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Celebrating SeaWeek on Cocos (Keeling) Islands – home of the hybrid fish

Posted on: September 7, 2015

Remote, wild and unique, Australia’s external territories of Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands are home to marine species found nowhere else in the world!

Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands lie directly in the middle of the Indo-Pacific and the Indian Ocean Bioregion. These bioregions overlap in an area known as a suture zone, a rare phenomenon in the marine world. Discovery of this suture zone actually came about from the identification of 15 hybrid coral reef fish species; the largest number ever found in the marine environment!

A hybrid species occurs when closely related species mate and produce offspring. In the marine world, when a fish can’t find a member of the same species to mate with, it will mate with a member of a different, but similar, species instead; producing a hybrid species. At the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, the Eibl’s angelfish and the lemonpeel angelfish mate to produce a hybrid (as seen in the images).

Find out more about the uniqueness of Australia’s external territories of Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands in our In Depth – Indian Ocean Territories.

Kim Boothman, Community Education Officer for the Indian Ocean Territories, will be celebrating SeaWeek on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands where she will run school activities with the students from the local school.

Eibl's angelfish

Eibl’s angelfish

Lemonpeel angelfish

Lemonpeel angelfish

Hybrid Eibl's and Lemonpeel

Hybrid Eibl’s and Lemonpeel

It’s the A-Z of ocean organisms in Western Australia!

Posted on: September 5, 2014

Ocean-alphabet-poster-feature-imageWith winter now behind us, you might have started thinking about trips to the beach again! If not, we’re certain you’re looking for resources for Term 4 or maybe you’re making a head start on your planning for 2015. To help with this, we’ve just released a new poster to the Marine WATERs collection – Ocean Alphabet. Check out the A-Z of marine organisms found in WA!

Looking for a way to use this new resource in the classroom? Why not create you own new version of Ocean Bingo.

Additional resources to complement the Ocean Alphabet poster will follow by the end of 2014!

Please note – printed copies of the Ocean Alphabet are not yet available.

Plastic Free July

Posted on: June 28, 2013

Happy volunteers cleaning up between Lefthanders and Ellensbrook Photo: Lauren Scanlon

Happy volunteers cleaning up between Lefthanders and Ellensbrook.
Photo: Lauren Scanlon.

In case you haven’t heard, during the month of July there is a campaign to go plastic free. Plastic Free July is a great way to demonstrate with your students our society’s reliance on plastic products, while at the same time highlighting the damaging effects of plastics in our waterways and oceans. Let’s hear the four R’s of Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle during July and beyond!

In readiness, we have given our Marine WATERs Un-Fantastic Plastic lesson plan a polish up by repairing a few dead links. It’s also good timing to promote another great learning resource produced by our good friends at Tangaroa Blue Foundation. They have recently released a brand new Tangaroa Blue Education Kit, examining one of the greatest threats facing the world’s oceans – marine debris.

Using an inquiry-based teaching and learning model, concepts of consumption, pollution and resolution are investigated with students. This develops an understanding that there is an interrelationship between the Earth’s environment and human activities.

Just like Marine WATERs, the materials are aligned with the Australian Curriculum Science learning area. They also go further into the cross-curricular priorities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and culture, Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia, and sustainability.

Let’s all contribute to solutions for marine debris and become Clean Marine. Look out for registration details soon for the official 2013 WA Beach Cleanup Event on the 12-13th October and consider Adopting a Spot. If you and your students need some inspiration, why not check out Tangaroa Blues’s new YouTube video here.


Make the most of your incursion or excursion

Posted on: February 19, 2013

excursion-If you’ve booked a Department of Fisheries activity for 2013 already and are looking for additional resources to complement your incursion or excursion, our latest Marine WATERs release, teacher guides, are just for you.

Teacher guides are available for our most popular activities and WACE courses of study.  The activity teacher guides provide you with suggestions for pre and post-excursion learning opportunities. WACE courses of study teacher guides offer suggested lesson plans and a range of additional resources.

Free Professional Learning Session

Posted on: February 8, 2013

Plankton collector net in Shark Bay.

Plankton collector net in Shark Bay.

Welcome back to term 1.  We hope you all had an enjoyable break and have returned to school feeling fresh and ready to implement some new ideas.  This year we hope to inspire you with some great new ideas in our professional learning sessions.  Our first session kicks off on Thursday 21st February at 3.45pm at the Naturaliste Marine Discovery Centre.

In this session we’ll be covering the excursion activity Science of Sampling.  In this activity, students learn about a range of sampling techniques used by Department of Fisheries research scientists to collect information about various fisheries in Western Australia.

Follow this activity up in the classroom with the Marine WATERs Lesson Plans: How Many Fish in the Sea? and Manage a Fishery.  Learn how managing a jaffafish fishery relates to managing fisheries in the real world.

As always, light refreshments will be served at 3.45pm and hard copy resources will be provided on the day also.

To register your interest in this professional learning session, click here.

To find out about our future planned sessions this year, click here.

If you’re finding the day or time prohibitive to attending, remember you can pull together a group of 10 or more teachers and we will come to your school and complete a professional learning session with you, and it’s still free!  To organise a Professional Learning session at your school, send us an email.


What do you do in a heat wave?

Posted on: December 28, 2012

Goose barnacles

Goose barnacles. Photo by Gilbert Stokman.

We’ve had a few rather warm days this week so no doubt you’ve either been seeking comfort in air conditioning, or hitting the beach. The mornings have been great for getting out on the water and snorkelling (plus they have the added bonus of not being quite so hot, and the UV rating is a little lower). If you’ve stuck your mask in the water recently, or intend to in the coming days/weeks, our latest lesson plan release may assist you with identifying what you observe.

Our latest release is Meet the Cast and is a sequel to the Lesson Plan: Who Lives Where? which looked at the variety of marine habitats in WA. In Meet the Cast, we look at the invertebrate inhabitants of the marine environment. You may also like to check out the Beachcombers Field Guide to assist in your identification of species also. If you have a camera at the beach, or better yet, underwater with you, and come across anything really cool that you’re happy to share with us (and happy for us to use in future resources), email it to us. Don’t forget to log any unusual sightings on the Redmap website also (refer to the 14 December 2012 blog).

If you’re planning your teaching and learning program for term 1 next year, there are a variety of invertebrate posters available for use with the Lesson Plan: Meet the Cast. You can request hard copies of the posters here.

Happy snorkelling, stay cool and remember to always be sunsmart!     


Changing Marine Postcodes

Posted on: December 14, 2012

Baldchin groper

Baldchin groper.

As the end of the year approaches many of us are on the move catching up with family and friends and embarking on travels over the summer break.

Spare a thought for our marine species that are potentially changing where they live in search of cooler waters, as seas become warmer with a changing climate.

The Redmap Australia website, also known as the ‘Range Extension Database and Mapping’ project was launched last week and invites potentially thousands of citizen scientists to contribute data that can help reveal whether fish are ‘shifting their range’.

We are seeking the assistance of a fishers and divers to report sightings and upload photos of marine life that aren’t usually found at their local fishing, diving and swimming  spots.

Redmap Australia is interested in reports of any marine life deemed uncommon along your particular stretch of the coast; and not just fish but also turtles, rays, lobsters, corals, seaweeds, urchins and prawns.  Photos are reviewed by a network of marine scientists around the country to verify the species identity and ensure high-quality data. Redmap Australia aims to become a continental-scale monitoring program along Australia’s vast coastline to help track marine range shifts; but also to engage Australians with marine issues using their own data.

Devotees of our lesson plan Acid Test may recall some links to the Redmap website. At the time we compiled the materials relating to ocean acidification, the Redmap project was only running in Tasmania by our enthusiastic colleagues at the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies and University of Tasmania. Fast forward nearly two years and the Department of Fisheries is now the lead institute for Redmap in Western Australia so expect to see some more climate related teacher resources in 2013.

Each Redmap sighting is a piece in a puzzle that over time will reveal to the community, scientists and industry which species or regions may be experiencing greater changes in marine distributions. The sooner Australian fishers, divers and the public help gather this information, the better.  Some seas along the coast of Australia are warming at 3 to 4 times the global average.  Turning up the heat tends to stress marine ecosystems and species, and can impact fish growth, reproduction and behaviour.

Everyone can get involved by becoming a Redmap Australia registered member, signing up for our quarterly newsletter, liking us on Facebook, and importantly logging unusual marine animals at

Contribution to Redmap is easy as Spot, Log and Map.

Redmap is a large collaborative project led by the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) at the University of Tasmania, and involves the University of Newscastle, James Cook University, Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA), Museum Victoria, Department of Fisheries Western Australia, the University of Adelaide and the South East Australia Program (SEAP).  The expansion of Redmap nationally was made possible with generous funding from an Australian Government Inspiring Australia grant, the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF). Redmap also receives support from Mures Tasmania and many fishing, diving and community groups around the country.

The nuisance of the ocean

Posted on: November 27, 2012

Common blowfish

The common blowfish is often regarded as a nuisance to fishers, gobbling bait before any other species can get near it.  However, these fish are native to Western Australia (and therefore are not pests) and play an important role in keeping our marine ecosystems clean by eating waste bait and berley.

Common blowfish are found along the lower west coast of WA but also have a northern relative.  The northwest blowfish inhabits northern Australian waters but is also occasionally seen off the lower west coast as far south as Cape Naturaliste. Northwest blowfish are significantly larger than the common blowfish, reaching a maximum of 88 cm in length, compared to the common blowfish at 22 cm.

Both species of blowfish contain a highly lethal toxin so they are not generally targeted by fishers– however they still have a bag limit. Visit the Department of Fisheries website to find out more about bag and size limits in your area. To learn more about other ways we manage recreational fisheries in Western Australia, see the Marine WATERs lesson plan: Fishing for the Future.  

Fishers are reminded not to leave blowfish to die on beaches and jetties as pets have died from eating them.

Want to know more about this species or of the many other species found in Western Australia? See our extensive range of fact sheets.

What a Pest!

Posted on: November 19, 2012

Asian paddle crab.

Recently, an Asian paddle crab was captured in the Swan River by a recreational fisherman.  This species is not native to Western Australia however has the potential to establish itself here and become a pest.  It has the potential to spread disease and out-compete native species like the iconic blue swimmer crab.  To find out more about this species, click here.

Did you know… in Western Australian waters, there are 60 known non-native marine species that have become established.  However not all marine species introduced to a new area become pests.  Some are unable to survive the conditions of their new environment, whilst others are unable to reproduce and establish a viable population.

Check out the Marine WATERs Lesson Plan: Pest Control to learn more about marine pests found in Western Australia.  In Activity 1, students will learn the difference between native and introduced species and will investigate the problems associated with introduced species in the marine environment.  You may wish to use the Fisheries Fact Sheet: Introduced Marine Species to learn more about introduced species in the marine environment.

In Activity 4, students will use their knowledge of a specific introduced species to design a wanted poster to inform the community to look out for and report any sightings of the species.  You may wish to discuss the Asian paddle crab example used by the Department of Fisheries with your students to assists them in their design.  If you would like to investigate introduced marine species in more detail with your students, you may request a copy of the Department of Fisheries publication, Introduced Marine Species in Western Australia here.

Once your students are well versed on marine pests, challenge them to complete our Pest Line-Up game.  In each frame, students will be presented with three possible suspects, of which, one is a marine pest.  Using the information provided, students will need to determine which suspect is the pest to move on.         

Marine WATERs has had a facelift!

Posted on: November 2, 2012

Are you an avid follower of Maine WATERs, or maybe it’s one of those resources on your ‘to-do’ list to check out.  In the last few weeks, Marine WATERs has been undergoing some changes and we’re extremely proud of the result that went live this week!  The web address is still the same –, so have a look at today.

On the homepage, you’ll notice a few things have moved around.  The general keyword search has moved to the left hand column with the other search filters.  We’ve almost finished linking the Australian Curriculum content descriptor codes to each of the lesson plans too so very soon you’ll be able to search for resources simply by inputting the code specific to the outcomes for the year level you teach … watch this space for updates on this search feature.  The blog now takes centre stage on the homepage, and we now have a feedback function on the bottom left hand corner.  We’d love to hear your thoughts on the functionality of the site.

One of the biggest improvements (we think) is found when you select one of the learning modules.  The resource types found in that module are listed across the top, and if you select one, e.g. presentations, you’ll be taken to the presentations found in that module.  You’ll also notice a fish hovering off to the right hand side of the page.  Click on it at any point and you’ll return to the top of that page.

We hope you find Marine WATERs even easier to use now and remember we’d love to hear your feedback!

Last Professional Learning Opportunity this year!

Posted on: October 29, 2012

Fishing for sustainability activity.

Our last Marine WATERs – Naturaliste Marine Discovery Centre Professional Learning session is happening next Thursday, 1st November 2012 from 4.00pm – 6.00pm.  The theme is this terms session is human impacts and fisheries management.

Try out our school friendly version of fishing (no hooks or water required!) in our Fishing for Sustainability activity.  We’ll also be delving into the Marine WATERs Lesson Plans: Fishing for the Future, Hook, Line and Sinker, Planning a Safe Fishing Trip and Manage a Fishery.

Aimed at teachers of Year 2 – 10 students, this session will involve hands on activity sessions and take away resources.

To register your interest in this session, click here.

Who lives where?

Posted on: October 15, 2012

Yallingup Lagoon

We know that come term four, you’re tired and your students are tired – so in an attempt to keep you inspired for at least another week, we’ve released a new lesson plan entitled ‘Who Lives Where?’ This lesson plan also has an associated Powerpoint Presentation: Who Lives There?  

The main activity within the lesson plan does involve a fair amount of reading and writing, however you could adapt it to suit even year 1’s simply by using the Powerpoint Presentation and engaging them in a class discussion – you’ll be amazed how much they can tell you about the different habitats and organisms found in the marine environment.

If you’re teaching older primary students, they will use a range of posters and articles to investigate some of the habitats that exist in the marine environment in WA. (To request a physical copy of the posters required for this lesson, click here.)  You could engage your students in discussions about the types of organisms each habitat supports and the adaptations those organisms might have to survive that environment.

You could then link this into a discussion about food chains that might exist in that habitat type also. Check out the Marine WATERs Lesson Plan: Marine Connections for some background information on food chains and webs!

ACSSU211, ACSSU043, ACSSU094, ACSSU112, ACELY1702, ACELY1712

The bottom dwellers

Posted on: September 25, 2012

As the weather begins to warm up and you think to throw a line in the water again, keep in mind that some of the State’s most prized fish have a two-month fishing closure in the West Coast Bioregion; an area that runs from Black Point (east of Augusta) to the Zuytdorp Cliffs (north of Kalbarri).  

These highly sought after fish, which includes pink snapper, dhufish and baldchin groper, are known as demersal scalefish (fish that live on or near the sea floor). 

Recent research into these species revealed they were being overfished and that catches needed to be reduced by at least 50 per cent to ensure their long-term sustainability.  These fish generally live for a long time, they grow slowly and, in some species, reproduce in relatively low numbers.  To find out more about what makes this group so susceptible to overfishing, download our poster.

To help manage these species, a two-month fishing closure is in place in the West Coast Bioregion from 15 October – 15 December (inclusive).  Once the fishery reopens on 16 December, bag, size limits and additional regulations apply.  See the Recreational Fishing Information – West Coast Bioregion at for the most up to date information.

Save our Seagrasses

Posted on: September 21, 2012

Seagrass meadow.

As we continue our study of Western Australia’s extraordinary biodiversity, this week we look at seagrasses and the ecosystems that they play a role in.  You could begin your study by comparing seaweeds and seagrasses – are they different and how?  The Fisheries Fact Sheets: Seagrasses and Algae will assist you with this.  Put simply, seagrasses are a flowering plant (angiosperm) adapted for survival in salt water.  Algae, are not plants at all!

Following this introduction, work your way through one of the newest additions to Marine WATERs – Habitat Protectors.  In this lesson plan, students will investigate the role seagrass meadows play in providing an important nearshore habitat for marine organisms.  This lesson plan also has an associated Powerpoint Presentation.  In activity 1, students will consider the value of seagrasses to the ecosystem and explore the threats towards them.  They will use this information to develop an advertising campaign to educate and inform people of the threats to seagrasses and what they can do to minimise these threats.

Did you know? The largest and most diverse seagrass meadows in the world are found in Western Australia.  There are an astounding 27 species found in WA, covering an area estimated to be 20,000 square kilometres.

You may like to then look at an ecosystem involving seagrasses in more detail.  In the Marine WATERs Lesson Plan: Marine Connections, students will study food chains and food webs and investigate in detail a Shark Bay food web.  Shark Bay has the second highest diversity of seagrasses in WA with 12 species, following the south west of the state with 27 species! 

Discovering Biodiversity

Posted on: September 17, 2012

As you may already be aware, September is biodiversity month, in which we promote the importance of protecting, conserving and improving biodiversity both within Australia and across the world. 

This week, why not investigate the myriad of living habitats that exist in Western Australia. You can download posters on mangroves (and check out last month’s blog), coral reefs, seagrasses and limestone reefs from Marine WATERs to assist with your studies. A limited number of hard copies of these posters are available – email us at to request copies. 

Now you may think that limestone is not a living habitat, and technically you would be right, but it does support an amazing diversity of life on top of, and around it. Check out the Marine WATERs Lesson Plans: Inhabiting Intertidal Rocky Shores and Excursion: Intertidal Investigation to find out more.

September is Biodiversity month!

Posted on: September 8, 2012

Biodiversity month is held in September every year and is an initiative of the Australian government. It aims to promote the importance of protecting, conserving and improving biodiversity both within Australia and across the world.

Biodiversity is described as ‘the variety of living things’.

Did you know? … Australia is one of only seventeen countries  described as being ‘megadiverse’. These countries have less than 10% of the global surface but support more than 70% of the biological diversity on earth.

The marine environment is home to thousands of marine species, some of which are unique to Australia and all of which contribute to making Australia the most biodiversity-rich developed country in the world.

To find out more about biodiversity month, visit

Begin your studies of biodiversity in the marine environment in Western Australia by studying the fish species found in each of the bioregions of WA using the Marine WATERs Lesson Plan: Fishing for the Future. A ‘bioregion’ refers to a region defined by common oceanographic characteristics in its marine environment. The Department of Fisheries has divided the vast Western Australian coastline into four bioregions – the North Coast, Gascoyne Coast, West Coast and South Coast.

Stop the plastic tide

Posted on: September 3, 2012

Turtle eating plastic

Turtles confuse plastic bags for sea jellies. Flickr: Jong Cortez.

Have you used the Marine WATERs Lesson Plan: Un-fantastic Plastic?  In this series of activities, students will research and define the term marine debris, understand the consequences associated with plastics in the marine environment and develop practical solutions for their school to address the problem.

Why not take these activities a little bit further and ask students to develop a community advertising campaign that includes some easy, yet practical ways the community can reduce their plastic use also.  Show your students the YouTube Video: The Majestic Plastic Bag – A Mockumentary and ask them to write an exposition on why plastic is bad for the marine environment.  Students can then use this writing to assist in the development of their advertising campaign.  Their advertising campaign may be as simple as creating a poster for the local newspaper, or at the other end of the spectrum, developing a radio advertisement, a short movie or holding a community awareness event.

ACELY1796, ACELY1736, ACELY1746, ACELY1750, ACSHE035, ACSSU074, ACSHE062, ACSHE120, ACSHE121

Masters of Adaptation

Posted on: August 17, 2012

Mangrove roots half in water with foreground water and some leaves above.

Mangroves in the Broome region.

Are you studying adaptations with your students?  Have you considered mangroves as a focal point?

About 11,000 kilometres (or over a million hectares) of Australia’s coastline is covered with mangrove forests making them one of Australia’s most geographically widespread ecosystems. This area represents the third largest area of mangroves in the world.  

In Western Australia, mangroves occur naturally in most coastal areas from Shark Bay northwards. There are also small mangrove communities at the Abrolhos Islands, and in the Leschenault Inlet in the state’s south west.

In Activity 1 of the Marine WATERs Lesson Plan: Life in the Mangroves, students will study what mangroves are. You may wish to use our new Fisheries Fact Sheet: Mangroves, the Poster: The Mysteries of Mangroves and Article: Masters of Adaptation to help facilitate your class discussion.   Then, in Activity 3, students will investigate mangroves as a habitat using a story about a barramundi life cycle. Our Poster: Barramundi Life Cycle will help you to explain the different stages of the life cycle as you work through the story – your students will particularly like the part where the barramundi changes sex from male to female!  In Activity 4, students will use the mangrove ecosystem they created in Activity 3 to develop their knowledge of food webs (for more information on food chains and food webs, check out the Marine WATERs Lesson Plans: SEE Food & Marine Connections).


New resources in Marine WATER’s

Posted on: August 8, 2012

Phase 2 of Marine WATERs went live last term and as part of the launch, a new In Depth resource is now available.  The In Depth series provides supplementary information for the lesson plans and draws together a range of facts, research and current issues.  There are currently two In Depths available – Living with the Leeuwin Current and Houtman Abrolhos System.

Living with the Leeuwin Current outlines the characteristics of the Leeuwin Current, the driving force of the marine environment in Western Australia.   It explains why the marine environment of WA is so different to other western seaboards in the southern hemisphere.

The Leeuwin Current has a profound effect on some of our most iconic species and marine ecosystems, including the coral spawning on Ningaloo Reef, the existence of coral reefs at Rottnest Island and settlement of western rock lobster larvae, or puerulus. 

The Houtman Abrolhos System In Depth moves from the history of the islands to the management of the isolated, but vital marine ecosystem surrounding them today. 

The Abrolhos consists of 122 islands, clustered into three groups – Wallabi, Easter and Pelsaert – some 60 kilometres off the mid-west coast of WA.  They are part of Australia’s maritime history, as several early vessels were shipwrecked on the surrounding reefs.  Probably one of the best known wrecks is the United Dutch East India Company’s Batavia, en route for the Dutch East Indies in 1629.

Eew algae!

Posted on: August 3, 2012

When you think of algae, you may think of blooms that may be potentially toxic to the aquatic environment.  However algae are so much more than that.

If you’ve ever snorkelled around some of WA’s limestone reef areas, for example at Rottnest Island, near Cottesloe Beach or even further south around Dunsborough and Yallingup you would have encountered algae.  Algae provides much of the colour we find on a limestone reef and is also a great habitat for many marine creatures.

If you’re not into snorkelling, you’re bound to have come across ‘seaweed’ washed up on our beaches – in the southern part of the state, now is a great time to see this.  This mixture of seaweed, or algae, and seagrass that we find washed up on the beaches makes up what is called the ‘seawrack’ (see our blog from June 29 to learn more about seawracks).

The algae we find washed up in the seawrack is called macroalgae, that is, it can be seen with the unaided human eye.  Drifting around in the aquatic environment however, is microscopic algae called microalgae.  This microalgae is a major component of plankton and are the first link of aquatic food chains, being the main food source for many species.

So in fact, algae are not all bad and you may be surprised to know that you probably use algae more than you think!  Some 400 species of algae around the world are used by people for food, stock feed, medicines, cosmetics and fertilisers.  Why not conduct a research assignment with your class to investigate just how many products you use have extracts of algae in them?  To learn more about algae, check out our brand new Algae Fact Sheet.

The mixing zone

Posted on: July 6, 2012

Photo: Kylie Hordyk.

Estuaries are an integral part of the aquatic environment in Western Australia.  They are the mixing zone between our freshwater rivers and the salty ocean. They may be either permanently or seasonally open to the sea. Many fish species found in the marine environment, such as sea mullet, King George whiting and pink snapper, utilise estuaries at certain times during their life cycle. Black bream on the other hand, complete their entire lifecycle in the estuary. Why not investigate the lifecycles of different species of fish common to your local area, to find those that utilise the estuary during some stage of their life. Discuss with your students why those species may utilise the estuary during that stage also. Check out our poster – Estuarine fish in the mixing zone – to discover how fish can be grouped according to where they breed.

Estuaries are a dynamic habitat. In the wetter months of the year, the proportion of freshwater increases as rainfall increases and enters the estuary. Also during the wetter months, estuaries that may be periodically closed by sandbars are now opening. During the drier months, estuaries become more saline as the water evaporates. Under such conditions, estuaries may become hypersaline (more salty than seawater) meaning few fish can survive.

As some estuaries are closed to the ocean for a period of time (up to years), humans can have a profound impact on the health of an estuary.  Obtain photos of your local estuary and discuss with your students how humans could have (or have had) a negative impact on the estuary – the poster may provide you with some ideas for discussion also.  Better still, check with your local newspaper office or maybe even your council to find some archive photos of the estuary to be compared with present day photos.

Can you smell that?

Posted on: June 29, 2012

Juvenile Port Jackson sharks with egg case found washed up on Hillarys beach, June 2012.

Have you been down the beach recently?  The weather is probably not enticing you … nor the smell, but it’s a great time to find some really cool things washed up on our beaches.  A class of Year 8’s on excursion to the Naturaliste Marine Discovery Centre recently, had a great find whilst on their Beach Exploration.  Lying in amongst the reasonably large sea wrack on Hillarys beach were not one, but three juvenile Port Jackson sharks, presumably just hatched, as egg cases were found nearby!

You can learn more about the things we find washed up on our beaches from the Perth Beachcombers Education Kit.  Download the Beachcombers Field Guide to see what organisms look like both under the water, and when they are washed up on the beach.

What exactly is a sea wrack?  A sea wrack is made up mainly of seagrasses and seaweeds, but the composition depends on where you are on the coast.  The washed-up material reflects the ‘plant’ species abundant offshore – e.g. in Geographe Bay, sea wracks are composed largely of seagrass.  To learn more about what you find in the sea wrack, check out our poster – Dynamic link between ocean and land.

Sea wracks have also been studied over the years by fisheries scientists and they now know there is a correlation between the composition of the wrack and the juvenile fish species that use it for food and shelter.  Turns out, some juvenile fish (just like many juvenile humans) are fussy eaters!  Read our article C’mon and Embrace the Smell to learn about the juvenile fish species that use the sea wrack, and also learn about the human uses of seaweed.  Ask your students to research other products that have seaweed in them … they may be surprised how much seaweed they consume without even realising it!

If you’re really game, why not take your class on a trip to the beach … raincoats are recommended and remember, never turn your back on the ocean.

Spiny, Symmetrical and Strange … what am I?

Posted on: June 17, 2012

Brittle Star

My mouth and tubed feet are on my underside, my anus is on my upper side and my gonads are in my ‘armpits’! … what am I?

I am, of course, a sea star!

Sea stars belong to the phylum of animals known as echinoderms.  Echinoderms, as the name suggests, are spiny skinned animals – ‘echino’ meaning spiny and ‘derm’ meaning skin. 

Related to sea stars, are feather stars, brittle stars, sea urchins and sea cucumbers.  What do these all have in common?  Apart from being spiny skinned, which is due to their skeleton consisting of tiny calcified plates and spines, they all exhibit radial symmetry – that is, their body shapes radiate out from the centre.

Have you seen our Echinoderms Poster?  There’s a great cross sectional diagram of a sea urchin on it.  Provide this diagram to your students and ask them to research the body parts they are unfamiliar with, then engage students in a discussion about how the location of the various body parts may be adaptations to where they live, how they eat, and most importantly, how they don’t become prey themselves.

Read the article Spiny, Strange and Symmetrical: The Weird World of Echinoderms to learn more about the relatives of sea stars and sea urchins.  Ask students to complete some research to discover why sea stars, feather stars, brittle stars, sea urchins and sea cucumbers are each in a class of their own. 

Dive into the In Depths

Posted on: June 1, 2012

Juvenile western rock lobster.

As part of the phase 2 launch last week, we introduced you to a great new resource type called the ‘In Depth’.  This resource aim to provide supplementary information for the lesson plans and draw together a range of facts, research and current issues.  The first In Depths available are Living with the Leeuwin Current and Houtman Abrolhos System

The Leeuwin Current, one of the major driving forces of the Western Australian marine environment, was not formally identified and named until 1980! Learn about the characteristics of the Leeuwin Current and why the Western Australian marine environment is so dramatically different to that of other western seaboards in the southern hemisphere.  Greater global climatic events, known as ENSO events also have significant impact on the Leeuwin Current, which has a flow on effect to the larval phase of the western rock lobster and how many juvenile lobster settle on the coast. 

The Houtman Abrolhos System In Depth explores the marine ecosystem known as “The Abrolhos”, a series of 122 islands some 60 kilometres off the coast from Geraldton.  Learn about the commercial fisheries, recreational fishing and tourism industries surrounding the islands.

You might have also noticed we’ve added a new resource filter so that you can search by resource type, be it poster, lesson plan, fact sheet or game!   

Phase 2 goes live!

Posted on: May 22, 2012

Case Study: Monitoring coral bleaching on Christmas Island. Photo: Justin Gilligan.

The Department of Fisheries and Woodside Energy, are excited to announce that Phase 2 of Marine WATERs (Western Australian Teacher Education Resources), is now live!

We have just launched a range of new resources for years K–10.  These resources include new lesson plans, PowerPoint presentations, a poster, and also two completely new resource types in the ‘Case Study’ and ‘In Depth’ series. 

The ‘In Depth’ series aim to provide supplementary information for the lesson plans and draw together a range of facts, research and current issues.  The first of these is on the Leeuwin Current, the driving force of the marine environment in WA. 

The ‘Case Study’ series will look at a specific issue, usually fishery related, in detail.  The first Case Study explores a coral monitoring project undertaken on Christmas Island.

Resources will continue to be added to the Marine WATERs website throughout 2012, with further lesson plans, posters, In Depths, Fact Sheets and another Case Study to come.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Posted on: May 18, 2012

Jan St Quintin operates the diamond cutter to prepare the otolith slice.

An astronaut? A ballerina? … An osteo-chronologist?

You can just see other people’s reaction during a casual conversation at a party can’t you?  “You’re a what?!”

So exactly what does the work of an osteo-chronologist entail?  You may be aware that the Department of Fisheries collects fish frames (the skeletal remains of a fish after it has been filleted) from recreational fishers.  Bony fish have tiny bones (or more correctly otoliths) located in their heads.  The bones are critical for hearing, balance and perception of depth for fish.  The bones are removed from the fish frame and then our osteo-chronologists step in. 

They set each otolith in a resin block that helps to protect the bone from chipping and keeps them stable when they are cut with diamond cutters to a thickness of less than a third of a millimetre.  Once the otoliths are cut, that very fine slice of the otolith is placed under a microscope … and then the fishes age secrets are revealed.  Otoliths display growth rings, similar to a tree trunk, which allow scientists to determine the age of the fish.  Find out more about the work of our brilliant osteo-chronologists in the Western Fisheries article, A Day in the Life of …

Want to try this out for yourself?  Try Activity 3: Counting Bands from the Marine WATERs Lesson Plan: What’s My Age Again? You can download the sectioned slides in a Powerpoint Presentation: Black Bream Sectioned Otoliths and challenge your class … the answers are included for you too!

Classifying in the Classroom

Posted on: May 11, 2012

The first of the combined Naturaliste Marine Discovery Centre (NMDC) and Marine WATERs Professional Learning sessions kicked off last night with a focus on classifying marine organisms.  Our keen participants got their hands dirty (or at least sandy) as they carried out the simple sorting exercise with a bucket of beach ‘stuff’, just as their students would on an excursion to the NMDC.

The It’s Classified! Lesson Plan is a great introduction to classifying.  Classification in the scientific world is used for the scientific naming, identifying and describing of individuals, and determining relationships between groups and their evolutionary links.  Scientists classify organisms to genus and species level, which then become the scientific name of the organism.  This name is written in italics.

In Activity 1, students begin by attempting to classify everyone in the class.  All students are obviously of the same genus and species, but the idea behind the activity is to get students to think about the characteristics that make them different to everyone else.  Engage your students in a discussion about what characteristics would be useful, and those that wouldn’t be so useful.  E.g. short sleeves and long sleeves are likely to change on a daily basis and therefore wouldn’t be very useful.

Appendix 2 of the lesson plan provides you with a playing card template of a variety of different marine organisms.  Each card has the phylum that the organism belongs to listed at the top.  As a challenge for your students, when you make your set of cards, why not cut that label off? Provide students with the photo cards and ask them to group the organisms by what they can see from the picture or from what they have already learnt about that phyla.

The Perth Beachcomber’s Education Kit also has some great resources for classification.  You can also book an excursion to the NMDC and participate in our classifying activity, Bringing the Beach to You.

Coral Reef Communities

Posted on: April 27, 2012

Sweet treat - coral polyp creation!

The Science Network WA this week reported on marine biologist Dr Barry Wilson’s findings from a study he completed in 2010 of the fringing coral reefs along the Kimberley coast. See the full post here:’s-platform-reefs-reveal-unique-formations.

Coral reefs have a fairly large range in Western Australia owing to the warm Leeuwin Current that flows south along the WA coastline. Ningaloo Reef in the north-west of the state is the most iconic, however coral reefs are also found at the Abrolhos Islands, and Rottnest Island just 20 kilometres into the Indian Ocean from Perth.  Soft corals are also found as far south as Busselton!

You and your class can learn more about coral reefs of WA in our article ‘Rainforests of the Sea’.  Also, discover the different types of coral reefs in our Coral Reef Communities Poster, and try the ‘Grow Your Own Coral’ Activity.

In addition to this, teach your students about the structure of a coral polyp by building your own marshmallow coral polyps. The best part is, you can eat it at the end of the lesson!  Each student will require a small patty case. Melt some white chocolate and put a teaspoon in the bottom of each patty case. This represents the limestone skeleton. Use the diagram on the Coral Reef Communities poster, to assist in explaining the various components to your class. Next, push a marshmallow into the white chocolate.  This represents the coral polyps stomach. Cut jelly snakes into quarters (width-wise) and then into short lengths and push into the marshmallow.  These are the tentacles of the coral polyp. Last but not least, sprinkle hundreds and thousands over your marshmallow polyp to represent the zooxanthellae, the tiny algae that enhance the corals’ ability to synthesise calcium carbonate from carbon and calcium dissolved in the water.  These algae give the corals their colours, or leave them bleached during periods of extreme environmental stress when the corals expel the algae, also known as coral bleaching.

Eggs in the sea…

Posted on: April 4, 2012

Port Jackson shark egg case

It’s Easter time! Whilst you’re consuming all that chocolate, take a moment to stop and think about what the eggs actually mean. We have eggs, chicks and rabbits at Easter to represent new life.

How does new life occur in the ocean though? Many will be familiar with annual coral spawning events that occur around the world. In Western Australia, at Ningaloo, the coral spawning event usually occurs after the full moon in March or April.

Many organisms in the ocean reproduce externally, meaning they release either sperm or eggs (or both in the case of hermaphrodites) into the water. Animals that reproduce in this way release large numbers of eggs and sperm to ensure that some survive.

Other animals, such as some sharks and rays, reproduce via internal fertilization and bear live young. These animals produce fewer offspring, however, have a greater chance of survival.

Use our Seacrets to Sex and Survival poster and Sex and the Sea article to find out more about how a range of marine animals reproduce, including sea stars, sea horses, sea slugs and deep-sea anglerfish! Investigate the methods these animals use to ensure survival of their species, and what challenges do they face? Which animals use external fertilization, and which use the internal method? Do sharks lay eggs, or give birth to live young?  How do you attract a mate if you are a crustacean, dhufish, or cuttlefish? Who gets the job of looking after the baby in the seahorse family? Follow us on Facebook Fisheries Division Woodside Energy