Schools get salty for Science Week

Date: 17 August 2017

More than 120 students and 11 teachers and support staff from Whyalla and Cowell recently got their feet wet on a scientific expedition exploring coastal saltmarsh ecosystems in the Cowleds Landing Sanctuary Zone near Whyalla.

Guided by scientist and saltmarsh expert Dr Peri Coleman, the field trips were part of a series of ‘Discover the Science of the Saltmarshes’ events hosted by Natural Resources Eyre Peninsula for National Science Week.

Event coordinator and local Natural Resource Officer Barbara Murphy said the events highlight the importance of local saltmarsh habitats and involve the community in science.

“It’s fitting that this year’s School Science Week theme is ‘Future Earth’ because protecting our coastal saltmarshes is critical for biodiversity, industry and combating climate change,” Ms Murphy said.

“Feedback on the events has been positive and we hope this leads to individuals and schools becoming involved in ongoing projects and education programs around the saltmarshes in the sanctuary zone.”

Saltmarshes are important fish nursery areas. They are also highly productive ecosystems that support the base of many ocean food webs. For example, more than 75 per cent of Australia’s commercial and recreational catches of fish and shellfish depend on estuaries and coastal wetland habitat at some point in their life cycle, either for protection, to find food or to reproduce.

Saltmarshes are one of the most efficient ecosystems at storing carbon in the soil. This ocean and coastal ecosystem storage of carbon is referred to as Blue Carbon and is important in slowing global warming.

National Science Week events also included a samphire plant identification workshop with Dr Peri Coleman in the Samaritan College Science Lab and a saltmarsh display at the Middleback Arts Centre.

Community member Kylie Ritter said is was great to have access to Peri’s expertise and a privilege to use the Samaritan's College lab.

“I thought it was a great follow on from Dr Greg Kerr's presentation on Coastal Saltmarsh in Whyalla late 2016,” Kylie said.

The events were made possible with funding and support from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme, Natural Resources EP, Inspiring SA, Eyre and Western Regional Science Hubs, Spencer Gulf Prawn Fishery, and Samaritan College.

Individuals and schools wanting to be involved in future saltmarsh events should contact Barbara Murphy on 0427 188 546 or email Barbara.murphy2@sa.gov.au