As part of a collaborative venture between Tangaroa Blue Foundation, Reef Catchments and Reef Check Australia students embarked on a journey of a lifetime known as the Marine Classroom. Students jumped aboard the SV Whitehaven and headed out to the spectacular Mackay Islands to learn about the impacts of marine debris, weeding and pest management, and reef monitoring methodologies.
Over the course of 2021 there were two scheduled marine classrooms. Marine debris expert Mathilde took on the battling winds, swell and rain earlier this year, during the first instalment of the program in April. The testing weather conditions did not dampen the students from Sarina State High School’s enthusiasm as they conducted reef surveys with Jenni from Reef Check Australia, pulled out invasive weeds with Carlos and Steve from Reef Catchments and cleaned up the 1km of beach along Scawfell Island, entering what was found into the Australian Marine Debris Initiative Database with Tangaroa Blue staff. Some of the most interesting debris items audited from surrounding beaches included a foreign flare which had been lit as well as a number of foreign plastic water bottles that looked almost brand new!
Weather conditions were described as perfect by Tangaroa Blue team member Kara-mae, during the second instalment of the program in September. Students from Mackay North State High School engaged in a beach clean-up activity, covering a 1.5km stretch of beach along Brampton Island collecting a total of 33.5kgs of marine debris. Students were able to determine sources of foreign bottles and learn about the importance of preventing the debris from entering the environment through discussions about source reduction. Sally and Clara from Reef Catchments highlighted many of the invasive weeds on the island, such as Pink Periwinkle, Snakeweed and Cobbler’s Pegs. Many students learnt the hard way about how weeds can easily spread during the tedious task of removing the Cobbler’s Pegs seeds from their clothing. Jenni from ReefCheck highlighted the importance of Citizen Science through the explanation of three different methods of reef monitoring techniques.
It is one thing to learn about environmental impacts and how they can be managed from a lecture slide, however it is another thing to experience it first hand in the field. The marine classroom program sparked passion from students at both schools;
“I’ve come here because I love being in the ocean and I want to make sure it’s protected for future generations”
“It was very interesting to hear about the AMDI database. In the future I will use it to log any debris items I find during a clean-up activity. We (the school) do these kinds of activities often”
This Reef Catchments Marine Classroom project received grant funding from the Australian Government through the Australian Heritage Grants Program. The charter vessel component of the Marine Classroom project is funded through the Queensland Government’s Reef Assist Program and delivered by Reef Catchments and the crew aboard the SV Whitehaven.