Wonder of Science and the Queensland Trust for Nature
Avoid Island Programme

For the last 3 years, Wonder of Science (WoS) has partnered with the Queensland Trust for Nature (QTFN) to offer the Avoid Island Programme for year nine students from WoS schools across the state.

Two Young Science Ambassadors from WoS accompany students on the trip, which offers a once in a lifetime opportunity for students to assist in the collection of vital data on Flatback turtles. The three day programme includes a charter plane trip to Avoid Island, situated 100 km south of Mackay. This 83 hectare island on the Great Barrier Reef is a refuge for nesting Flatback turtles where marine biologists are collecting data on this vulnerable species.

On the island, the students help collect data on nesting Flatback turtles with Dr. Nancy Fitzsimmons, a world renowned turtle biologist. Dr. Fitzsimmons is tagging and collecting data on female Flatback turtles visiting Avoid Island, and the eggs they lay; as part of a larger project to determine how the Flatback turtle population numbers of Eastern Australia are changing over time.

“The conservation work has made me realise how important it is for us to help and protect animal species and not take things for granted.”    “I extremely enjoyed the hands-on work in the Avoid Island programme – and the experience of working on an uninhabited island and getting a real feel of animal conservation.”

“The conservation work has made me realise how important it is for us to help and protect animal species and not take things for granted.”

“I extremely enjoyed the hands-on work in the Avoid Island programme – and the experience of working on an uninhabited island and getting a real feel of animal conservation.”

Each night of the programme, the students patrol the beach searching for turtles coming ashore to nest. When a turtle is found, the students assist Dr. Fitzsimmons in gathering data, including scanning for a microchip and ID number, measuring the length of the turtle shell, and checking the turtle for any injuries. During the day, the students have the opportunity to relax and explore the island. While visiting the tidal rock pools on the Island, Dr. Fitzsimmons guides the students through a lesson in marine biology.

The Avoid Island Turtle Programme is an amazing opportunity for the high school students to gain experience in marine biology. In particular, it provides hands-on experience in scientific data collection, and enables students to gain insight of what it is like to be marine biologist. It also gives students firsthand experience of what it takes to conserve and protect vulnerable marine species.

“Seeing what the marine biologists did when studying the turtles gave me an understanding of what the future as a marine biologist would hold.”