SCU Coffs Harbour marine scientist assisting turtle project
SOUTHERN Cross University marine science master's student Toby Ekman is racking up the frequent flyer points between his Coffs Harbour home and Gnaraloo in Western Australian.
Gnaraloo is a remote and virtually untouched area of wilderness where the desert meets the Indian Ocean and part of the famed Ningaloo Marine Park.
A mecca for ocean life, Gnaraloo is home to many species including the endangered loggerhead, endangered green, and critically endangered hawksbill turtles, which are studied and monitored by the Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program (GTCP).
Toby is one of four scientific interns chosen from across the world to work as part of the GTCP research team.
"What really inspired me to apply for the program was a month's volunteering I did in Costa Rica as part of a leatherback turtle conservation program in 2011," he said.
"Marine turtle populations are in decline worldwide and are adversely affected by changes to the marine environment, increased coastal development and feral predators.
"They're incredible creatures and play such an important role in ocean ecology.
"It's vital we do all that we can to learn more about these precious animals and conserve them for the future."
Toby completes his internship this month and will return to Coffs Harbour where he will finish writing his master's thesis about marine debris.
He also hopes to use his experience with the GTCP to help local turtle conservation groups.