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GTF - Cattana Wetlands

21/11/2017
On Tuesday, October 31 approximately 40 Global Tropical Futures students from Tropical North Learning Academy- Smithfield State High School and Trinity Beach State school, as well as Yorkeys Knob and Caravonica State Schools, made their way down to Cattana Wetlands to get some hands on experience with Tilapia, the ‘canetoads of the waterways’.
 Students have been studying the invasive pest for the past several months through the Global Tropical Futures Tilapia Grand Challenge: an innovative trial of the iSee online learning environment which involves students from several schools attending classes together in a digital classroom where they appear as avatars.  Students are now putting their Science and Engineering brain-caps on to try and come up with a method to help control the noxious pest or inhibit their spread. 
 The Cattana excursion gave students and teachers the opportunity to catch up in person and get their hands right into the issue. Fishing gear was provided by Holloways Beach Environmental Education Centre and Cairns Regional Council members came down to lend their expertise on catching the invasive pest and implementing measures to reduce pest numbers- Dan Hammersley who earlier this year ran a Tilapia fishing event at Cattana Wetlands, also attended to help students with some great tips and tricks and brought some gear kindly donated by Bransfords Tackle Shop.  Together with Council members, Smithfield State High School and Holloways Beach Environmental Education Centre teachers, students spent the morning fishing for the invasive pest.  Catches were then used for dissections and Scientific drawing so that students were better able to understand the physiology of the species and the adaptions that make it successful to the point that it is outcompeting native species’ in local environments.
 Council member Dave Lloyd and his dedicated Natural Resource Management crew, also taught students about the difficulties involved in maintaining a wetlands area, and the important role that Cattana Wetlands plays in preserving and protecting many of Cairns’s natural and manmade ecosystems.
 Thanks to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Parks Authority, students were also able to complete a waterways study where they assessed the health of the waterway by rating a number of aspects of riparian vegetation and by collecting and identifying macroinvertebrates (bugs) to determine the level of pollution in the waterway.
 Thank you to all those who assisted and also to Grilled Burgers Cairns and Cairns Skating Centre who donated prizes to the Global Tropical Futures students as incentives.
 Student solutions so far have been many and varied including exclusion screens to prevent spread, rumba style vacuum devices which target tilapia eggs, training birds or dogs to catch the pest and using underwater drones to target the adults.
 We look forward to seeing the final proposals of the students and to watching the iSee Grand Challenges develop further into the future!