Plastic is a major part of our lives, but we don’t always dispose of it properly. Plastic pollution is becoming an increasing problem for marine biodiversity due to both its physical properties and chemical characteristics. This is a global issue, and we are equally susceptible to it in Australia, where sea birds and other fauna are at increasing risk.
Tasmania is the only Australian state to have its entire border consisting of coast. This leaves the state highly susceptible to the effects of plastic pollution and other marine debris on our shores. A graphic display of the impact of plastic pollution on our wildlife and wilderness areas can be seen in our videos here. The United Nations Environment Program has described marine plastics as a new toxic timebomb requiring urgent attention, and marine debris has been listed as a key threatening process under the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
The COASTWATCHERS project, funded by the Bookend Trust, the Tasmanian Department of Education and various generous supporting partners, was an epic self-powered (foot/bicycle/kayak) coastal trek around Tasmania by Bookend's Education Officer Andrew Hughes in 2012, with primary schools and high schools joining him for different legs of the journey to help clean our beaches and learn more about this issue.
Over the four months that Andrew cycled and kayaked around the state, some 2,000 students and volunteers participated, with approximately 1,700 sharing their results online: a whopping 36,000 pieces of plastic pollution and other rubbish collected, weighing nearly 2,000 kg. This rubbish was categorised and recorded in an interactive online map and database. Schools undertook further projects with it, from learning about the importance of marine ecology to creating their own marine debris art!
ABC Radio who also broadcast regular updates on the progress of the expedition.Media participation was key to spreading the message of this work and making it an interactive and educational success. The Mercury Newspapers in Education program was especially supportive, partnering with Andrew to promote the expedition in its initial publicity for school sign-ups from February to June, and through regular reports, updates and student activity pages while the expedition was underway between July and November. Articles were printed in the hard copy of the newspaper (reaching a weekday readership of some 97,000 people) and Andrew's blog was shared in a weekly online update via the Mercury website (hosted at the top of the Tasmania section and on the homepage, averaging about 34,000 page impressions each day). Additional support came other media outlets, including
Key elements of addressing the problem not only include cleaning beaches, but raising awareness of the problems in ways that inspire and trigger behavioural change. COASTWATCHERS could not have had such ongoing and growing impact without media support to sustain and reinforce its message beyond single one-off reports. Environmental reporting is often negative and depressing, but COASTWATCHERS drew attention to this major environmental issue by being entertaining, engaging, and showing the positive, interactive and cooperative efforts that can go into addressing it.
This was a wonderful example of innovative science and environmental education partnering with mainstream media to reach and benefit students who will become the land managers, scientists, workers and community members who need to solve our environmental challenges in the future.
This is the COASTWATCHERS media archive, including the blogs, articles, videos and other print, radio and online media content of the project. It complements the daily COASTWATCHERS reports and interactive student interface as archived on our Expedition Class page.
EXAMPLE COASTWATCHERS ARTICLES
Pre-expedition promotion Mercury February 2012
Additional pre-expedition promotion Mercury April 2012
Open call for school engagement and follow up article Mercury May 2012
Launch article Mercury July 2012, including the scope of the problem and other waste management initiatives
First week underway Mercury July 2012; see blogs archive below for weekly Mercury updates from July to November 2012
Sample school engagement report Gazette article August 2012; see more in the full Mercury blogs archive below
Sample school activities page on the program Mercury November 2012
Report on State recognition of the program Mercury November 2012
Summary of the success of the year's program Mercury November 2012
WEEKLY MERCURY COASTWATCHERS EXPEDITION UPDATES
Blog - expedition launch - July 2012 (as above) http://www.bookendtrust.com/6Mercury17jul2012p25copyright.pdf
Blog week 1 - July 2012 http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2012/07/23/348865_tasmania-news.html
Blog week 2 - July/August 2012 http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2012/08/02/351015_tasmania-news.html
Blog week 3 - August 2012 http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2012/08/07/351845_tasmania-news.html
Blog week 4 - August 2012 http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2012/08/15/353865_tasmania-news.html
Blog week 5 - August 2012 http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2012/08/22/355545_tasmania-news.html
Blog week 6 - August 2012 http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2012/08/28/356841_tasmania-news.html
Blog week 7 - September 2012 http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2012/09/04/358795_tasmania-news.html
Note - no week 8 blog due to school holidays
Blog week 9 - September/October 2012 http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2012/10/01/362951_tasmania-news.html
Blog week 10 - October 2012 http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2012/10/10/363550_tasmania-news.html
Blog week 11 - October 2012 http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2012/10/17/364085_tasmania-news.html
Blog week 12 - October 2012 http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2012/10/23/364465_tasmania-news.html
Blog week 13 - October 2012 http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2012/10/31/365069_tasmania-news.html
Blog week 14 - November 2012 http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2012/11/12/365882_tasmania-news.html
Blog week 15 - November 2012 http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2012/11/16/366194_tasmania-news.html
EXAMPLE ABC RADIO INTERVIEWS
ABC Local http://blogs.abc.net.au/tasmania/2012/07/marion-bay-coastwatchers.html
ABC Drive http://blogs.abc.net.au/tasmania/2012/05/outdoor-expeditions-andrew-hughes-classroom.html?site=northtas&program=northern_tasmania_drive
In addition to the below videos, longer versions of the Jordan River, Ogilvie, Smithton and Scottsdale High expeditions can be seen on the Skullbone video page.
Scottsdale High meets Andrew for a week in South West Tasmania in one of the last sections of the COASTWATCHERS expedition, and then Andrew forges for the finish line...
It's the wild west coast's turn for a clean, as Andrew takes a group of students from Scottsdale High on the third of the week-long marine debris surveys and coastal explorations that sit within the bigger COASTWATCHERS trip. Here's preview of what they got up to...
COASTWATCHERS hits the north coast of Tasmania, with highlights of cleanups from Bridport to Smithton..
The second week-long expedition of COASTWATCHERS 2012, this time with the girls from Ogilvie High heading to join Andrew on Flinders Island for beach cleanups, but also a few other adventures along the way...
COASTWATCHERS 2012 has included a series of week long adventures for some lucky schools. Here's a glimpse of the Jordan River Learning Federation's trip to Recherche Bay with Andrew, the Tasmanian Land Conservancy, and the crew of Magic Miles.
COASTWATCHERS is back after a two week break for the school holidays. To re-start the project, here's a look back at where Andrew and the schools were before the break - including the work some schools have done to spread the message and even to use materials that would otherwise be thrown away!
Senior Ranger MICHAEL GARNER from the Parks and Wildlife Service shares his passion and knowledge for the natural world with the students:
COASTWATCHERS hits the first really wet and cold weather, but plugs on regardless! More schools are adding to the online Rubbish Dump, and the first examples of art made from the collected rubbish are coming in. The first week-long expedition to Recherche Bay with students from the Jordan River Learning Federation is just around the corner as the expedition component starts to ramp up...
COASTWATCHERS has hit the beach running. See the results of some of the schools involved in the first days of this epic 4 month expedition. Several schools are still sorting and counting the debris they collected, while others have already uploaded their information online!
COASTWATCHERS was launched on 16 July 2012 by the Tasmanian Minister for Education, Nick McKim, and environmental entrepreneur Robert Pennicott. Footage of the very first COASTWATCHERS clean-up and survey, hosted by the Woodridge Marine Discovery Centre with students from the Woodbridge School, can be seen here:
Andrew prepares for the Coastwatchers Expedition. Perhaps he should have checked the condition of his bike a bit earlier...
Andrew Hughes, our Expedition Class teacher, introduces COASTWATCHERS and explains more in the following clip:
A live blog from the 2012 South West Marine Debris Cleanup can be seen our Expedition Class page, along with information on how your school or community groups can access further information (including teacher guides and student activity kits) and be involved in addressing this problem.
Ninna Millikin joined the 2011 South West Marine Debris Cleanup to document the hard work of Matt Dell and his volunteers on Tasmania's remote south-west beaches. The following two video pieces tell that story - one in summary (first clip), one in greater detail (second).
WARNING: the second clip contains some stunningly beautiful footage, but also some stunningly disturbing images.
FULL MINI-DOCUMENTARY (below): WARNING - some images may shock
Despite being a wild and largely unvisited area, found within one of the planet's most significant World Heritage Areas, a vast quantity of marine debris - especially plastic pollution - washes up here from all around the globe.The Cleanup is made possible by the support and hard work of the sponsors and volunteers listed in the videos. Filming and editing was made possible with the support of the Bookend Trust and the Southern Waste Strategy Authority.
A photo-essay on the issue of plastic pollution can be found in PDF format below, including the story of the south-west Tasmanian clean-up and the parallel experiences of the Envirothon winners on Lord Howe Island, as well as information on the problem with microplastics.