Dolphin forum connects present and future guardians of the estuary

The Estuary Guardians of John Tonkin College put on their second ever dolphin forum at Makeplace on Monday, to hear a research update from Murdoch’s cetacean researchers Krista Nicholson and Martin van Aswegen.

Aaron Johnston has participated in the college’s surf science program since he was in year 8: now in year 10, he has become something of a champion for the Estuary Guardians, developing a web page and Facebook page.

“Estuary Guardians first started when we had the first dolphin forum at the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre,” Aaron said.

“It’s for students who want to be involved in helping the marine life in Mandurah… The marine life here faces, as we’ve heard in the media lately, the fishing line entanglements, we have boat strikes, dolphin strandings, things like that.”

Aaron said he decided to join it because he thought it’d be something different to the usual high school experience.

“I realised they would be doing stuff that would extend us and make high school more interactive and fun… I also really like the marine aspects… swimming, surfing, things like that, nature and everything.”

Dolphin researcher Krista Nicholson said she feels young people learning about natural sciences is crucial to the future of both the environment and the profession.

“Sciences are struggling at the moment, anyways, to get people’s interest, so we really want people to learn about it, so they can become active,” Ms Nicholson said.

“I guess the ultimate goal is for some of them to want to do sciences, because obviously so many of our decisions, everything is based on science, especially with the environment… and especially to have the local kids interested in that and following up to make good decisions in the future.”

Surf science teacher Kim Davies said the program and the Estuary Guardians was a way to develop a vested interest among the students.

“This is a way of getting our younger people to engage with the estuary,” she said.

She said part of the Estuary Guardians brief is to connect community groups to collaborate on different aspects of the estuary.

Along with the Murdoch cetacean research unit, Mandurah Cruises, the Canoe Trail Friends of Mandurah and Pinjarra, Dudley Dolphin, Makeplace, River Guardians and more are involved with the group.

“What we wanted is for anyone who knew anything about dolphins to share the information that they have, because we know a lot about the dolphins in the Swan River, we know a lot about the dolphins in Bunbury, but not a lot has been done in Mandurah,” Ms Davies said.​

The main focus of Estuary Guardians in 2016 is to produce a Fin Guide for the identification of the Peel-Harvey Estuary dolphins, eliminate the release of balloons and to encourage other schools to become Estuary Guardian schools.

Their annual major forum is scheduled for August 15.

Peel-Harvey estuary dolphins Christmas (mother) and Easter (calf). Photo: Krista Nicholson.

Peel-Harvey estuary dolphins Christmas (mother) and Easter (calf). Photo: Krista Nicholson.

Surf Science Program

The Make Place dolphin forum was organised by year 9-10 participants of the surf science extension program run out of John Tonkin College.

Each year the year 7/8 group and year 9/10 group each undertake at least one major project: in 2016 their projects focus on the impact of marine debris, and the dolphins of the estuary, respectively.

The program, which teaches students about sailing, surfing, swimming and marine science, is open to students who will be in years 7-10 in 2017, from any school in the region.

A Surf Science Expo will be held at the John Tonkin College Maritime Centre on May 20 from 9:30-11:30am, to give students more information and to try out sailing. 

For queries about 2017 applications, call 9535 3800. 

John Tonkin students in the surf science program enjoy a day on the water. Photo: Supplied.

John Tonkin students in the surf science program enjoy a day on the water. Photo: Supplied.

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