Australia Expedition Day 8 and 9: Straddie!

On Wednesday, the team awoke after an awesome evening with the Australia Marine Sciences Association Tuesday night to our first fieldwork day at the Moreton Bay Research Station, North Stradbroke Island (Straddie). So excited to finally get into the water, get some samples, and see some really cool stuff! After a quick stop at the Ithaca Ice Works (yes, it’s in Brisbane in the suburb of Lytton) for some dry ice, the team caught the vehicular ferry Minjerribah from Cleveland to Dunwich.

The team totally excited to be heading for some fieldwork!

After arrival at MBRS, they were induced (given a safety induction), before hitting the tidal flats in front of the station. There, the team had great success finding our first amphipods and echinoderms.

A common holothurian, Holothurian scabra (left), and amphipods (right) collected on the One Mile Harbor flats.

After a successful collection trip, they spent about 3 hours processing samples for tissues, documenting each sample taken for our permits, and making sure that animals were returned if possible.


Grad students looking serious in the lab.

Ian has a long history at Straddie, having being involved in various field courses and fieldwork early in his career. It’s been a bit of a trip down memory lane! He first came to Straddie during the Marine Botany Group’s intensive sampling in 1997, traveling over to Dunwich with Bill Dennison (mentor) and Andrew Watkinson (fellow undergrad schlep) in the middle of the night – an event which changed his future forever. He then participated in numerous field trips to Straddie, including field courses in estuarine ecology run by Greg Skilleter (invert zoologist at UQ), and performing his own research at the station into marine viruses in the late 90s and early 00s. The station was completely rebuilt in about 1999 – the old station buildings were sold to the local high school and transported intact there, where they remain today. MBRS remains one of the most incredibly places at which researchers can perform their stuff, and classes can meet to learn about marine ecology. Ian and Ian have been working on plans for students to come to Straddie as part of a combined UQ-Cornell course in marine ecology.

After a busy day, Ian, Kalia and Elliot traveled to Point Lookout for a bit of sightseeing and dinner before hitting the hay (remarkably early at 9:30pm).

The tides today saw a high just after dawn, so not the best for intertidal sampling. Hence, the team had a relatively easy morning preparing for a boating trip late morning. Ian Tibbetts arrived around 9:30 am, and then the team + Ian boarded the R/V Glaucus (one of the station’s small runabouts… the other being the R/V Pelagia, a boat Ian had taken from Ipswich, some 60 km upriver, to Straddie, and many places in-between between 1997 and 2000).


The venerable Pelagia… still kicking it after 20 years in service. This boat is actually one of the driving forces for getting Ian into marine science!

After a short trip across relatively calm water, the team arrived at the Wanga Wallen Banks, north of Dunwich and Myora, and quickly got into the water to grab some inverts.

The team looking super excited/impressed, so far…

Underwater scenes of Wanga Wallen – LOADS of sea cucumbers (holothurians) and asteroids (sea stars).

After scouting around, the team found quite a few chocolate chip stars (Pentaceraster) nestled in seagrass beds, which were collected for further work. The team also found quite a large number of Holothuria spp, which were also collected for work back in the lab.


Pentaceraster sp. in a bed of Cymodocea sp.

After about 10 mins in the water, Kalia and Elliot had collected quite a few of these animals, so we sped off to another site.

Elliot handing up samples, and the haul of Holos (top) and asteroids (bottom).

The team then went to Amity Banks, where they recovered several specimens of collector urchin, Tripneustes gratilla, and some Cenolia sp., the feather star.

Samples of Tripneustes granola (left), a feather star (top right) taken at Amity Point (bottom right)

Having secured a bunch of cool samples, the team had one last task: collect zooplankton from the bay.


Plankton netting off the Glaucus in Rainbow Channel

Back in the lab, the team set about dissecting and subsampling animals. We try, wherever possible, to perform leas-destructive sampling, and prefer not to kill animals if necessary. However, sometimes animals decide to do this for themselves. Holothurians, for example, as a defense mechanism will eviscerate (eject their internal organs) – it’s quite dramatic, but unavoidable sometimes! However, looking on the bright side, it allows us to sample internal organs without needing to kill the animal! This happened to a few today, documented here.


A totally eviscerated Holothuria sp.

Some of the awesome samples the team worked on today.

Tomorrow morning, the team will be collecting some samples for a colleague (Morgan Eisenlord) before returning to UQ to transfer samples to a liquid N2 dewar and then up to the Sunshine Coast for some RnR. But an awesome visit to Straddie, with many fantastic samples in tow!

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