Posted on 26/04/2017 by Phillip Island Nature Parks

Local students ‘turning the tide’ on marine debris

Students right across the Gippsland region are on the frontline in tackling the serious issue of marine debris, thanks to Phillip Island Nature Parks and its ‘Turn the Tide’ marine debris education program.

“This enquiry based student program engages and inspires students to take action at school, at home, and in their local communities”, said Kim Dunstan, Education Coordinator with Phillip Island Nature Parks. “Thanks to a $20,000 grant received through Sustainability Victoria’s Litter Innovation Fund in 2016, our Education rangers have nearly completed Stage One of the program by visiting four schools in the region so far, with one school still to visit in Term Two.”

The first stage of the program establishes a benchmark of the students’ prior knowledge of the issue of marine debris through a questionnaire, followed by a waste audit and observation survey. The ranger presentations include footage and images which are sometimes emotive, and use local connections to enable students to relate more easily and become motivated to change their behaviours.

Students are then introduced to the idea of developing their own conservation action plans which can be implemented in their schools or local communities. “Local beach and waterway monitoring and clean-ups, recycling, composting, nude food and the formation of school sustainability committees are just some of the action plan ideas the students have come up with so far,” said Kim.

Stage Two of the ‘Turn the Tide’ program includes an excursion to Phillip Island for students to take their classroom learning and ideas out into the field in Term Two. They will conduct marine debris surveys on island beaches and analyse their results. One of the highlights of the excursion is bound to be a trip on the EcoBoat out to Seal Rocks to see first-hand the effects of entanglements and marine debris on the natural environment.

A visit to the informative and interactive Antarctic Journey will allow the students to immerse themselves into the fragile habitats they are seeking to protect, and to gain further inspiration for the development and implementation of their action plans, which is the final stage of the program.

“The grant we received through the Litter Innovation Fund allows us to fully fund our rangers to visit the schools, as well as the schools’ visits to Phillip Island including their transport, ride on the EcoBoat and entry to the Antarctic Journey,” said Kim. “We are thrilled that the Nature Parks ‘Turn the Tide’ program turns theories and ideas into tangible actions that will provide a real benefit and positive outcome to our marine wildlife and environment.”