By Beth Enderwick (University of Queensland, Australia)
Brisbane is an ideal place to live in Australia if you want to travel. Many will agree, the East Coast has the most beautiful places to visit and Bris is conveniently right in the middle.
Although my course was pretty full on (with at least two assignments each week, midterms and online quizzes) I worked to have most weekends free. Some of the places I visited were: Byron Bay, Sydney, Melbourne, Whitsundays, Fraser Island and New Zealand. My favorite place, however, was Heron Island.
Similar to my course in Manchester, I was able to take one module outside of Maths. After being informed that there was a module that brought you to the Great barrier reef, I soon enrolled onto Australia’s marine environment. This course is designed for exchange students and almost everyone I became friends with enrolled too.
Visiting the Great Barrier Reef has always been on my bucket list and I couldn’t have experienced it in a better way. You may have seen Heron Island on Blue Planet II. It’s a small sand island surrounded by coral reef, away from tall buildings and the impact of modern civilization. The coral stretches for miles beyond the distance; there are few places in the world where you can literally walk on the reef but Heron Island is one of them. You can also walk around the whole island in less than 30 minutes. Rays swim right beside in the shallows of the pristine water and turtles come ashore to lay their eggs.
The visit was intended as a field trip but it did not feel like work and most of the time was spent snorkeling. We snorkeled at sunrise, midday and sunset. Watching the sun go down amidst tropical fish was particularly beautiful.
We swam with manta rays, turtles, jellyfish and sharks. The sharks on the reef are pretty harmless as long as they do not feel threatened and the turtles were friendly swimmers. Often, something new would swim beside me and I’d be in a state of amazement all over again.
This experience gave me the chance to witness so many beautiful things but also made me extremely aware of how the Great Barrier reef is changing. Soon it will no longer be possible to see it as it is today. The Reef is under threat from bleaching due to acidification and increasing temperatures and this causes long term damage and death of the coral in some cases.
Sir David Attenborough is passionate about this matter. He describes the reef as ‘one of the greatest, and most splendid natural treasures that the world possesses’ and has dedicated a lot of time to prevent further damage. He has also created this site to give a deeper understanding and provide knowledge into how others can help.
Furthermore, the University of Queensland has it’s own research station on Heron Island where incredible work is being done to protect the reef – one of the many incentives to study at UQ if you’re interested in marine biology. However, there is still much to be done. It is a global matter that affects everyone, not just Australia and it would be a huge waste for it to disappear. There certainly are few places in the world like this.