Monitoring coastal erosion in Anglesea

The Great Ocean Road coast is constantly changing.

While Victoria has a long history of weather variability such as storms, droughts and floods, climate change is projected to increase risks to coastal environments through drivers such as sea-level rise, change in wave-direction and increases in swell energy and storm tide events. These drivers affect coastal erosion, sediment supply and inundation and are expected to vary geographically across Victoria’s coastal zone.

The Victorian Coastal Monitoring Program (VCMP) aims to provide communities with information on coastal condition, change, hazards, and the expected longer-term impacts associated with climate change that will support decision making and adaptation planning. Read more

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.

Seagrass secrets uncovered

Researchers are uncovering the secrets of seagrasses in Port Phillip Bay and Victoria as part of a collaborative study into this vital part of our marine ecosystem.

The project includes researchers from Melbourne University, the University of Tasmania, the Sydney University of Technology and Deakin University and is funded by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DEWLP).

2011-11-24 10.51.03-1
Seagrass in Port Phillip Bay. Photo: Tim Smith


The project aims to understand the resilience, reproductive biology and genetics of seagrass which is a primary producer – playing an important role as an ‘ecosystem engineer’.

Seagrasses recycle nutrients in the water and stabilise the marine environment helping to promote biodiversity and protect habitat.

Similar to the way in which coral reefs provide habitat in Queensland, seagrass colonies are part of vital habitat for a range of fauna species such as the King George Whiting, Australian Salmon and Pipefish.

Sieving seagrass sediment sample to look for seeds. Photo: Tim Smith
Sieving seagrass sediment sample to look for seeds. Photo: Tim Smith

Deakin University School of Life and Environmental Sciences Senior Lecturer, Craig Sherman said researchers were initially unsure of what the study would uncover.

“We discovered more seagrass diversity than expected in our research which helps us understand the regeneration processes in the bay.

“Diversity is essential for environmental adaptation which is why it is important for us to gain a greater insight about the processes that maintain seagrass populations.

“This research helps us understand the fluctuations in populations and how the seagrass responds to different influences,” said Mr Sherman.

Dr Paul York cutting  seagrass sample for research. Photo: Tim Smith
Researcher Dr Paul York cutting some seagrass samples for research. Photo: Tim Smith

Deakin University postdoctoral researcher, Tim Smith also worked on the project, examining the recovery times of seagrass in Port Phillip Bay.

“Our research showed that the Geelong arm is an important source of seagrass in Port Phillip Bay with high levels of seed production which suggests it is a ‘source site’.

“Seagrass is a really important ecosystem, so we need to understand its recovery mechanisms to ensure seagrass in Port Phillip Bay can recover from disturbances and environmental change in the future.

“It is particularly important to identify ‘source sites’ of seagrass that can enhance threatened sites so that they can be managed accordingly,” Mr Smith said.

Cut seagrass for research. Photo: Tim Smith
Cut seagrass for research. Photo: Tim Smith

This article appeared in the Surf Coast Times Greening the Coast column.


Interested in learning more about seagrass? Watch the video below to find out more.

Related Blogs

Northern Pacific Seastar (Asterias Amurensis) adult. Photo: Mark RichardsonResearch reveals pest’s adaptive abilities

Beacon Ecologist Luke Hynes helps GORCC conservation supervisor Georgie Beale and Snapshot of the coast

volunteering summerCommunity vital to coast research

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.

Snapshot of the coast

A new monitoring program is set to identify what fauna species are living on our coastal reserves and measure the success of ongoing conservation works.

The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) is working with volunteer groups to establish a monitoring system which will gather data using a range of techniques including infrared cameras, and mammal surveys.

Flora surveying will also be conducted, with transect lines and photo points to be set up on conservation sites.

Beacon Ecologist Luke Hynes helps GORCC conservation supervisor Georgie Beale and
Beacon Ecologist Luke Hynes helps GORCC conservation supervisor Georgie Beale and Evan Francis set up a transect line.

GORCC Environmental Projects Manager, Alex Sedger said that the program will provide an in-depth analysis of the different species living along the coast and help GORCC and volunteers to develop conservation strategies.

“It is important that we are able to quantify the fauna in the area to direct resources in the best strategic way.

“Our conservation has primarily focused on weed control and pest eradication, so it will be interesting to analyse what impact our work is having on the environment,” Ms Sedger said.

A bandicoot captured on infrared cameras.

GORCC has engaged local consultant Luke Hynes from Beacon Ecological to assist with the revision and implementation of the organisation’s Native Vegetation and Weed Action Plan.

Mr Hynes, who recommended the implementation of a monitoring system, said the infrared cameras are an important tool in evaluating the health of the environment.

“The data collected from the cameras will provide valuable information for GORCC’s land management and will help educate volunteer groups about the animals in the area,” Mr Hynes said.

The cameras will be set up in several different locations to record both native and pest animal activity in each area.

Parks Victoria has successfully used infrared cameras in the Otways region and most recently in Wilsons Promontory to monitor fauna, capturing a number of native animals including endangered and threated species.

“The results of their research is very encouraging and we hope the monitoring we undertake in our local area will have similar results,” Ms Sedger said.

It is hoped that the cameras will also capture feral pests with a particular focus on their impact on vulnerable species such as the Hooded Plover.

Ms Sedger said the project would include collaboration with the many environmental volunteer groups working on the GORCC –managed coast.

“Volunteers are very keen to see this type of monitoring take place and we are looking forward to working with them and supporting their invaluable work,” she said.

More information on environmental volunteering is available at

What do you think about the new monitoring systems? Have your say below.

Australia’s dirtiest beaches exposed!

Research conducted by the CSIRO has determined Australia’s dirtiest beaches.

The two year survey, which investigated over 175 beaches, revealed that Border Village, on the coast between Western Australia and South Australia was the dirtiest beach in Australia. Pearse’s Road Beach claimed the title of Victoria’s filthiest beach.

Beach detritus
Beach litter and marine debris are a serious issue. Follow some easy steps and will make a positive impact on the issue.

The CSIRO study revealed that more than 150 million pieces of litter across Australia’s coastline.

Plastics were found to be the most prominent form of litter across Australian beaches, which can have serious repercussions on marine wildlife and coastal environments.

Great Ocean Road Coast Committee Conservation (GORCC) Supervisor Georgie Beale believes this should be a reminder to keep our own local beaches pristine.

“While our coastal beaches are far better than some in terms of cleanliness, there is always room for improvement,” she said.

There are a numerous ways you can ensure the cleanliness of our beautiful beaches.

  • Dispose of waste correctly in the bins provided around the coast
  • Take your rubbish with you when leaving the beach
  • Dispose of recyclable material correctly
  • Ensure that fishing gear and supplies are not left behind on beaches
  • Report any entangled marine life
  • Join a local volunteer group on a beach clean up

“We all play a part in keeping our beaches pollution free for everyone to enjoy,” Ms Beale said.

Below is full a list of the dirtiest and cleanest beaches of each state in Australia:

  • New South Wales:
    Dirtiest: Shelly Beach, Manly
    Cleanest: Red Rock Beach, NSW North Coast
  • Northern Territory:
    Dirtiest: Cape Arnhem
    Cleanest: Cape Hay
  • Queensland:
    Dirtiest: Barney Point Beach
    Cleanest: Mackay
  • South Australia:
    Dirtiest: Border Village (SA)
    Cleanest: Nora Creina
  • Tasmania:
    Dirtiest: East Kangaroo Island (West Gulch)
    Cleanest: Cape Grim
  • Victoria:
    Dirtiest: Pearse’s Road Beach
    Cleanest: Gibbs Track Beach, Lakes Entrance
  • Western Australia:
    Dirtiest: Ellensbrook Beach
    Cleanest: 80 Mile Beach

For more information on keeping our coast clean and volunteer opportunities, click here.

Get outside! Nature nutures health

Spending time in the natural environment results in improvements to mental, physical and social health.

Research highlights the link between the environment and our health, including a 2010 project undertaken by Deakin University, which found that psychological benefits stem from engaging with outdoor open spaces.

Get out and about on our beautiful coast! Its great for physical and mental health.
Get out and about on our beautiful coast! Its great for physical and mental health.

These benefits include improved mood, lower levels of anxiety, lower stress levels, lower levels of depression and increased physical activity.

Active in Parks, a Healthy Parks – Healthy People Program, is fostered by People and Parks Foundation, Barwon Medicare Local, G21 and Parks Victoria, while Medibank Community Fund is the program’s major sponsor.

Active in Parks co-ordinator Jayde Mulder said the initiative aimed to connect people to their local parks and outdoor spaces to enhance their physical and mental health.

“Parks provide a place for community connectedness, establishing social relationships and engaging in physical activity which can all have positive effects on people’s physical and mental health.

“The Active in Parks initiative provides various outdoor programs for all ages including, exercise classes, walking groups and adventure activities for kids which are all fantastic ways of staying active and engaging with your local environment.”

Coastal volunteering is another great way to experience these physical and psychological benefits.

The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) recognises this link and works to immerse schools and other groups in the natural coastal environment.

Coastal volunteering is a fantastic way to not only reap mental and physical health benefits, but to meet people as well.
Coastal volunteering is a fantastic way to not only reap mental and physical health benefits, but to meet people as well.

The committee also supports and works with a variety of environmental volunteer groups.

GORCC conservation officer Georgina Beale said coastal volunteering not only benefited our environment, but our health and wellbeing as well.

“Coastal volunteering increases physical fitness and gives people a sense of belonging and pride.”

Volunteers can participate in a range of conservation tasks including weeding, revegetation, and monitoring native birds and animals. “Volunteer groups such as Friends of Taylors Park, Friends of Eastern Otway’s and Friends of Queens Park in Lorne are always looking for extra hands to help protect and enhance the environment,” Ms Beale said.

“Get involved! It’s not just good for the coast, it’s great for you, too.

“From meeting new people through to getting some exercise, there are so many reasons to get involved.”

More information about environmental volunteering is available here.

For more information about Active in Parks, head to

This article featured in the Surf Coast Time’s fortnightly Green the Coast column.  View the article here.

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.

Next steps to realising our future

The forum generated various ideas for the next steps that could be taken towards realising our future aspirations as coast carers. These ideas could be grouped into four key themes.

In the conversations we have from now onwards, we need to:

  • continue to talk about the BIG questions that we hold and find ways of communicating the key messages simply – with each other and with others (e.g. Why is our work important? What does it matter?)
  • create opportunities for more conversations between our community and the various agencies involved in coast care
  • look for opportunities where people are gathering to talk about related topics (e.g. fire management) and draw links to our purpose and activities, and
  • reframe the language we use when communicating with others (e.g. refer to ‘vegetation’ as ‘habitat’ – see Birds Australia publications for good examples of simple, accessible language).

We also need to use the stories we share as a foundation to:

  • create an ‘interpretive story’ for visitors to experience on the soon-to-be-built Surf Coast Walk
  • set a mission that everyone shares the stories (i.e. what we do and why) with as many people as we can and then invite them to join us in taking action
  • capture and share the great stories that we all know about (and start to actively collect these stories in words, photos and video), and
  • use our broader network to create its own online space that is accessible and simple, and allows local groups to upload and share stories, photos, event details, questions and video.

In the work we do together, we can start to:

  • fund and prioritise ongoing monitoring programs to inform our learning and outcomes
  • make our activities more visible to other people, starting with working bees and other activities on the Great Ocean Road (Note: during the forum, Coast Action/Coastcare provided a sign template that groups could use to promote their activities)
  • start to research and document (e.g. in a story) the extent to which we are ‘winning or losing’ the battle to save key ecosystem species/the war against environmental weed species, and
  • begin looking to the philanthropic sector as a possible funding source for our projects (e.g.

By networking more we could:

  • find a central point of contact that works across all the agencies (e.g. Coast Action/Coastcare)
  • update our own lists of all current volunteer groups, starting with centralised information sources (e.g. Surf Coast Shire, Great Ocean Road Coast Committee), and
  • make the effort to do more ‘volunteer exchanges’ when doing on-ground works.

If we focus on implementing some or all of these ideas as we talk, share, work together and network, we will move forward together and achieve more on-ground success in caring for the coast!

Sending a message

Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the protection and enhancement of Australia’s oceans, waves and beaches for all people through conservation, activism, research and education.

Marine debris is a key Surfrider initiative due to its detrimental impacts on marine and coastal environments, particularly animal and bird life. The foundation’s focus is on empowering individuals and community groups at the local level to proactively remove and reduce the amount of marine debris through local beach cleanups and community education activities.

The initiative engages volunteers, community groups, industry and government agencies, and other environmental organisations in making a positive and sustainable impact on marine debris. Locally-based Surfrider Foundation community groups are responsible for beach clean-ups in their own areas, including along the Surf Coast.

These activities help to protect and conserve our precious marine and coastal environments for future generations, which includes safer habitat for indigenous fauna. There is also a strong emphasis on creating awareness in the community.

The initiative highlights:

  • the importance of data gathering and analysis in helping to address sources of marine debris
  • the value of social responsibility and education, and
  • the need to actively engage with the community to create positive social change.

Story provided by Kristy Theissling, General Manager, Surfrider Foundation (Australia)