Marine life on your mind

img_2093img_2165-1img_2081OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAimg_2120 img_1467 img_1443-1More than 78 lucky senior students from Mackay and the Whitsundays  participated in a marine conservation expedition like no other…

Students from St Catherines College, Sarina, Mackay North, Pioneer, and Mackay State high schools took part in an outdoor education adventure through the Marine Classroom Program, spending four days on Brampton Island, exploring the island ecosystem and the reef.

The Marine Classrooms Program was developed and continues to be delivered through a strong partnership between Reef Catchments and Wild Mob.

Over the past three years, 195 students have participated in this incredible program – with at least two trips planned for early next year.

The program allows students in the region with a passion for the marine environment to learn about marine science and conservation, getting their hands dirty conducting research and undertaking conservation activities with qualified scientists.

“The program focuses on education through practical conservation activities,” said Reef Catchments Coasts and Biodiversity Officer, Jess Berryman.

“Students learn about the real issues affecting their region like – catchment runoff, marine debris, nutrification, cultural heritage and the impacts of a changing climate. The program is an unmatched opportunity for young people to connect with their islands, coast and marine environment.”

Pioneer State High School Marine Science Teacher, Peter Hungerford, said the students got a lot of value from the program.

“There is nothing like visiting local beaches and islands with such enthusiastic and knowledgeable scientists. The experience is invaluable to our students and we are grateful for the ongoing support of Reef Catchments and Wild Mob,” Peter said.

Over the life of the program, students have helped restore over 2 ha of the endangered beach scrub ecosystem and removed over 200 kg of marine debris from critical turtle nesting beaches.

During the last trip of 2016, St Catherines College students were lucky to see two sets of turtle nesting tracks on a beach, reinforcing the need for ongoing management and action on the mainland to protect these high value sites.

Sarina State High students Piper and Jessie had little knowledge of the “many” issues facing our islands, beaches and marine systems until participating in the Marine Classrooms Program.

Sarina State High students worked with Reef Catchments on the mainland to review and report the health of their local beach and provide recommendations for improved management. Sarina High student Dakota highlighted the importance of community stewardship as a solution.