Learn about the wonders of the sea

Published 14 January 2008

Visitors to the Byron Bay region, locals and divers will have the chance to learn about the diverse marine environment through a series of regular educational talks to be held at the Byron Bay Community and Cultural Centre, starting on Thursday, January 24.

Oceanteach, a new initiative of the Pacific Marinelife Institute, the Southern Cross University Whale Research Centre and Whales Alive, is designed to raise awareness of the marine environment, its ecology and conservation.

Each Oceanteach session will run for 90 minutes and be hosted by Dr Liz Hawkins, a marine scientist with the Southern Cross University Whale Research Centre. It will be run each Sunday and Thursday evening, from 6.30pm to 8pm, starting on January 24.

Every Sunday a talk called ‘Byron Bay Marine Wonders’ will provide an introduction to the local marine environment. The topics at the Thursday presentations will be alternated and will include whales and dolphins, marine small wonders, weird or dangerous creatures, as well as rays and sharks.

“These are going to be informative presentations suitable for the whole family; for travellers coming to Byron Bay; for divers who want to learn more about the creatures they encounter; and for curious locals who want to learn more about their backyard,” Dr Hawkins said.

Dr Hawkins has recently completed a four-year study on dolphins in the Byron Bay region, which found that distinct whistles used by dolphins indicated specific behaviour. Her work was recently reported in New Scientist and in various media outlets around the world.

The proceeds raised from Oceanteach will be used to fund the ongoing Byron Bay Dolphin Research Project, which forms part of the work being done by the SCU Whale Research Centre, and support the launch of the Pacific Marinelife Institute’s Reefhabitat Project in Byron Bay.

“We will continue to monitor the dolphin population in this area and look at the different aspects of their ecology, movement patterns and social structure so we can understand more about these animals in the wild,” Dr Hawkins said.

“The monitoring will help to ensure their conservation. We are also looking at extending the research into the Gold Coast area and looking at dolphin abundance, habitat use and the impact of human activities.”

A new ‘adopt-a-dolphin’ program will be launched at the first Oceanteach session on January 24. This program, which involves a sponsorship of $55 a year, will help raise funds for the Byron Bay Dolphin Research Project.

The cost of the Oceanteach presentations will be $11 adults, $8 children and students $9. Tickets can be purchased at the door. Group bookings can be made by email to lizhawkins80@hotmail.com or by phone 0407 646 069.

Photo: Learn about dolphins and our diverse marine environment through attending an Oceanteach session.

Media contact: Zoe Satherley Southern Cross University media officer, 6620 3144, 0439 132 095.