Hastings Point marine museum

I’m a bit of a museum nut. Having worked as a curator’s assistant in the South Australian Museum of Natural History (marine invertebrates section), I appreciate the tremendous dedication, enthusiasm and plain hard work that goes into such places.

Large state museums are one thing, but there are other, off-the-radar places quietly doing their thing to educate kids (and adults, which I regard as just as important) about the fabulous creatures of the sea and the work we need to get on with to help that environment (which is, after all, helping ourselves, even if some of us don’t value it for itself). You just have to know where to find them.

One such place is the Marine Environments Field Study and Resource Centre (aka Adventure Education) at Hastings Point, northern NSW. The Marine Discoveries Centres Australia website explains:

Ted Bram­bleby BSc is the found­ing direc­tor of Adven­ture Edu­ca­tion. For the past 45 years his goal has been to immerse stu­dents into the won­ders and the mir­a­cle of the marine world. Ker­rie Trees left  sec­ondary teach­ing after meet­ing Ted under­wa­ter in Byron Bay in 1998. Together they have cre­ated the only pri­vately run and funded Marine Edu­ca­tion field trip facil­ity of its kind in Aus­tralia. Using a mul­ti­di­men­sional approach to edu­ca­tion through a phi­los­o­phy that true edu­ca­tion hap­pens through active par­tic­i­pa­tion in the envi­ron­ment and not lim­ited to the class­room today the facil­ity based at the 5 star North Star car­a­van park at Hast­ings Point receives vis­i­ta­tion from over 80 schools for Day Vis­its and 1–3 night field trip camps.

The Adven­ture Edu­ca­tion team of Teach­ers and Marine naturalists facil­i­tate a range of pro­grams that are edu­ca­tional, informative and fun. In addi­tion to immers­ing them­selves in the nat­ural beauty of the Hast­ings Point ecosys­tems Stu­dents, teach­ers, guests of the North Star and com­mu­nity groups also expe­ri­ence the most com­pre­hen­sive and unique Marine Museum on the eastern sea board of Aus­tralia with over 200 hun­dred pre­served and dried marine spec­i­mens. Inter­ac­tive edu­ca­tion ses­sions com­bine detailed bio­log­i­cal con­cepts with the fas­ci­nat­ing visu­al­iza­tion of stereo micro­scope pro­jec­tion of live pre­served marine spec­i­mens to big screen tele­vi­sion. All stu­dents and guests will be inspired to lighten their car­bon foot­print and to make a dif­fer­ence in our collec­tive efforts to pre­serve our ocean planet home.

Ted also wrote “Australian marine fish workbook” and “Marine biology for beginners: tropical Australia” with Neville Coleman, and was awarded “Queensland science teacher of the year”.

Ted Brambleby

Ted Brambleby, marine biologist, educator and enthusiast

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Shovel-nosed ray mouth

Shovel-nosed ray mouth

The Venus flower basket (below) is fascinating. It is the skeleton of a sponge that lives at depth, and a couple of shrimp (male and female) use it as a permanent shelter (see the Real Monstrosities website for their story). It is also home to bioluminescent bacteria, making it a glow-in-the-dark beauty.

Venus flower basket

Venus flower basket (front)

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Hastings Point area, showing the snorkelling and rock pool areas (left)

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Dugong skull

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Well done, Ted and Kerrie. Photographs do not do justice to the place.

The Marine Discoveries Centres Australia website also lists more such small facilities Australia-wide. You might like to visit some. I certainly intend to.

The silence in the forest

Walking along the tracks of Lord Howe Island’s palm forests was a strange experience. All I could hear was the wind through the palm leaves, the sea and the occasional rustle. At home when I hear rustling, it’ll be a brush turkey, a goanna, a snake, maybe a frog or three, or one of many, many birds. In the same month (November) at home, there’s also the ear-splitting stridulations (love that word) of cicadas en masse.

Lord Howe native kentia palm forest

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Melbourne Aquarium (part 2)

Continued from part 1

The nautilus  has been on the planet around 500 million years. It lives at depth in the Indo-Pacific ocean. I haven’t yet found its shell washed up on a beach, but I’m still looking.

Nautilus Melbourne Aquarium

The very successful nautilus - around for half a billion years so far

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Shells in Lord Howe Island rock pools

Lord Howe has many marine species similar to those in other parts of the Pacific – the eggs and larvae get washed along in currents from other places, and survive to adulthood if they don’t get eaten or if they find a place that suits their needs.

Survival pressures can also push species to evolve into new ones that occur only in the “new” home (by then not at all new). In other cases, such changes do not proceed because the conditions already suit.

My favourite rock platform find is probably this cowrie, Staphylaea limacina (many thanks to Sallyann Gudge, Lord Howe Island Marine Park Marine Ranger, and the Australian Museum for confirming the ID).

Many cowries have elongated papillae like these.

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A small selection of bivalves

I’m not really ‘clued up’ on bivalves, but there are a lot on the rock platform, washed up in pieces on the beach and even living under the sand or mud (razor clams, ouch!), so I probably should get to know them. Here’s a first effort.

The one below is half of a jingle shell (Anomia trigonopsis).

Jingle shell, Anomia descripta

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Carnivorous eggs

Isn’t the English language wonderful in its ambiguity? It’s not the eggs that are carnivorous but the mollusc that laid these eggs. According to the good folks at the Queensland Museum, it’s a predatory marine snail and most likely to be  one of the murex snail group (family Muricidae), possibly Lepsiella hanleyi or Morula marginalba (the mulberry whelk, photo further down), or even one of the cone snail family (Conidae), Conus papilliferus.

Egg cases under a rock in a rock pool

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A couple of Lord Howe marine creatures

Since Lord Howe Island is surrounded by tropical waters, there are the usual goodies – tropical fish in and around beautiful coral reefs. I saw several lion fish (swimming serenely perhaps because of their poisonous spines – don’t touch!), turtles, and small brightly coloured fish that nipped me (sharp teeth!) when I snorkelled over their territories – annoying and interesting at the same time.

My friends Linda and Peter took these photos on Lord Howe  last September of a Spanish dancer (Hexabranchus sanguineus) …

Spanish dancer on Lord Howe Island, photo by Peter Scharf

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Yes, it’s a nudibranch!

I’m used to thinking of nudibranchs as small (except for Spanish dancers), brightly coloured, soft creatures. Here’s one that breaks the mould. One of our US visitors, Mike from Alaska, found this creature in a shallow pool on the rock platform at Woody Head on Saturday when we were doing show-and-tell on the rock platform. It was about 14 cm long, and its surface was hard, leathery and knobbly. (Our other visitor, Rich, has put the photos of his trip here.)

Atagema spongiosa

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