01 April 2021

Great Ocean Road Recreation Authority Talk

Article by Cooper Barsby

Great Ocean Road Recreation Authority Talk

In the last week of term 1, we had a guy named Pete the Possum come in and talk to the Year 12 VCAL students about his job, what he likes doing and his passion for animals and he taught us some very interesting things about animals. He got his name Possum Pete because he heavily studied possums and would stay up all night filming them and seeing their behaviours. He went on to say that they chew  four times per second and only eat clean leaves and hate dirty leaves, which is pretty straight forward.

He started off by talking to us about his job, which is titled as an Education Officer at The Great Ocean Road Recreation Trust Authority. The job essentially consists of protecting and managing visitation of the Great Ocean Road coast and parks. He also takes groups of school students out to the beach to teach them different things, and he also gives talks in schools, which he did with us.

He then went on to talk about different kinds of animal species that we have around our Victorian coast line, he asked us to call out different animals that we all see. For example some people called out dolphins, snakes, magpies and more. He then told us the correct names of those animals and what species they are. He talked about his obsession with moths, which took off during quarantine, where he heavily studied and took photos of moths and uploaded them to an app called Inaturalist.

Inaturalist is an app you upload nature photos to as well as what location you found them in, and people can see them and study that animal or see that that animal actually exists in that part of the world. To get the photos of the moths he would go in his backyard and set up a big white sheet, with these 2 massive lights shining on it. He said that he would get over 100 different species of moths to come for that light. He studied them for a while learning all their scientific names and all the different types of moths, he brought one big one in that he found and the patterns on it were amazing.

He then spoke about these plants that have a small red berry that grows on them. The berries don't taste that good, but when split open they leave a massive red stain on your hands, which he made me show the class by rubbing my hands on them. He said that the birds that live around here eat those berries and that's why you sometimes see bird poop on the footpath that is red.

He had a few stories he told about the dangerous blue ringed octopus. He was snorkelling with a crew of school kids at Point Road Knight when one of the kids pointed out a ball down in the reef. Pete then dived down and picked it up and it was a treat all for a dog, one of the balls that you can stick a treat into, he thought nothing of it at the time and continued on with his snorkelling.

When he got back into shore, he chucked the ball to one of the other teachers. The other teacher noticed a tentacle come out of the hole in the ball, then another tentacle, then a blue ringed octopus came out. He said that when it fell on the sand it started going completely flat because it’s got no bones or major muscles so it couldn’t fight gravity. He then asked a parent for a bucket and he put it back in the water to live another day.

Pete brought out a jar that had a big parasite in it. He went on to tell us that he found a dead leather jacket (which is a type of fish) and he saw something sticking out of its stomach. He went over and pulled it out and it was a big old parasite that had been living in the fish’s stomach. Some of the parasites connect themselves to the fish’s tongue and become the tongue, so when food that the fish eats comes through they eat it.

He spoke about different sea animals. The main ones he spoke about were these different types of sea snails. I can’t remember the names of each one but I can remember what some do. One of the snails lives in a cone shaped shell, and to kill fish they shoot a mini harpoon out of the bottom of their shell that kills fish instantly, then they can eat it at their own pace. Another snail gets on top of other snails and they have a tongue that is like a drill, so they drill the tongue through the snail’s shell they are on top of and they basically suck the guts out of the snail, and the snail can do nothing about it.

Did you know that Cuttlefish only live for 1 year and once they die they are just a big slab of meat floating around in the ocean. So pretty much everything tries to eat it, like sharks, dolphins and seals. Underneath the meat of the cuttlefish is a soft white growth plate, so when the animals eat the cuttlefish they can leave their teeth marks in it. So next time you’re walking on the beach, make sure to see if there are any marks in them.

This was a really informative speech for the Year 12 VCAL group. It fits in with our theme of the Environment. I thought that it was a really good talk from Pete from which we all learnt a heap.

Cooper Barsby