Cairns students taking local actions for the Reef

Published: 15/08/2014

More than 60 students and teachers from eight Cairns Reef Guardian Schools swapped the classroom for the outdoors to investigate how sustainability initiatives and protecting natural areas in urban environments play an important role in maintaining healthy ecosystems and a sustainable community.

The day-long activities were part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s (GBRMPA) annual Future Leaders Eco Challenges that raise awareness about how activities on the land can affect the marine environment.

Future Leaders Eco Challenges are about students acting local but thinking global when it comes to addressing threats to the Reef.

GBRMPA Far Northern Regional Liaison Officer Phil Laycock said the students spent the day at Cattana Wetlands to learn about the how protecting wetland environments in urban areas protects the areas biodiversity and contributes to healthy water quality entering the Great Barrier Reef.

“As well as investigating the wetlands, students discovered some of the ways that the Cairns Regional Council are doing their bit to improve water quality leaving our urban areas to create a sustainable community.

“It was great to see so many inspiring student future leaders in the Cairns region that are passionate about looking after the Reef through positive actions they take at school and at home,” Mr Laycock said.

The students joined local entomologist Peter Shanahan for an insect safari to discover the diversity of insects that live around the Cattana Wetlands and important roles healthy insect populations play in ecosystems as pollinators, recyclers, predators and prey in an ecosystem.

Under the guidance of Cairns Regional Council Water and Waster Strategic Programs Officer Danora Buschkens students measured the water quality of a range of water samples collected from across the Cairns Urban catchment. Students began to understand that their actions around their homes with respect to water use, chemical use and waste disposal can affect water quality leaving our urban areas and flowing into the Great Barrier Reef.

Students joined Cairns Regional Council Sustainability Team members to design and build mock tropical homes using sustainable building design principals including the position of the sun in summer, catching  cooling breezes to flow through the house and considering building materials that would reduce energy inputs into the home and improve community’s sustainability.

The day could not have happened without the support of the Cairns Regional Council: Sustainability, Water and Waste, and Natural Areas Management teams. The students passed on a special thank you to Peter Shanahan for sharing his knowledge and understanding of the insect world.

GBRMPA’s Reef Guardian Schools program includes 308 schools and over 126,000 students from Torres Strait to Brisbane taking part in Reef education and environmental activities in their local area.


Name: GBRMPA Media
Contact: (07) 4750 0846