The 2023 National Science Week event “Investigating Critical Corridors”- ‘Using data to determine dolphin migratory pathways in the region’ hosted by Kangaroo Island / Victor Harbor Dolphin Watch on Kangaroo Island and in Victor Harbor on the mainland was highly successful by any measure.

The first research survey on The Big Duck Boat Tours on August 9th in Encounter Bay saw Citizen Science volunteers take part in shorebird surveys in conjunction with Birdlife Australia around the islands off Victor Harbor, then travel to areas off Wright Island to observe, record and collect invaluable data regarding the Bottlenose dolphins who frequent the area. A high energy display of feeding on a mullet school was both exciting and highly interesting from a data perspective.

Victor Harbor Survey Crew The Big Duck Aug. 9th 2023

The second and third surveys aboard Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures vessel “Island Explorer” to North Cape off Kingscote on Kangaroo Island on August 14th and 30th involved volunteers in meaningful data collection exercises. All 3 surveys in the region involved a number of new participants of all ages, including a group of teenagers – families of several KI Council representatives.

KI Survey 1 Crew KI Marine Adventures Aug. 14th 2023
KI Survey 2 Crew KIMA Aug. 30th 2023

The 3 open workshops on August 8th, 10th and 11th at the Victor Harbor Visitors Centre / SA Whale Centre allowed community members to come and observe, or be involved if they wished in the data analysis, collation and cataloguing exercise using the data gathered during the Science Week survey and on previous surveys.

VH Science Week Workshop Aug. 23rd 2023
Birdlife Australia Collaborations Aug. 8th 2023 VH

The workshop at the Ozone Hotel in Kingscote on August 18th involved volunteers being able to participate in the morning tea Brain Break Quiz activities prepared by National Science Week. This proved to be a funfilled activity for all concerned and gave further evidence to the part Science plays in our everyday lives.

Brain Break Morning Tea Ozone Hotel KI Aug. 18th 2023

All 4 workshops involved positive visitation, important meetings and very productive collaborations, including with Birdlife Australia’s Kerri Bartley, who will be regularly joining our monthly surveys with a group of Birdlife Australia volunteers participating in vital shorebird surveys and a data collection exercise including endangered species, focussing on the islands in the Encounter Bay area where a number of species breed. A particular focus is the Fairy Tern which has recently been added to the threatened species list.

Discussions and worthy collaborations included a very productive session with shark expert Dr Jonathan Werry, previously one of the Big Duck Boat Tours skippers, with a strong interest in linkages with dolphin data collection.  Dr Werry gathered our data on dolphin damage collected over 18 years as part of his forensic analysis of dolphin injuries /shark / boat strike, in preparation for his paper on “White Sharks” which will be presented to an international conference in Port Lincoln in November. It is very heartening to see our longitudinal data used by experts in such important scientific applications and conservation work.

The intent to involve community “decision makers” as part of the activities proved fruitful as a number of Council personnel participated, gaining insights into the part scientific data collection plays in informed decision making. The exercise was well received as shown by very positive verbal and written feedback.

Participants included teenagers through to respected senior citizens in the community, exchange students, regional Councillors and staff, photographers, environmentalists, visitors and regular volunteers. Fortunately this year the weather was kind with all 3 surveys carried out in excellent conditions leading to brilliant data collection exercises and very positive experiences for all on board.

Each survey and workshop involved considerable socialising, discussions and information sharing, offering many opportunities to focus on and celebrate Science in our regional community. Numerous morning teas and enjoyable lunches at The Causeway Café, Eat at Whalers, Emu Bay Lavender Farm and The Ozone Hotel were thoroughly enjoyed with wonderful connections and social opportunities so vital in isolated communities. Bringing a cross section of the community together over a common cause and passion creates a sense of purpose, belonging etc and increased health and wellbeing.

We were delighted to receive excellent local and regional media visitation and support helping to spread our message, thanks to Editor Michael Simmons and journalists Emma Heidenreich and Stan Gorton. Articles featured in The Times Victor Harbor, the Fleurieu Sun and The Islander Newspapers and on line coverage, for which we are truly grateful. Emma joined our Victor Harbor survey and thoroughly enjoyed the Citizen Science experience during which she interviewed a number of participants, including two French exchange students witnessing dolphins up close in their natural environment for the first time. The results were excellent coverage and a front page feature in The Times Newspaper, with great feedback from the community as a response.

Interview with Editor Michael Simmons Fleurieu Sun Aug. 10th 2023 VH

During one of the 3 Victor Harbor Workshops Coordinator Tony was interviewed by Angela Coe at ABC Regional Radio about National Science Week and what our 13th event was all about. The importance of data acquisition for use in informing management practises was highlighted together with the invaluable work of Citizen Scientists in this process. The part Science Week events play in giving participants the chance to act as scientists in this data collection and analysis, if they wished, clearly indicated the role they could play in true scientific research.

Our Theme “Investigating Critical Corridors” exploring and analysing movements, patterns, behaviours and preferred habitat was well served by the event on surveys and in workshops, introductory pre survey briefings , workshop activities, discussions, meetings etc.  Participants were able to grasp and fully appreciate these fundamental elements in conservation and protection of dolphins about which very little is known. Dolphins as a sentinel species, but with iconic status constantly prove to be an ideal vehicle to engage the community, and decision makers in particular, in scientific data collection with strong linkages to STEM programs, initiatives and pathways.

The main agenda of encouraging community members to participate in scientific research thus expanding their understanding of the importance of STEM in every day decision making was clearly promulgated and the wider community’s understanding was enhanced accordingly. The second agenda of introducing the importance of scientific data collection to local decision makers across the region was also effective with a good take up rate by Councillors and Council management staff, on Kangaroo Island in particular.

On Kangaroo Island and more recently in Victor Harbor, we eagerly anticipate National Science Week each year and relish the opportunity to celebrate Science, the value of meaningful data collection and application in conservation, and the importance of community members of all ages developing a sense of stewardship and custodianship in their environment. All core business elements of our project were fostered and made possible by wonderful funding and support for which we are truly grateful. Once again our heartfelt thanks to Inspiring South Australia and to the SA National Science Week Committee for the fantastic help, support and faith in our project. Hearty congratulations once again on a magnificent range of Science Week events and celebrations across the country!

We were delighted to be a small part of the celebrations and are already planning and looking forward to our 2024 event, revisiting our 2013 theme of “Survival” which seems appropriate!

#scienceweek #inspiringsa #nationalscienceweek #STEM #citizenscience #dolphins #conservation #THANKYOU