SEA SQUIRTS

Visits to the coastline are often filled with feelings of enjoyment, relaxation and excitement through discovery and exploration. At Dalton Koss HQ we often see young children and teenagers having fun exploring the beach, especially when they find sea squirts exposed at low tide. The name giveaway here is the squirt of seawater that comes out of this animal when lightly squeezed.

Sea squirts live on the lower areas of intertidal zone (see this link), from rock platforms to human made structures such as groynes and seawalls.

Sea squirts attached to a pylon and sea wall on Hampton Beach, Victoria, Australia. Notice that each individual sea squirt has two siphons for intake and outtake of water and gases.
Sea squirts attached to a pylon and sea wall on Hampton Beach, Victoria, Australia. Notice that each individual sea squirt has two siphons for intake and outtake of water and gases.

Aside from the amusement they provide when squeezed, here are some interesting facts about sea squirts:

FACT 1: Sea squirts, in the adult form, are individual animals that permanently attach themselves to hard structures, such as rock platforms, groynes and sea walls.

FACT 2: Sea squirts are filter feeders meaning they filter their food and oxygen out of the water column. To do this sea squirts have two siphons, one for bringing in the water and one for getting rid of the water. The walls of the siphons are lined with cilia (think of cilia as microscopic arms that wave and move together) that grab plankton and absorb oxygen as the water passes through the intake siphons. Any unwanted matter and carbon dioxide is released from the outtake siphon

FACT 3: Sea squirts along Australia’s southern shoreline have a brown outer colour and a beautiful orange/red inner colour. This brown outer colour allows them to blend in with the seaweeds and hard structures they are attached to.

FACT 4: At low tide sea squirts close their siphons so water cannot escape while providing protection against predators and the elements (e.g. sun and air).

FACT 5: Sea squirts are also referred to as cunjevoi or ascidians (as they belong in the scientific class Ascidiacea).

FACT 6: Sea squirts are mostly hermaphrodites meaning they possess both male and female reproduction organs.

FACT 7: The larvae of sea squirts look like small tadpoles that can swim around in the water. They only stay in this form for a few hours before settling on a hard surface, which signals the start of its transformation into the adult form.

Perhaps one of the most interesting facts about sea squirts is their evolutionary link between animals without a backbone (think sea stars, sea jellies, sea snails) to animals with a backbone (such as fish, birds, humans). In the larval stage sea squirts have a notochord, which looks like a rod. The notochord eventually forms into the backbone. However, sea squirts do not form a backbone. When the sea squirt larvae settle onto hard structures, the notochord disappears. This is an interesting phenomenon for evolutionary scientists who study how animals and plants evolve over time.

Sea squirts have a few predators including humans who cut up the sea squirt and use the red part of its body as fish bait. Although we often see how much fun everyone has from squeezing and squirting each other with water from sea squirts, it does cause them a lot of stress while they are exposed to the sun and air at low tide. So while it is tempting to squeeze sea squirts, it is best to leave them in peace as they wait out the turn in tides.

The Intertidal Zone

Over the past few weeks, quite a number of the Dalton Koss HQ Marine Facts have referred to the intertidal zone. Many DKHQ readers have curiously responded with the questions:

  1. Where is the intertidal zone located?
  2. Exactly what is the intertidal zone?

At Dalton Koss HQ we are more than happy to answer these two questions.

The intertidal zone is located along our coastlines, specifically where the sea meets the land. This zone varies all across the globe. It can be made up of rocky shores with many fun rockpools, mudflats or sandflats, mangroves, salt marsh and seagrass beds, sandy beaches and coral reefs. The intertidal zone can be exposed to the rough and tumble of open oceans or located in sheltered places such as bays and inlets. Some scientists refer to the intertidal zone as the littoral zone.

An exposed intertidal rocky shore at low tide along Victoria's Great Ocean Road. Notice the prolific range of seaweeds adorning the rocks.
An exposed intertidal rocky shore at low tide along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. Notice the prolific range of seaweeds and mussels adorning the rocks.

At Dalton Koss HQ we often refer to the intertidal zone being in a liminal state. This is because the intertidal zone is either covered with ocean waters or exposed to the sun and air due to the constant movement of tides. It is never in one state of being within a 24 hour period; rather it is in continuous flux.

Being exposed to two completely different types of conditions means that as an animal or plant living in this zone, one needs to have some incredibly amazing adaptations to survive. Intertidal plants and animals need to be resilient to wave wash, tides and currents, sun exposure, predators and drying out all while trying to photosynthesise/eat and reproduce.

An exposed intertidal sandy flat located along Cape Conran Coastal Park in eastern Victoria, Australia.
An exposed intertidal sandy flat located along Cape Conran Coastal Park in eastern Victoria, Australia.

This makes the intertidal zone a fascinating area to explore and discover the spectacular range of marine animals and plants. To conserve this amazing zone while you explore, please be careful where you tread/snorkel, place rocks back to their original positions when you examine what is beneath and keep all rockpool animals and plants fully immersed in water to reduce their stress.

An intertidal coral reef exposed at low tide located in Fiji's Coral Coast.
An intertidal coral reef exposed at low tide located in Fiji’s Coral Coast.

Jonathan Kingsley’s Dedication to Improving Our Health and Wellbeing

Dr Jonathan Kingsley is a Research Fellow at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health (The University of Melbourne). In addition to this role, Jonathan is a Founding Member of the Oceania EcoHealth Chapter and a Health, Nature and Sustainability Research Group External Partner.

 Jonathan talks to Dalton Koss HQ about his passion and dedication to EcoHealth, social justice and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health and wellbeing.

I am an EcoHealth Researcher who links ecosystems to animal and human health. My journey in this area started during my Honours year when undertaking research on the health and wellbeing benefits of community gardening. During my Honours study, I realised that I wanted to learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Via a connection and introduction by Associate Professor Elizabeth Hoban, I met two inspiring Aboriginal mentors who are based in Derby, Australia: Dr Ann Poelina and Dr Ian Perdrisat. Ann and Ian welcomed me with open arms, providing guidance and teaching me the intricacies of how Aboriginal culture links to health and wellbeing. Over a four-month visit, I realised that Aboriginal culture, health and wellbeing is all intricately linked to traditional land (known as Country). This knowledge and experience shifted my trajectory. I wanted to learn more about Aboriginal culture where I grew up which is Victoria, Australia.

This led me to undertake a Masters research project on the connection Aboriginal Victorian people have to their Country and its association with health and wellbeing. Simultaneously, I continued working in a number of Aboriginal communities in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions located in northern Western Australia. On completing my Masters, I worked for the Victorian State Government, in academic institutes and within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector.

These experiences combined with my passion to better understand the human-environment relationship, led me to undertake and complete a PhD at Deakin University. This occurred over a ten-year period, nurturing my growing EcoHealth knowledge. This journey opened a number of leadership opportunities for me including: a contributing member for a number of international academic, non-government and EcoHealth initiatives. Such experience allowed me to become a keynote speaker at a number of international conferences and a recipient of environmental awards.

The six key words I use to describe effective and successful leadership include:

1. Practice: I believe each individual is born with talent, however, without practice and nurturing these skills will sometimes never be fulfilled. A good example of this is my presentation skills. When I started giving presentations I was terrible. Over the years my oration skills improved through repeated practice. Mentors can definitely help this process, but it takes the individual to make it happen.

2. Persistence: To be a good leader you have to be willing to fail and continue. I view this type of failure in a positive light for its ability to create change. You cannot blame others for this failure nor can you rely on others to help you move forward. This motivation has to come from within oneself.

3. Outgoing: If you do not push yourself into the unknown you cannot grow as an individual and evolve.

4. Flexibility: This evolution would not be possible if I had not been flexible towards change and able to recognise that sometimes my approaches need to be adaptable to situations. Working in government, NGO’s, universities and within communities has allowed me to evolve my communication styles.

5 & 6. Humble and Compassionate: there are people who believe they are leaders in the public domain but in private do not show leadership. Traits should not change no matter the social circumstances. To be a true leader you should show love and appreciation of family, friends, colleagues and communities you work with (obviously for these relationships to work reciprocation is required!).

In 2007 one of my close colleagues, an Aboriginal Elder from Western Australia passed away way too early in life. For many years I blamed myself for not providing greater support to him and his community. Through this experience I endeavoured to work better in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector. This led me to apply for visiting scholar positions in the UK and attempt to get into medicine. I quit my government position to work at the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation. Eventually I was successful gaining a place in a Medicine and spent a year at the University of Cambridge as a Visiting Scholar. During this time I failed often but simultaneously had many successes. One example of this was my first presentation I gave at The University of Cambridge. It was one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life but provided me with one of the most rewarding debate and discussions on my research topic. On return to Australia, I started my medial degree. During the first semester, I realised the blame and pressure I placed on myself was not helpful. I left the medical degree and moved back into the fields that drive me: EcoHealth, social justice and preventative medicine.

I attribute my success to my parents. They have always supported me. At school I had a learning disability where most teachers thought I would amount to nothing. My parents built a support network around me and connected me to teachers who were compassionate and provided the guidance I required. This experience taught me to be resilient and provided a foundation of critical learning that enabled me to succeed at university.

I don’t think you can invest in leadership. I think leadership comes through everyday living. I have been privileged to work in Aboriginal communities across Australia, taught and learnt at a leading university across the world, have supportive family and friends and always pushed myself in great jobs. All of these have been important in my leadership journey. These experiences cannot be quantified in financial terms or time wise.

I try not to involve myself in politics. I have a simple goal. I believe human survival can only occur through understanding our Planet and its diverse ecosystems. The way I practice this is through learning about Aboriginal ecological knowledge, research in the EcoHealth field and advocating my views of social justice. This has certainly meant my job stability has fluctuated in Australia as these types of ideas can often be shunned.

An old work colleague said to me once, “I am underpaid and overworked”. I would like to say the same goes for me. I give a lot of my time after hours and on weekends to my research and community work. But I also recognise that I am very privileged. I have grandparents who came to Australia with nothing other than scars of war and I work with people that live from day-to-day. I never want to take for granted that I often gain greatly from the time I give.

I usually exercise to maintain health and wellbeing, but of late that has taken a back seat to eating good food and drinking lovely beverages. What I really enjoy doing is listening to my wife play piano and sing, spending time with my dog Bobby, and going to the footy. Preparing myself to becoming a father makes me feel great too.

My tip is always try new ways of being. Never give up, especially when other people tell you otherwise. Often when people oppose your views, but you still maintain supporters, it means you are doing something right.

Organisations I recommend include Indigenous Community Volunteers and the Oceania Ecohealth Chapter. The Oceania EcoHealth Chapter can be found on Twitter @EcoHealth13.

For more information about Jonathan’s EcoHealth work, please follow these links:

http://blogs.crikey.com.au/croakey/2015/04/11/a-medical-student-explores-the-importance-of-aboriginal-culture-country-and-the-homelands-movement/

http://blogs.crikey.com.au/croakey/2015/03/24/postcard-from-montreal-towards-a-better-understanding-of-ecosystems-and-health/

Chitons

Visitors to coastal shores often come across unusual looking animals hidden in rock crevices. Here at Dalton Koss HQ we strive to help make sense of these unusual sea creatures by sharing our marine knowledge.

Chitons are one of these more unusual finds that many coastal visitors find on the rocky shoreline. With the Ch pronounced as a k sound, chitons have a fossilised appearance due to their numerous armoured plates. In fact, some people call Chitons the armadillos of the ocean as they are able to curl up into a ball using their armoured plates as protection.

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The armoured plates grow from the head to the foot of their body providing protection and camouflage from predators, hence why this animal is also commonly known as the coat-of-mail. The actual animal grows and lives under these armoured plates and its body is not segmented like its armour.

Here are a few interesting facts about chitons:

1. Chitons can only be found in the intertidal and upper subtidal zone of rocky shores.

2. The majority of chitons are vegetarian, grazing and eating seaweeds using their radula (see earlier What creates those circular holes on seashells? DKHQ Marine Fact to find out more about radulas).

3. Chitons can live from 1-20 years or more.

4. All chitons have a girdle around their body and plates.

5. Chitons prefer to move around during dusk and at night to reduce their chances of being prey to birds and other larger animals.

6. Sexual reproduction is often associated with a particular phase of the moon or with a tide, in some instances both.

The most fascinating and favourite Dalton Koss HQ Chiton fact is their homing ability. Chitons are able to have a night out crawling around rocks and feeding, but they are able to return to exactly the same spot before the sun comes up. Just amazing for a creature that has no eyes!

SEA SPIDERS

At Dalton Koss HQ we can already hear the arachnophobes fearfully exclaiming, “Sea Spiders! Will they bite me if I go for a swim? Are they poisonous?”

The answer to both questions is no. Sea Spiders are not interested in devouring humans.

Sea Spiders are scientifically known as pycnogonids. You can see in the image below, that sea spiders are not as chunky looking as their land dwelling cousins and are quite small in size (the Sea Spider in this image was no bigger than a $1 Australian coin).

This sea spider's scientific name is Pseudopallene ambigua and was found moving around a subtidal rocky reef inside Port Phillip Heads Marine National Parks, Victoria, Australia.
This sea spider’s scientific name is Pseudopallene ambigua and was found moving around a subtidal rocky reef inside Port Phillip Heads Marine National Parks, Victoria, Australia. The arrows point to several interesting body features.

This is because Sea Spiders have developed a number of really interesting body features over a long period of time. Here are just a few interesting feature facts:

Fact 1: The abdomen of the sea spider is very small and located towards the back of the body, while some of the gut is located in its legs. Their waste products are released directly into the seawater via a diffusion process across their cell walls.

Fact 2: Sea spiders use the same cell wall diffusion process to obtain oxygen, i.e. they have no lungs or respiratory system to breathe oxygen like many other animals.

Fact 3: Due to their very small body size, the sea spider’s reproductive system is found in their legs.

Fact 4: Female sea spiders deposit their fertilised eggs, which are then picked up and looked after by the male sea spider.

Fact 5: Most sea spider legs end in very small claws.

Fact 6: At each growth stage, starting from the larval phase, the sea spider develops a new set of legs until it reaches adulthood.

Fact 7. Sea spiders have a proboscis (think of it as their mouth and tongue rolled into one) so that they can suck out the fluids of animals they eat, for example, anemones, hydroids and bryozoans, but NOT humans.

Fact 8: Sea Spiders live in cool and warm water oceans at all depths.

How can I spot a Sea Spider?

Dalton Koss HQ’s tip for spotting a sea spider is to use a snorkel and mask and slowly drift over rocky reefs at high tide (for safety, always snorkel with a buddy). Sea Spiders are quite small so you need to look closely between seaweed tufts, anemones and other hydroids that grow on the rock.

Geoff Wescott is Leading the way in conservation and environmental management.

Geoff Wescott is an Associate Professor of Environment at Deakin University. In addition to his day job, Geoff has a number of executive leadership roles with Zoos Victoria, Victorian Coastal Council, Australian Coastal Society and the Victorian Marine Policy Round Table.

Geoff chats with Dalton Koss HQ about his conservation leadership journey.

My leadership journey started in 1978. I was half way through my zoology PhD at the University of Melbourne when I started to wonder why I was only focussing on pure science. All I really wanted to do was save the world. I was advised by my PhD supervisor at the time to first finish my PhD and then save the world, however, I was too impatient. I left my PhD uncompleted and was accepted onto a Masters in Nature Conservation at the University College London, paid via my own expense.

On completion, I came back to Australia in 1979 with two Master degrees under my belt and no conservation job. I ended up being a tutor in biology at the University of Melbourne, which was a little ironic. However, through sheer persistence and networking, I successfully landed the role of Executive Director for the Conservation Council of Victoria (CCV; now Environment Victoria). This was my first leadership job, responsible for the strategic operations of the CCV and management of 5 staff and 125 community-based nongovernment conservation groups that in total comprised of 125,000 members. The CCV was still quite young, 5 years in operations, comparatively to other organisations.

After three years in this role I realised that trusted and available academic advice was missing from the conservation movement. As the CCV’s Executive Director, I wasn’t able to access or obtain technical information related to conservation and environmental management as credible evidence to inform reports and reviews. This inspired me to go back to study in 1981 and complete a PhD in Coastal Zone Management at Deakin University. To keep my finger on the pulse, I remained a voluntary officer at the CCV for the duration of my studies.

By combining my PhD findings and learning’s as the CCV’s Executive Director, I put together a briefing package and did a tour of parliamentary members. The then Liberal/National Party Coalition picked up my findings and with their election win in 1992, I was appointed to my second leadership role as the Chair for the Coastal and Bay Management Council Reference Group. It was in this role that I worked with a group of wonderful people to help shape, galvanise and push the Coastal Management Act 1995 to be legislated by the Victorian State Government. Through this Act, I was appointed to serve on the first Victorian Coastal Council in 1995, although not as the Chair due to my political persuasions. Simultaneously, I became Head of Department at Victoria College and oversaw the merger with Deakin University. I also enrolled on a Williamson Community Leadership Program (now known as Leadership Victoria) in 1992, where I realised my life long journey and commitment to community leadership.

This flowed on to further leadership roles including: Director of Parks Victoria, Convenor (Chair) of the National Parks Advisory Council, Member of the National Oceans Advisory Group, Chair of National Reference Group of the Marine and Coastal Community Network, Zoos Victoria Board, Victorian Coastal Council Board Member, President of the Australian Coastal Society and Convenor (Chair) of Victorian Marine Policy Round Table. I fulfilled all of the above roles while remaining as an Associate Professor of Environment at Deakin University.

Associate Professor Geoff Wescott is saving our coasts.
Associate Professor Geoff Wescott is saving our coasts.

The six key words I use to describe effective and successful leadership are:

1. Vision: it is necessary to have vision for yourself and your organization. You need to understand where you are going.

2. Energy: you need energy to implement your vision.

3. Integrity: this is critical within any system you are part of. Without it, you have little to no credibility.

4 & 5. Passion and Persistence: these two words are not mutually exclusive. Passion is needed but can be over flogged. Together with persistence, these qualities become omnipotent. These two qualities within the conservation context come and go due to burn out. Conservation is a series of long battles where young people who have a lot of passion become cattle fodder and end up leaving with very few lessons to take-away from their experience. There is a high attrition rate within the conservation field, with very few long-term conservationists staying in the business for more than 30 years. Passion and persistence teaches you self-protection to ensure you survive the long battles.

6Inclusiveness: you need people with on your journey. Make sure that you share the credit and wins with others.

There have been key successes, challenges and failures in my leadership journey:

Successes: Coastal and marine work in Victoria, across Australia and at the global level. 

Challenges: I was brought up in the working class western suburbs of Melbourne. Although I have great street sense, it didn’t teach me the intricacies of leveraging networks such as the old boys club or how to access mentors. I learnt these lessons on the job, which were all very critical during the 1970s, 80s and 90s and even to this day. Although this knowledge can be acquired, there were many people who were, and are, privileged to be in these networks via their school and family affiliations. As a physically smaller person you need to work harder at being a presence in the room. If you do not have a big physical presence, and the charisma that comes with it, you can often be overlooked.

Failures: Although I don’t necessarily see it this way, it is possible to see my day job as a failure. I have been at the same level, at the same institution, in the same continuing position for over 25 years. However, if it wasn’t for this ‘failure’, I would not have been able to fulfill my life long journey and passion for conservation.

I attribute my success to emotional and raw intelligence. I am curious by nature and indulge in extensive and broad reading. I practice integrity, honesty, openness, persistence, and pragmatism in all decision-making. I am a good listener, ensuring I listen to other people and their views across all types of forums. I give my view strongly based on evidence and knowledge. 

I have not used personal funds to financially invest in formal leadership courses.  I am in the lucky position that my Williamson Community Leadership Program and current Company Directors course were paid for by organisations where I have leadership roles. I have invested a lot of personal time in developing my leadership skills and style. It is impossible to quantify and it is not quarantined. I spent a lot of time in many different roles and activities that have allowed me to be where I am now.

I haven’t changed jobs in order to increase my cash flow. I took a job that was consistent (Deakin University) so I could engage in all external leadership activities. I really like the ‘Conservation Catalyst’ idea and lifestyle instead of an evidence based research approach as required by University institutions. By not having job fluctuations, it has allowed me to do ‘ good’ work in the conservation community.

Both major Victorian State Government parties have appointed me because I stayed true to my goal, that is environmental protection and conservation. It does not bother me which political party is in power, as I know why, and for what reason, I am actioning my vision. I stay true to the bigger picture and I have never been opportunistic or offered an alternative view for short-term benefits.

I don’t think I have ever given away my time for free. Sometimes I undervalue my experiences, but I have the view that I am receiving in equal amounts as I am giving. I give enormous time away to the conservation field for less than the market price and experiences listed on my CV, however, I am reimbursed well in my day job. This is part of a big package of one whole. I have a very old fashioned view of being an academic. The pay is reasonable and the freedom is fantastic.

It is important that I maintain my mental and physical health and wellbeing. I go to gym, play tennis and walk everywhere when and where I can. It is important that I get out into nature and keep exercising. Mentally, I need my sanctuaries. One needs to know what one likes and works for them. Nature will always deliver this for me whether it is a creek, beach or wild and remote open natural spaces. A big bonus of being in the conservation field is that you can legitimately go to natural places that are mentally relaxing and reviving. Having a sanctuary is very important. It should be peaceful and allow for self-reflection. To have sustained energy, passion and persistence, one needs that space and place. You will not last if you do not have this sanctuary.

I always assume that I am ahead of the game. A top leadership secret is to stay connected to as many networks and contacts as possible. Keep an open mind and talk to a diversity of people. By nature, people love to gossip and by listening, you learn a lot. Know and listen to your opposition. It is essential that you know what makes them and their industry tick, what is their motivation and why they act the way they do. Read your oppositions work, reports and media stories. I subscribe to the Economist, read widely and extensively and listen to debates.

My top leadership tips are to treat people well, don’t bad mouth or gossip about people and ensure you are loyal down as well as up. You are not a leader if you are not loyal down. Do not think you are better than anyone else. I always treat others as my equal and this is a good place to start.

For those who want to join conservation organisations it is essential to first understand your conservation objectives and then join organisations whose objectives align with yours. Don’t just be a member, offer your services. You never know what you might learn. For example, I joined the Victorian National Park Association (VNPA) during 2nd year university and the Australian Conservation Foundation during 3rd year university as their objectives aligned with my desire and objectives to save the world.

My advice would be to attend leadership presentations, hear talks by people who are leaders. Sometimes you will be disappointed, but more often than not you will learn something new.  Take time to smell the flowers; it is an old expression but relevant to having a mental sanctuary where you can self-reflect. Do not underestimate luck and be mindful when it happens. To be successful and to climb high you need some luck. Last, always question your own point of view

To learn more about Geoff’s conservation leadership journey, read: Conservation Catalysts. The Academy as Nature’s Agent. 2014. Edited by James N. Levitt, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, USA.

Associate Professor Geoff Wescott (on the right) presenting his Conservation Catalysts Chapter at the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia.
Associate Professor Geoff Wescott (on the right) presenting his Conservation Catalysts Chapter at the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia.

Slugs in the nud’

At Dalton Koss HQ we come up with some creative names to describe some of the more interesting creatures that can be found in our marine front yards.

Slugs in the nud’  are nudibranchs. Nudi what? Nudibranchs.

Nudibranchs are oceanic snails, do not possess a shell and are mostly brightly coloured.

To break it down, Nudi = nude and branchs = gills. As these snails do not have shells for protection, their gills are nude and exposed (see image below).

Without a shell covering, the nudibranch's gills can be found on the top part of its body and exposed to the water.
Without a shell covering, the nudibranch’s gills can be found on the top part of its body and exposed to the water.

Nudibranch Facts

1. The bright colours of nudibranchs are used as defence mechanisms to avoid predators.

2. Many are able to camouflage with their surrounding environment, such as corals and sponges.

nudi3 fixed
3. Nudibranchs do not make a tasty meal. In fact, they are toxic and poisonous to eat. This is because nudibranchs feed on the stinging cells of sea jellies, anemones and corals.

4. Nudibranchs can be found at different depths in both warm and cool ocean waters.

WA July 2005 041

Although not in the same size category of many other sea creatures, they do create a level of excitement for DKHQ when spotted under water.