Youth-Led Mangrove Conservation in the Great Barrier Reef

Over the 2021 Easter break, Year 11 and 12 Mackay Christian College Youth Ambassadors set out on the SV Whitehaven vessel to explore Goldsmith Island, focusing on mangrove ecosystems in connection to their environmental interests and studies. They were joined by Wildmob/Silkwood School Youth Ambassador alumni, who assisted as mentors on this conservation project.

During this three-day expedition, the Mackay Christian College and Wildmob/Silkwood School alumni Youth Ambassador groups connected in this beautiful environment to share their joint passion for conservation. To further the cycle of learning and growth, experienced and emerging Youth Ambassadors worked together, engaging through mentorship to fulfil the goals of their important project.

Ambassador and mentor Waimarie reflected on the opportunity, ‘With the past Youth Ambassadors engaging with the future Youth Ambassadors, we were able to showcase that no matter where life takes you post-school, you can still be involved in conservation project work and continue to carry sustainable practices with you in your everyday life, and find creative ways to keep caring for the environment.’

Mangroves are becoming increasingly vulnerable to degradation from human activity, directly through urbanisation and indirectly through pollution and climate change. Exploring mangroves in adventurous and creative ways highlights the vital roles that these ecosystems play. These include the desalination of nutrients, carbon sequestration and minimising erosion through the stabilisation of shorelines. Mangroves act as a living barrier between the land and the sea, providing a habitat for marine animals including fish, sea turtles, crustaceans and stingrays.

The young team explored the beauty and wonder of mangroves in the Great Barrier Reef Islands through scientific inquiry and surveys, artistic engagement and conservation activities to support this crucial coastal ecosystem. They collected and audited over 5000 pieces of marine debris scattered along the turtle nesting beaches of Shaw Island and Goldsmith Island and sent the data through to Tangaroa Blue, an organisation which manages the Australian Marine Debris Initiative Database.

Ambassador and mentor Ryan Reynolds had this to say, ‘I understand how hard grade 11 and 12 can be as I have just recently graduated myself, so taking the time to come on an expedition like this during school holidays shows just how passionate and eager these Mackay students are. This trip has been one of the most amazing experiences, from getting to mentor other youth and continuing to learn more about the Cumberland island regions, which has helped me to develop an even deeper connection with reef ecosystems.’

Youth Ambassadors would like to highlight some ways that people can help protect mangroves.

  • Collect and audit litter and marine debris in and around mangrove habitats;
  • Remove invasive plant species in nesting areas along the shoreline;
  • Be eco-conscious and practice biosecurity when travelling through the Great Barrier
  • Reef Islands;
  • Speak up and be a mangrove advocate for positive, social change.

The main message that Youth Ambassadors want to share is: Adventure with a purpose, learn about crucial ecosystems and do things that matter. It’s our turn to change the tide!

Youth Ambassador and mentor Zali Rae created a short 3-minute film to celebrate this unique project


Article written by Youth Ambassadors and mentor Charlie-Jane Hamblyn and Zara McConachy


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