Seaweed Action Project

Summary: Students from Scot´s College and Wellington East Girl´s College have taken part on the first EMR programme focusing specifically on seaweed and its role in the marine environment surrounding the Miramar peninsula.

 

Students from Wellington East Girl´s College and Scot´s College have been studying in depth the role of seaweed in our local marine environment as part of their Experiencing Marine Reserves programme. Thanks to the support from Nikau Foundation and Wellington Underwater Club´s Project Baseline, Mountains to Sea Wellington got the chance to show the Yr9 and Yr10 groups what a kelp forest looks like above and beneath the ocean´s surface.

Wellington´s winter temperatures didn´t stop the students from experiencing the highly productive seaweed ecosystems found around the Miramar peninsula, more specifically Kau Bay and Worser Bay. A snorkel around the bays allowed them to explore first-hand what a healthy seaweed habitat should look like; and even more, students bumped into some of the biodiversity that call these habitats home, including octopus, paua, wrasses, schools of yellow-eyed mullet, anemones and many other species.


Dr. Wendy Nelson talks seaweed with Scot´s College students.

Their understanding of seaweed and its role, as shelter and food for many creatures, was expanded even further thanks to the expertise of Dr. Wendy Nelson, a seaweed guru from NIWA. Nelson talked to the students on land and told many fascinating facts and stories ranging from invasive seaweed species to seaweed as a source of kai. She even showed everyone how to tell apart the male and female part on one individual plant!

Part of the programme involved applying new technologies to marine conservation, in this case seaweed conservation. Nicole Miller (WUC) had the perfect tools to show the students. Nicole showed and explained the importance of remote operated vehicles (ROVs) and underwater cameras for monitoring marine environments. Furthermore, she showed how drones are being currently used to check the health of kelp forests. On the snorkel day, the students had the chance to fly a drone over the area and were able to map the seaweed laying underneath the surface.


Wellington East Girl´s students try out one of the applications of a 360 underwater camera.

All the knowledge gained throughout the programme will be put to good use with the students´ Kaitiaki Projects. For example, Conor, Luca and Ilgaz are working on a proposal for a marine reserve to be established around Kau Bay to protect the kelp forests in the area; Alex, Harry and Fergus are designing a garbage barrier to stop pollution and rubbish from reaching the ocean. They are planning on installing it at the mouth of Owhiro Stream to mitigate the impact of the landfill on Taputeranga Marine Reserve. Finally, another group has decided to focus on engaging the community and showing them the beauty found in these seaweed ecosystems. They have set up a website (https://seaweedsaver.weebly.com/) and an Instagram account (@seaweedsavers) to keep the local community informed and up to date with current seaweed issues.

 

A drone photograph showing massive (20+ meters) Giant Kelp plants, the “trees” of underwater forests, at Worser Bay. Students will use software to stitch images together and create a larger panorama map of the area.