Woolamai Field Trip

On Saturday May 16, five Yr. 12 students, accompanied by myself and Science teacher, Mr. Dunlop, set out on a Fieldtrip to Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island. VCE Geography in Yr. 12 requires students to undertake four hours of fieldwork to study and collect data about how a local resource is used and managed.

At Cape Woolamai we were met by Phillip Island Nature Park ranger, Kim, who escorted us on a guided tour of the Cape. We took note (and photos) of all the various geographic characteristics of the environment, both human and natural. e.g. kiosk/sand dunes and handled samples of volcanic basalt, pink granite and sandstone rocks.  We were also lucky enough to see protected wildlife such as the tiny ‘Hooded Plover’ (an endangered bird) and the burrows of ‘Shearwater’ birds amidst the vegetation along the cliffs. The students and I were amazed to learn that approximately 1 million short-tailed Shearwaters migrate 15,000 km annually to Cape Woolamai in September, from the Aleutian Islands (Alaska), to breed. When the breeding season ends in April, they leave the Cape and commence their long 8 week journey back to the Alaskan islands.

A famous feature at Cape Woolamai were the “Pinnacles”, majestic stony outcrops of pink granite. In the past the granite at the Cape had been quarried and it was interesting to learn that the same pink granite had been used for architectural features in some buildings in Collins Street, in the city. Students observed and learnt how the Cape was being used as a resource (by both humans and wildlife) and the various policies that P.I.N.P utilise to manage it. Two major environmental issues at the Cape were the erosion of sand dunes and the prevalence of foxes, a major threat to wildlife. Students learnt that the policies of planting Marram grass and the placing of hay bales on sand dunes were effective management policies in controlling dune erosion. Baits were being laid to control foxes but we found it difficult to answer the Ranger’s question about why the Park had installed a camera on the San Remo bridge to Phillip Island? Interestingly, it was to record the number of foxes that enter the island annually, from the mainland.

On their return to school, students spent many lessons preparing a comprehensive Fieldwork Report of Cape Woolamai, worth 50% of their Unit 3 score. This report included local and regional maps of the Cape drawn by the students, photos, field sketches and extensive outlines of how the Cape as a resource was being used and managed. Students also outlined the positive and negative impacts of the Cape. e.g. a positive is that it generates revenue through tourism. A final challenging task was for students to identify a detrimental impact at the Cape and to propose their own sustainable policy to deal with this impact. David Bond (MX 5) achieved this particularly well, with his proposal of vegetation being planted in a bio-degradable bag on sand dunes. The bag ‘anchors’ vegetation into the dunes, stabilising it until it takes root and eventually the bag disintegrates, but does not harm the environment. The vegetation spreads and stabilises sand dunes, making them less prone to wind erosion. Great idea, Dave!

All in all, we had a great time and were blessed with glorious weather on the day. It was very rewarding for me to see the students linking their learning from the Textbook to a real life environment and its issues. The study of Geography is no longer about just learning the capital cities of countries! If your child is interested in the world, its issues and the local environment or just loves being outside, please encourage them to consider studying this wonderful subject.

Ms. Diana Dodig – VCE Geography teacher