species will grow in the area.

“The Jan Juc cliffs were revegetated over 10 years ago with positive results, so hopefully we will be able to see a larger variety of herbs and grasses regrow along the cliffs,” he said.

The JJCA group is particularly interested in whether the fire will increase populations of the native rare orchid, Swamp Diuris, in the area.

Funds has been provided by the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne to collect and grow seeds of the rare orchid and the JJCA group hopes the ecological burn will improve the populace.

The JJCA group works to preserve and revegetate the Jan Juc coastline with Indigenous species and the removal of environmental weeds.

Ongoing environmental conservation works are being conducted in the are to help combat erosion, pest invasion and the provision of tracks and lookouts.

Check out the JJCA Facebook page to keep up to date with what’s happening along the cliffs.

Are you fire ready for this summer? Share your tips of how you keep your home safe in the comments below.