Shoreline shell surveys are a great way for people of any age to get to know their beach and contribute to a baywide community program. All you need is a camera, clipboard, pen, and basic reading and writing skills. You can do surveys at your own pace, where and when it suits you. Let’s face it… a beach should be a stress-free zone!
The program will record which shell species live in Port Phillip Bay, on which beaches they’re found, and if they’re common or rare. Surveyors will also note litter, erosion, seaweed, dead fish and birds in order to gather an overview of the bay’s coastal condition.
The first goal is to survey every beach in the bay by May 2009 and recruit people to regularly survey their local beach over the next 12 months. A longer term goal is to produce a book on the shells of Port Phillip.
Photos taken of shells at each location are to be forwarded to the EcoCentre for identification and compilation of local posters which will be sent to schools to encourage study of the Bay. The surveys are great for maths out of the classroom, creative writing and desktop publishing, and are an introduction to marine ecology and classification of species.
So far we’ve surveyed: Sandridge, Middle Park, St Kilda West, St Kilda, St Kilda South, Elwood, Mordialloc, Seaford, Frankston, Dromana, McRae, Rickett’s Point, Rye, Portsea, Williamstown (Gem Pier), Point Gellibrand, Altona, Werribee River, Port Arlington, Saint Leonards, Point Lonsdale.
Rickett’s Point has by the far the most number of shell species with Gem Pier in Williamstown having the least. Despite the low result for Gem Pier, the population at Point Gellibrand (less than a kilometre away) was reasonably diverse. Saint Leonard’s and Mordialloc were notable in that they each had a species not found in any of the other surveys to date.
Each beach is different, reflecting the environmental conditions in their locale. Along with local weather, wave and tidal patterns, conditions are influenced by proximity to stormwater drains, offshore reefs and breakwaters, piers and shipping ports, and beach cleaning and renourishment programs. Ongoing surveys may well show seasonal differences.