Back in Melbourne

Hey all! Hopefully you have enjoyed the pictures. Now here is more on what exactly we have been up to. When we last posted we were on our way to our first Australian Rules Football game. The Australians are very passionate about their footy and get quite into the game. A few members of our group tried to emulate this spirit by having their faces painted in support of their favorite team. In addition to cheering and booing, fans also show their team spirit by singing along when their team’s fight song is played after winning the game. The game was fun to watch and the group enjoyed the opportunity to experience Aussie sports culture.
The group spent the next morning at the Melbourne Aquarium where we were able to view many of the animals we had learned about while studying marine biology at Queenscliff. We were also able to see some animals that were new to us, such as the Little Penguin (also known as the Fairy Penguin) and watch a shark feeding! After finishing at the aquarium, we had the rest of the day, as well as all day Sunday to explore Melbourne on our own. Because the temperatures that weekend were in the upper 30s (upper 90s in Fahrenheit), many opted for air-conditioned options such as the Melbourne Museum.
On Monday morning it was time to depart for our next destination! Our departure was made interesting by a downpour that hit just as the transportation team began to load all of our luggage onto the bus. They were all good sports about it but are hoping that Mother Nature will be kinder in the future! After arriving at Phillip Island, we had two lectures at our accommodation and then two lectures out at the Nobbies Center. While at the Nobbies Center we also got to view live footage of the Australasian Fur Seals living just offshore!
Tuesday was an action packed day. In the morning we did two sets of quadrats, the first at Smith’s Beach and the second at the beach at the Penguin Parade Center. Phillip Island is known for its wildlife, and especially for the Little Penguins. The Penguin Parade Center gives visitors the opportunity to see the penguins up close as they come ashore to mate and molt. They also play a large role in penguin conservation by providing habitat for them and researching them. In the afternoon we made our contribution to penguin conservation by building artificial burrows for them. There is not enough restored natural habitat for all of the penguins to have homes. The burrows were made out of plywood and then covered in mulch and plants. A few us struggled at first with how to use a hammer, but we eventually got them built. We think that the penguins will like them very much! After a break for dinner, we returned to the Penguin Parade Center in the evening to see for ourselves how the penguins cross the beach. We saw 573 penguins successfully complete the journey! One of the most entertaining parts of the night was watching the penguins make the trek to their burrows after crossing the beach. The skinny penguins were really fast, but the fat ones had a hard time keeping up and swayed from side to side as they wattled along. Some of the fat ones even had to lie on their bellies and rest every few meters. This experience was one of the highlights of the week and something we will all remember for a long time to come!
On Wednesday we had lectures in the morning, followed by vegetation quadrats and a walk through the mangroves in the afternoon. On Thursday we were scheduled to do volunteer work with Scott from Phillip Island Nature Parks. We were given directions to walk along the beach until we found Scott, who would be watching for us. After 45 minutes of walking along the beach, there was still no Scott to be found. Not only that, but it was rainy and so windy that it was raining sideways! We stopped at a shelter to try figure out what was going on, and eventually Paul was able to get ahold of Scott. He must have just missed us. We were not quite sure how that would have happened since we were all wearing brightly colored rain coats, but oh well! We set out in the direction we had just come from and sure enough, a mile back, we finally found Scott. We then spent the next hour and a half pulling out an invasive species so the area could be revegetated. Needless to say we were all soaking wet by lunchtime. We still managed to have fun, though, and were rewarded for our hard work with a hot and delicious lunch. That afternoon, we hiked up to Cape Woolamai and it stopped raining just as we reached the top of the cape allowing us to take in the awesome view of the southern ocean!
On Friday we had a free morning so some of us went to the post office and others visited the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory. Around midday we met back up with the large group and went to the Koala Conservation Center where we had an outdoor lecture. Most of us were more focused on avoiding the biting Bull Ants that were crawling around us than we were on the lecture. After the lecture we got to go for a walk through the Koala habitat. The Koalas were pretty awesome, but the coolest part of the walk was seeing Kookaburras in action. We were walking along when all of a sudden a kookaburra swooped down and snatched up a copperhead snake (one of Australia’s most venomous) behind its head, fly up to a tree branch, whack the snake against the tree until it died, and then swallow it whole. We all felt very lucky to have witnessed such an awesome event! We were scheduled to go kayaking at Churchill Island, a historic homestead, in the late afternoon but it was too windy. Instead we did a walking tour of the island. We were bummed about not being able to kayak, but the walking tour was interesting, and hopefully there will be other opportunities to kayak later in the program!
On Saturday our first independent travel break began. We were dropped off at Southern Cross Station in Melbourne, from which we dispersed for an exciting week of travels to many different places including Canberra, Tasmania, New Zealand and Fiji. All of us made it safely to Canberra at the end of the week, and though it was fun to pursue our individual interests over break, we are happy to be back together. Because Canberra is the capital of Australia we will spend a lot of our scheduled time here studying their political system, and in our free time prepare for our midterms which begin on Friday in Sydney. Wish us luck!

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5 responses to “Back in Melbourne

  1. Annika, your descriptions are so vivid and interesting. What amazing things you have seen. I’m very impressed with the wide range of intense physical activities you do. You must be in excellent shape! Keep having fun.–Love, Jill and family

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