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.

Research reveals pest’s adaptive abilities

New research has confirmed that an invasive species is rapidly adapting to different ecosystems along the coast, allowing it to spread fast and threatening the health of the marine environment.

A team of Deakin University researchers have been studying the Northern Pacific Seastar (Asterias amurensis) in Australia to better understand its potential to expand its geographical range.

Northern Pacific Seastar (Asterias Amurensis) adult. Photo: Mark Richardson
Northern Pacific Seastar (Asterias Amurensis) adult. Photo: Mark Richardson

The invasive seastar species originates from Japan and is a voracious predator which has a major impact on the marine food chain, devastating marine wildlife.

Deakin University PhD student Mark Richardson has been conducting research to test whether its larvae have the ability to cope with elevated water temperatures, which may determine the seastar’s potential range.

“The experiments have established that Northern Pacific Seastar larvae from Port Phillip Bay have several genetic differences that allow them to adapt to the local environment.

Northern Pacific Seastar larvae viewed under a microscope in the experiment to analyse its adaptive abilities. Photo: Mark Richardson
Northern Pacific Seastar larvae viewed under a microscope in the experiment to analyse its adaptive abilities. Photo: Mark Richardson

“The same experiments were performed on native Japanese Northern Pacific Seastars to evaluate their genetic profiles and see whether the individuals living in Australia have developed greater tolerance to higher water temperatures.

“The results indicate the Northern Pacific Seastars in Australia have a higher ability to thrive in elevated water temperatures compared to the native Japanese individuals”, Mr Richardson said.

The heightened ability for the seastar to adapt to different water temperatures could pose a threat to the native marine wildlife along the East Coast of Australia.

The Northern Pacific Seastar spreads through ocean currents and could infest waters eastwards from Port Phillip Bay along the coast.

Project leader Dr. Craig Sherman from Deakin University’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences, said the experiments conducted on seastar larvae would improve understanding about this invasive species in Australia.

“From this research we have developed a better understanding about how seastar populations are connected and how this species is adapting and spreading along the coast.

“We are interested in the ecological impacts the seastar is having on marine communities and the rapid evolution the seastar undertakes to survive in the environment,” said Dr Sherman.

The water temperature research will be able to provide information for future marine pest management strategies in Australia.

Marine pests threaten our local marine environments. To find out more about what marine pests to look out for click here.

Cool creeks for kids

Seven organisations have  worked together to bring  environmental education alive for 170 local students as part of National Water Week and in celebration of 20 years of Waterwatch.

Gemma McNaughton and Charli Bechmann from Anglesea Primary School.
Gemma McNaughton and Charli Bechmann from Anglesea Primary School.

The ‘Creek Connections’ event, which was  hosted by the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority (CCMA) at Spring Creek,  saw the students learn about local water catchments.

The day involved volunteers and staff from Waterwatch, The Marine and Freshwater Discovery Centre, the Wathaurung Aboriginal Corporation, The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC), Estuarywatch and EcoLogic.

Grade 3 and 4 students from St Therese Primary School, Torquay P-6 College, Lorne Aireys P-12 College and Anglesea Primary School enjoyed everything from  ‘water bugs’ sessions and  ‘estuary discoveries’ through to a ‘walk and talk’ with Wathaurung Elder Bryon Powell.

GORCC Conservation Officer, Georgina Beale who helped to host a ‘recycle relay’ and conduct planting sessions in  threatened Moonah Woodlands  said students learnt about keeping water catchments healthy.

“The kids learnt about the interconnectedness of our catchments, rivers, estuary and marine environments and the protection and conservation  of our river systems and their dependent eco systems,” she said.

Students worked tirelessly to create water bug costumes out of recycled items for the ‘Terrific Transformer bugs Creative Costume Challenge’ in the lead up to the event.

Winners  of the best costume prize received special computer microscopes which will allow their whole class to view water bugs up close on a large screen.

Waterwatch Facilitator, Cate Barham said the diverse range of activities aimed to encourage students to develop an appreciation and understanding  of marine, estuarine and freshwater environments and  Wathaurung culture.

“Everything we do in our catchment can have an impact on our waterways. If you drop a piece of litter, it will eventually find its way to a waterway and then out to the ocean, where it can have devastating effects on our marine life,” she said.

Waterwatch Victoria recognises that only 22% of Victoria’s rivers are considered in good or excellent condition, highlighting the need for action to protect and maintain the health of our local water catchments.

Ms Barham encourages other community members to become active in protecting and caring for their local water catchments by joining a Landcare, Coastcare or Friends group in their area.

“We are all responsible for caring for our catchments and hopefully others will feel inspired by the enthusiastic efforts of our Creek Connections ambassadors,” she said.

This article appeared in the Surf Coast Times Green the Coast Column

Related blogs:

Discover what’s intriguing about estuaries

EstuaryWatch volunteers monitor Erskine

Students think local for national event

Finding the source of rubbish

Have you ever considered where the piece of plastic blowing on the beach came from? A team of dedicated  reasearch scientists have made it their mission to trace  rubbish and debris on our beaches back to it’s source.

This research is being conducted to better understand the impact of debris on marine eco-systems.

The team of marine scientists led by CSIRO Research Scientist Dr Britta Denise Hardesty are stopping every 100km around the Australian coastline to catalogue rubbish and debris.

Dr Hardesty said debris collected during the surveys will be analysed by looking for barcodes and other identifying markers to determine its origin.

This picture was taken at Rye Beach. Photo courtesy of the CSIRO

“This research will allow us to determine the distribution of marine debris and whether the debris comes from land based sources or washes in from the sea.

Information about the sources of this rubbish and debris will help create a national map of areas where marine wildlife is likely to encounter debris and determine which animals are most at risk of harm.

“Information about the sources of this rubbish and debris will help create a national map of areas where marine wildlife is likely to encounter debris and determine which animals are most at risk of harm,” she said.

Studies by CSIRO and other research organisations have revealed more than 270 species of marine animals are affected by marine debris worldwide.

This YouTube clip demonstrates why it’s important to make sure you dispose of rubbish correctly.

How can you contribute to the surveys?

Dr. Hardesty said community and volunteer groups can help protect the environment by providing information about the rubbish they collect from beaches to the TeachWild National Marine Debris Database Project.

So far the surveys have revealed even beaches in remote areas can have debris, whilst it is more common to find debris on beaches within easy access of populations centres or towns.

What’s happening on the Surf Coast to reduce marine debris?

President of local environmental volunteer group, Surfers Appreciating the Natural Environment (SANE) Graeme Stockton said there are lots of volunteering opportunities on the coast for those interested in protecting the environment.

“As a community we need to be proactive and join local groups who are campaigning to protect the environment,” he said.

A group of Torquay residents have initiated ‘Plastic Bag Free Torquay’ a campaign to ban single use plastic bags in the Torquay area.

Stacie Bobele from ‘Plastic Bag Free Torquay’ said Australians use 16 million plastic bags each day.

“A ban on plastic shopping bags is the easiest way to reduce the amount of plastic which goes into our oceans and landfill areas.

“By bringing re- usable bags each time we shop, we are taking a significant step toward a healthier ocean and healthier environment,” she said.

Rubbish and debris at Hawaii’s Kamilo Beach, often regarded as the dirtiest beach in the world. Photo: Tim Silverwood.

Are there any areas on the Surf Coast that you think need cleaning up? Can you suggest any other ways we can reduce the amount of rubbish on our beaches?

Follow these links to find out more:

Read the CSIRO fact sheet on tackling marine debris.

Learn more about the National Marine Debris Database.

Find out more or become involved with Plastic Bag Free Torquay.

Learn more about the work of Surfers Appreciating the Natural Environment or get involved.

This article appeared in the Surf Coast Times fortnightly Green the Coast Column.

Explore Underwater Victoria

From the comfort of home or even your holiday abode, you can now dive in and explore what lies beneath the waves along the Great Ocean Road without getting wet.

Victorian National Parks Association’s new interactive website, Explore Underwater Victoria, features an amazing collection of underwater photographs and videos, up to date educational resources and group contacts.

As you weave your way along the Great Ocean Road, starting off at Torquay to Apollo Bay, the website showcases the marine national parks and sanctuaries in the area, including the deep water sponge gardens off Point Addis.

Sea Star (Photographer Bill Boyle)
Sea Star (Photographer Bill Boyle)

As you journey further along this spectacular landscape, the underwater arches off Port Campbell are on display as well as the hidden wonders of the Twelve Apostles Marine National Park.

Sea Sweep (Photographer Phillip Doak)
Sea Sweep (Photographer Phillip Doak)

Next up as the end of the Great Ocean Road approaches near Warrnambool images of the majestic Southern Right Whale with calf, Australian Fur Seals and the ledge dwelling Port Jackson Sharks are on display.

Port Jackson Shark ( Photographer Mark Norman)
Port Jackson Shark (Photographer Mark Norman)

The Explore Underwater Victoria website is an initiative of the Victorian National Parks Association with support from Museum Victoria.  The goal with this new website is to raise awareness, understanding and appreciation of Victoria’s natural marine environment as well as associated local coastal and marine activities and how to get involved.

For further information on the Victorian National Parks Association and their marine and coastal campaign visit:

www.vnpa.org.au and to discover more of the hidden wonders of Victoria’s underwater world go to www.exploreunderwater.vnpa.org.au

Or contact: Simon Branigan, Marine & Coastal Project Officer, Victorian National Parks Association, Level 3, 60 Leicester St, Carlton 3053. E-mail: simonb@vnpa.org.au: 03 9341-6508.

Story contributed by the Victorian National Parks Association.

The Surf Coast’s Hidden Wonderland

Most of us are familiar with the local birds who frequent our gardens and we can probably put a name to those visitor’s who fly in during summer and leave before winter begins.  Well the story is the same in the sea.

Living amongst the soft sponge gardens, seagrass meadows or swaying algal forests is a marine wonderland of colourful reef fish, spiky urchins, seastars, crabs and shellfish.  Many are resident all year, feeding and breeding within the habitat in which they live.

The cool ocean waters of Southern Australia are home to an estimated 12,000 species; over 85% are endemic and as such are not found anywhere else in the world.

Reef Watch volunteers have been recording the species they see at their favourite reefs for nearly 10 years, bringing to the surface data on the types and numbers of species found at reef sites along the Victorian coast and in our bays.  Reef Watch Victoria is a project of the Victorian National Parks Association, funded by the Australian Government through Caring for Our Country and Supported by Museum Victoria.

Along the Surf Coast, groups such as the Friends of Point Addis National Park are involved in the programme and have been surveying the parks abundant fish life during the Great Victorian Fish Count, held in December each year.  They have discovered Blue-Throated and Senator Wrasse, Sea Sweep, Banded and Magpie Morwongs, Southern Hulafish, Leatherjackets, Toadfish and Stingrays.  The diversity of fish species paints a picture of a healthy reef providing for the different requirements of the fish.

Leather jacket
Leather jacket

For the past three years, Grade five and six students from Lorne-Aireys P-12, have also been involved in the Great Victorian Fish Count and have had fun surveying the fish under the Lorne Pier.  They have been surprised to find there is quite a variety of fish living under the pier, including stripy Zebra fish, Old Wives and Six-spined Leatherjackets.

6 spine

At the Ingoldsby Reef near Anglesea, divers are able to see an abundance of marine life.  It is one of the longest shallow offshore reefs in Victorian waters and is home to over a hundred species of algae, as well as colourful ascidians, fanlike gorgonian corals and feathery hydroids.

Ocean visitors to the Surf Coast can occasionally be seen breaching the surface, including Humpback and Southern Right Whales, Bottlenose Dolphins and giant pelagic sunfish.  Below the surface, Mulloway, Australian Salmon, Wobbegongs and School sharks move through the reefs on their way to breed in the bays and inlets or to follow the migratory path of their prey as they move with the seasons of the sea.

Reef Watch volunteers also monitor the marine life at their favourite reefs during the year, providing a seasonal snapshot of the species found.  Species lists for each monitored site have been produced, providing a record of the marine biodiversity and complexity of reefs found along the coast.

For further information on Reef Watch Victoria visit

www.reefwatchvic.asn.au or to find out more about the Surf Coasts marine life and community groups, visit http://www.exploreunderwatervictoria.org.au/gallery-8/.

Or contact: Wendy Roberts, Coordinator, Reef Watch Victoria, C/- Museum Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne, 3001. E-mail: info@reefwatchvic.asn.au Tel: 03 8341-7446