Marine Biologists in the Making

Year 9 Marine Science students visited Penguin Island this week to conduct research as part of their course. The girls were collecting data and conducting research in order to make a recommendation as to whether the park should remain open to visitors or be closed. They have been asked to present their findings in a report, which will be assessed as part of the course. 

Penguin Island near Rockingham is part of the Shoalwater Marine Park. It is a stunning example of why marine parks are so important in preserving the biodiversity in Western Australia. The Shoalwater Marine Park is home to dolphins, Australian sea lions, little penguins, and a huge community of birds including pelicans, and the bridled and fairy terns, which have migrated from Siberia and Borneo to breed and nest. 

The girls participated in an adventure cruise where they met the local sea lion community and observed Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins feeding in the morning. The girls were excited when they spotted a sea lion hunting a stingray and swimming happily in the crystal-clear waters. It was a very special experience.

They attended the penguin feeding session and learned about the population of the little penguins on the island. The girls were disappointed to hear that the population of the little penguins has drastically declined from 1500 in 2009 to now only 250, so this excursion was particularly relevant in order to educate the girls on the impact of humans on this very special marine park. 

The park rangers also took the girls on a guided walking tour of the island where they had the opportunity to survey the human impact on the marine environment at various locations around the island.

Here’s what some of the girls thought about the excursion.

“On the Penguin Island excursion, we saw many animals, such as dolphins, rescued penguins, seagulls and their eggs, pelicans and sea lions. We learned that the male sea lions will go fishing for days at a time and come back with a full stomach and rest on the beach in the sun for five to seven days. When we were on the boat cruise, we saw a pup waddling towards the beach to find a spot to sleep in, which was one of the highlights of our trip.” Claudia Hesford

“At Penguin Island, we were privileged to see some rescue penguins, each with a different back story. We watched a staff member feed them and she taught us some interesting facts, such as that penguins stay with the same mate for life. We also saw a penguin named Jerry who is 25 years old, which is around 100+ years for humans.” Nina Tavani

“The experience at Shoalwater Marine Park was something that we will hold with us forever. We learned a lot about the process of running the island and the priority of keeping the penguins safe. We learned that penguins, before moulting, eat as much as they can because they cannot swim during this time, meaning they have no source of food. The normal weight of the little penguins is 1.4kg, and they can get to 4kg during this time. During moulting season, they are at high risk because people chase them into the water, trying to get pictures when they cannot swim, making their chances of survival quite low.” Tarryn Bateman

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