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In-Shore Exploring


Ian Dudley

Cruising the shorelines with a bunch of passionate marine biologists.

Today started off pretty slow, but that was okay. After dinner and a shower last night I ended up sitting around the Caravan Park campfire yarning with Brendon, Isaac & Scott, the Far West Coast Aboriginal Corporation Rangers. We talked about their work as rangers, their personal interests in the different things living on their Country, and particular cultural protocols to follow and places to avoid when working on Indigenous lands and waters. Of course, we also covered general stuff that outback blokes talk about in their down time too; like football, cars, fishing and how good the Fowler’s Bay Pizza chef is!

It was a good way to unwind after a busy day, but suddenly we realised it was past 11 and time for bed. Combined with the fact it was the windiest night yet, I ended up having a bit of a sleep in (till 7 am at least) and a late breakfast. Luckily though, I already new this would be okay. The team I had been assigned to for the day, the Marine Invertebrates (sea bugs) crew, need low tide to do their work, so they weren’t in a rush either.

Further contributing to the lazy morning, the first site we were working on was the Jetty, a whole 50 metres away from the campsite. The plan was to scrape the sides of the jetty pylons to gather all the algae, seaweed, mussels, barnacles and tubeworm crust off, then search through that in the sorting trays back at base camp and see what was living in it. Scientists Sabine (from Germany), Orlando (from Mexico) and Rachel (from Melbourne) were keen to see what was there, in terms of both native and potential introduced species. Rachel reckoned jetties are often the first place foreign marine species get established, because of ships coming and going from distant ports. This means they are good sites for scientists and management organisations like PIRSA to analyse.

Unfortunately though, the tide was still too high, and even by 8am the sea was so choppy that the nets we were trying to use weren’t long enough to get down to where the living stuff was on the pylons. Instead, Sabine & Orlando moved to ‘Plan B’; they briefly waded out from the beach to collect some other samples and we then carried them back to the lab to sort.

Like both other days so far (spider expert Jess, from yesterday, is from England, and I told you where the botany crew were from the day before), it was fascinating finding out what it was that got people into careers in science, and how they have ended up living and working in different states or even whole different countries. So always remember that if you like the natural world, outside work and travel, then a career in science could be for you!

After that, it was approaching low tide, so we headed out to Cheetima Beach to investigate the rocky shores there. Because of the howling onshore wind and solid swell, lots of reef platforms were still underwater, but I was able to help scientists Jasper & Ollie collect a range of limpets, sea snails, barnacles, chitons and crabs off the rocks. Ben, one of the BHP workers who is on the trip, also found a kind of skink really close to the high tide mark.

He’s still waiting for the reptile experts to get back to base camp as I type, but we reckon it is probably a coastal species that is listed as ‘rare’ in SA. The guide book I have says it should be found around Elliston as well, but I’ve definitely never seen one!

Apart from that, talking to our team leader Hannah about science was also really interesting. She’s an Eyre Peninsula local as well – from Port Lincoln – and so we spent some time discussing how we could collectively get more young locals aware of possible careers in science.

Other cool things today included seeing a few uncommon birds, finding a tiny flowering fringe-lily growing really close to the beach (something the botanists might be interested in) and losing a crab catching contest with Jasper. I caught the first one quickly, but his was bigger, and had both claws. Then again, his latched on to his finger, and even through his 2mm wetsuit glove it looked like it hurt, so maybe I won after all?