Local Marine Scientist Lands Dream Job Out West

Leachie 19 October 2014


Local marine scientist Andrew Leach has been selected to participate in an once-in-a-lifetime experience with the Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program (GTCP), Western Australia (WA). Andrew, who grew up in Canberra and studied in Wollongong, has a strong background in science and is passionate about the conservation of the marine environment. This October, he will travel to Gnaraloo to participate as a Scientific Intern for the 2014/15 sea turtle nesting season.

Gnaraloo is a particularly unique case for environmental and marine projects. Gnaraloo is a wilderness tourism business and working pastoral station on the Ningaloo Coast, Western Australia; located approximately 1000 km north of Perth, WA, and adjacent to the Ningaloo Marine Park. The GTCP aims to identify, monitor and protect key coastal nesting rookeries of endangered marine turtles on Gnaraloo beaches, namely loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles. What makes Gnaraloo so special is that it is 1 of only 3 full season turtle monitoring programs in Australia, and it is also the largest confirmed mainland rookery in WA, being home to over 500 nests per season. Gnaraloo has an active role in reducing feral animal predation of turtle nests through the Gnaraloo Feral Animal Control Program (GFACP); which has achieved zero predation by feral animals for the past four years. The program protected 47 000 loggerhead turtle eggs last season, with a running total of 188 000 loggerhead eggs since the GFACP commenced in 2010.

Andy’s participation as a Scientific Intern with the GTCP will begin 20th October 2014, and continue until 1st May 2015. Andy has previous experience working in marine turtle conservation, including a season working with hawksbill turtles in the Seychelles. He also has extensive GIS capabilities, after working for one year as a GIS Analyst with an engineering consulting company.

The GTCP has recruited national and international scientific interns every season since its inception in 2008. Andy’s exceptional scientific and technical abilities will be fully utilised during the intensive turtle nesting season in Australia. Andy will live as part of a small team at Gnaraloo station, and be involved in all aspects of turtle monitoring, including species identification and nesting activity determination from tracks left in the sand, monitoring predation of nests, identification of feral animal tracks, conducting on-site and off-site presentations, and writing a scientific report of the findings. Andy will be heavily involved in community engagement activities, where the GTCP reaches out to younger generations to educate them on marine conservation. Last season the program presented to 4,589 individuals, plus a wider audience that was reached through radio discussions, publications and online media communication.

Gnaraloo welcomes all visitors to the area and strongly encourages community participation in the GTCP. A variety of accommodation options are available at Gnaraloo. Gnaraloo is able to provide information to schools and community groups, including on site presentations, at the end of this season. For more information on the GTCP, please visit www.gnaraloo.com.

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