On the 23rd and 24th of October, the 2305ENV class of 2017 undertook their field work on glorious North Stradbroke Island. Students spent one day on the water off Point Look-out shadowing the biopsy collection activities of the long-term humpback the whale sentinel monitoring project, conducted under Griffith University’s Southern Ocean Persistent Organic Pollutants Program (SOPOPP) https://www.griffith.edu.au/environment-planning-architecture/southern-ocean-persistent-organic-pollutants-program.
Four lucky students had the opportunity to experience this bi-annual event up-close to the action, on board the research vessel, whilst the rest of the group tracked closely behind on a follow vessel. Students were tasked with recording whale pod composition, whale behaviour, and response to the tracking boats and biopsy darting. The capture of fluke photographs for researchers working on population fluke-ID was also encouraged. Late October usually captures the tail-end of the humpback whale migration at these latitudes, however, our group was spoiled with good weather, plenty of whales and numerous frolicking calves.
On the second day, students had an opportunity to explore the diversity of marine megafauna that Moreton Bay supports. Species surveys were conducted from Point Look-out, with students observing a rare Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin with calf; manta ray; green turtles; white-bellied sea-eagle; brahminy kite; whistling kite, and, of course, humpback whales. Students were lucky enough to have raptor and turtle experts, Vicky Thomson and Amanda Dawson, as course tutors for this field component, to share their wealth of knowledge. Students were asked to consider the species-specific ecologies and life-histories of the species they observed, and on the basis of those, consider and discuss the anthropogenic pressures of greatest direct relevance and impact.
Selected photographs by Nicolas Rakotopare (Freelance wildlife photographer (instagram.com/lerako); past field volunteer, and Griffith University B.Sc. (Ecology & Conservation Biology) graduate, 2011)