‘Till Next Time

*Sniffle sniffle* This is my LAST required Reporting Australia blog – In which I’ll reflect on my study abroad experience while attempting to mask my overly-sentimental side.

I’m not sure a blog post of any length could adequately express how much I learned during this trip.

Before I get all soft, I’d like to acknowledge all the scientific content I attained during Reporting Australia. I genuinely enjoyed getting my fix of environmental science pertaining to sustainability, ecology, climate change, etc., a rarity for many journalists. Due to my enjoyment, understanding the science came fairly easily.

Another note on the scientific content – I felt as if it was extremely concrete & relevant.

Having lived the life of a biology major my freshman year, I found the environmental science material I learned during Reporting Australia more important/pressing than material I learned in any other biology/chemistry class:

I learned higher ocean temperatures cause coral bleaching, and in turn, death – not only to coral, but countless other marine life that seek refuge in coral.

Reef Walk Pollock Cropped

Joe Pollock talking coral while guiding us on a reef walk off Lady Elliot Island on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

I learned (reluctantly) although more conscious than traditional tourism, ecotourism (aka Reporting Australia) is a paradox and isn’t sustainable.

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Dr. Rob Nash challenged the idea of our program being environmentally-friendly during a lecture at his workplace, Bond University.

I learned it’s possible to have a wellbeing that outshines your income.

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…Thanks to Simon Ling, Reporting Australia’s nature guide at Carnarvon Gorge in the Australian Outback

I learned I can download, learn and crank out an info graphic from Adobe Illustrator in 17 hours with only two cups of coffee and no sleep.

GAB Graphic

One of my main contributions to Reporting Australia’s website, explaining water’s movement in the Great Artesian Basin

I learned I should comprehensively consider my dreams before I deem them unrealistic.

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This is probably where I first began developing the idea of becoming a dive master/instructor and opening my own dive shop (I’m to the right) – Photo cred: Rachel Robillard


Not only am I thankful for all the above knowledge Reporting Australia has given me, but also my new friends.

Reporting Australia at Brizzy's Museum Scienceentre

Reporting Australia at Brizzy’s Museum Scienceentre

I had a great time exploring Queensland with all of them, especially those in the Carnarvon group who contributed to our webpage.

All I’m left to say is Thank you to this program, thank you Dr. Kris & and thank you Australia. You’ve all taught me things I can use to better shape the future of our environment & lives. I’m pretty sure you’ve taught me how to be a better human. It may be too soon to tell, but I feel like a happier person because of this experience.

‘Till next time!

Kyle

Best NZ pic edit

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Water & the Great Artesian Basin

Below is one of my main contributions to Reporting Australia. Unlike most study abroad programs, we didn’t actually go to class. Rather, we went on different excursions in which local eco/nature guides enriched our stay with environmental knowledge.

Beside blogging, our major project was the Reporting Australia website. Each group, relative to location (Great Barrier Reef, Rainforest & Outback), was required to produce journalistic content and post it to the site. In addition to creating the following info graphic & accompanying audio clip, I was the Carnarvon group’s webmaster – in charge of uploading our content (and making our page pretty).

The best ways to observe the following is to start the audio clip and click on the graphic to enlarge or navigate to the Carnarvon webpage (which I recommend).


 

GAB Graphic

Money/Wellbeing in the Australian Outback

Welp, my study abroad experience has officially come to an end. DON’T FRET – I still have three required blogs to crank out, all of which pertain to my AUS experience. Also, I must figure out what I’ll do with this blog after I return home in two days (p.s. I’m home now and am just getting around to publish this).

This post highlights an idea brought up by Simon Ling, Reporting Australia’s guide at Carnarvon Gorge, regarding money/wellbeing.

Info Graphic Inspiration

One of the gorge’s many creeks, fed by the Great Artesian Basin

I encourage you to check out my post covering basics of the gorge. Being part of the Carnarvon group – in charge of producing journalistic content on Carnarvon for Reporting Australia, I worked hard getting to know the place before I left the States.

So back to the idea – Our last hike at the gorge, which was a solid nine hours, took us to a handful of geological destinations around Carnarvon – the most significant (imo) being the Art Gallery.

Art

Art Gallery is a slight misnomer. Rather, what you see are symbols, which played vital roles in Aboriginal ceremonies

Within the first hour or so of the hike, Simon stopped us by a tree to explain its species’ relationship with Aboriginals. Turns out, Aboriginals consumed its fruit/seed as a contraceptive method.

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Tbh I forgot the name of the tree – Photo cred: Rachel Robillard

Simon, while explaining just how efficiently Aboriginals lived among their environment, then asked us how we would feel if America imposed a limit on the number of children we could have (similar to China’s policy). I forgot how exactly, but a few students found themselves in a somewhat heated debate regarding those of low socioeconomic status, race & politics in America…in the middle of a hike in the outback, in front of the rest of us & Simon.

Art Gallery Hands edit

Without spending too much time addressing it, I didn’t think the debate itself was too significant/important. Here, I’m just referring to the actual debate, not the low socioeconomic status, race & politics aspects.

Soon after everyone calmed down, Simon continued talking – now about socioeconomic status. He cited a study that concluded: After reaching a household income of $74,000 (I think), a four-person American family’s wellbeing is capped – As in, that family’s wellbeing is expected to increase as its income does, until the wellbeing maxes out at a $74,000 income.

On a personal note, Simon mentioned he lives below Australia’s official poverty line and has a fairly high wellbeing – which I can vouch for.

What Simon said (LOL Simon says) about income/wellbeing is one of the most-impacting lessons I’ve taken from Reporting Australia. It’s not something that instantaneously clicked within me either. Rather, Simon’s words complimented something I’ve learned during my entire experience abroad (Reporting Australia & my travels in NZ prior).

What I’m talking about here frankly has to do with money. Money and what it really means.

Growing up in a working-class American family, I always imagined I was supposed to grow up to go to college in order to get a job so that I could work my way up the job ladder to become successful in terms of money & status.

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And no, it’s not that my parents explicitly taught me to imagine life like that. I think it has more to do with the cultural/social climate I was exposed to, growing up. Money is highly valued everywhere; but I’d argue America is one of the places it’s valued the most.

For me, I think pop culture was the main influence on why I thought I needed to be successful in a material sense. Media pertaining to music, film, TV lays heavy value on wealth. It’s extremely easy to grow up, thinking that’s what should make you happy.

Due to things I’ve discovered throughout this experience abroad, I’ve realized just how much I don’t want money to own me. I acknowledge, of course, money is essential and unfortunately will dictate decisions I’ll make throughout life.

I guess what I’ve really come to *cents* with is that I’ll make money to live, but not live to make money.


K last thing, I promise

Since processing this revelation – which seems so basic now that I’ve been writing about it for so long, throughout the trip, I’ve developed this new aspirational thought.

My experience with the Great Barrier Reef, while staying on Lady Elliot Island, showed me just how much I love scuba. Especially after my dive, which was on the second-to-last day on the island, I began seriously imagining a future in the scuba industry.

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I’m on the right, attempting to have a convo under the sea – Photo cred: Rachel Robillard

I started picturing myself working as a dive master/instructor somewhere in paradise, and being completely happy.

I think everyone has similar thoughts at times – desiring to live a simpler life in paradise; though for me, this scuba thought is still tickling my fancy and making me really consider it. Perhaps since I’ve been super exposed to these ideas regarding income/wellbeing, I’ll start to take dreams like this more seriously.

Rainforest/Dryforest

During my second day at Lamington National Park, Barry Davies, my program’s eco-guide, took us on a 6ish-hr hike on a few of the park’s trails. The hike led us to a 210-ft waterfall, Coomera Falls.

Mediocre footage I captured of the falls:


On the way to the falls and back, Barry shared some of his vast knowledge of the park. He brought up climate change and effects it’s having/will have on specific aspects of Lamington.

To be honest, I must’ve been intently soaking up the magnificent rainforest during the whole of the hike because I don’t think I can write an entire blog post just from what Barry shared with us.

Luckily, I found a 196-page assessment to compliment Barry’s discussion of climate change & the Antarctic beech (The good stuff is on page 93).

Base of Antarctic Beech @ Lamington

Yup – You’re correct if you guessed the Antarctic beech is vulnerable to climate change.

Here’s how it goes:

1. The Antarctic Beech has a disjunct distribution (Department of Climate Change)

This means the Antarctic Beech was geographically separated from its original home, and because of that, has endured a completely altered environment – In this case, the beech originates from Gondwana – a supercontinent consisting of Antarctica, Australia, South America & Africa (so Southern Hemisphere) dating back hundreds of millions of years ago.

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Upon researching this, I thought all flora must have disjunct distribution if Earth’s landmass was, at one point, all connected. I guess an easy answer to that discrepancy is that not all flora are old to be from Gondwana, Laurasia, etc.

2. The species can resist moderate fire but very little seedling regeneration occurs where frequency of severe fire is too great (Department)

3. Fire-tolerant species will invade and beech seedlings will not regenerate (Department)

So if we’re talking Lamington, the eucalypt tree would be an applicable fire-tolerant species. Although this tree burns, and is in fact very flammable, it’s able to regenerate after a fire.

Koala Eucalyptus

Koala chillin’ w/ some eucalyptus branches @ Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

4. Antarctic Beech will cease to exist


I tried ending my post with that last bullet point but figured it was too daunting. Below I share multimedia I captured at Lamington – Reminders of what we’re fighting to sustain.

Lyrebird Song
(You won’t see bird in vid – Click here for photo)

Sunset Lookout

Sunset @ Binna Burra Lodge lookout

Sunset Tree

Minutes after sunset @ Binna Burra Lodge outlook

Realtalk: Eco Tourism

For three days/four nights, I stayed at Binna Burra Lodge at Lamington National Park– 2ish hrs south of Brizzy. Here, Barry Davies, an eco-guide with a background in science, discussed the park’s history/wildlife, guided us on a few hikes (one of which was 6ish hrs) and even taught us a few bush dances.

Barry in Forest

Barry explaining Lamington’s flora at the beginning of the six-hr hike

After leaving Lamington, my program stopped in Gold Coast & Surfer’s Paradise (both names of cities, not beaches) for a lecture & lunch, respectively. Prof. Rob Nash discussed eco tourism – responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people, at his workplace, Bond University.

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Prof. Rob Nash

Gold Coast, AUS

Gold Coast, AUS

Nash’s lecture took me for a spin as he claimed the ultimate solution for preventing problems related to tourism (mass tourism [overcrowding], destruction of natural environment, demise of local businesses, etc.) is to stay at home – He chuckled right after saying this, but obviously instilled truth in this message.

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Bathers on Playa Levante Beach, Spain

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Venice, Italy trying to keep afloat with all these tourists at San Marco Pier

Although much more in favor of eco tourism, he wasn’t hesitant in pointing out similarities between it and bad tourism– Most of which include westernization in primitive/undeveloped areas. This pertains to the introduction of modern/harmful technology (air conditioning, toilets, etc.) & ideology in primitive areas.

Three eco accommodations I will have stayed at by the end of my trip:

Western ideology comes into play when people from developed nations tell those from the undeveloped world what they should/shouldn’t do – hunt manta rays, work in eco tourism, etc.).

Do we really have a right to change the way foreign natives have been using their land for centuries?


I felt a bit unsettled by the lecture as it pointed a large, condescending finger at my program, which falls under the veil of eco-friendliness – especially as an environmental journalism course.

I genuinely believe Nash’s viewpoint should be taken seriously. Even before his lecture, I felt this program & my travels in NZ beforehand, enlarged my green thumb & drew me closer (physically, mentally, spiritually) to nature/the environment.

Small Waterfall Better

Spotted a small waterfall in Coomera Gorge during the six-hr hike

Nevertheless, staying at home isn’t a viable option Prof. Nash.

Speaking for myself, I want/need to go out and explore more of the world. I hope to do my best being as eco-friendly as I can on the way. Many people share this same desire.

I understand the true backbone of tourism is money – not exposure to different cultural experiences. Sure, culture may expose itself to you (LOL) during travel, but usually at a cost – inauthentic.

These days though, everything’s backbone is money related. Marriages for example are part of an enormous moneymaking industry. That being said, just like traveling, money isn’t the first value people generally take away from weddings.

Just because marriage is part of moneymaking industry, should people not get married?

From my current travels & Nash’s lecture, I gather the best traveling tip is to be knowledgeable of your impact. With this in mind, hopefully you’ll make conscious decisions on where you lodge, what you eat and how you spend your money.

Even when not traveling, I enjoy myself more at authentic, locally-based establishments. Hopefully you can too.

Safe travels everyone…

A somewhat strained smile at the Binna Burra Lodge outlook

A somewhat strained smile during sunset at the Binna Burra Lodge outlook – Photo Cred: Mindy Bloem

Coral Wars

The following touches on coral bio and the harsh relationship they have with each other – Kudos to Joe Pollock for his lecture.

First Off

Coral aren’t plants nor rocks…

…They’re actually animals. Along with being able to digest small marine life, like brine shrimp, coral are also photosynthetic, thanks to their relationship with algae.

This super fun/entertaining vid does a good job highlighting the relationship.

Coral serve as homes for algae, zooxanthellae, which in turn provides energy (photosynthesis) for coral. Thus, coral & zooxanthellae have a symbiotic relationship. Along with energy, corals get their color from zooxanthellae.

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This closeup of coral (transparent) shows zooxanthellae in green

Not Friends but Anemones 

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Coral are a highly competitive species.

Especially when in close proximity & threatened, coral will physically attack each other. They use long, microscopic stinging cells to pummel competing coral.

Here’s some great footage of coral unleashing havoc on each other. The real deal starts @ about the 1:20 mark.

Coral Stining Cells Screen Shot

Indirect competition also exists between coral. By using strategic growing patterns, coral are able to block sunlight from reaching each other. In general, coral can’t survive on a marine life diet alone.

plate corals

Plate coral are exceptionally suited in stealing sunlight due to their flat, broad tops

My GREAT Barrier Reef Experience

Lady Elliot Island

As I write this, I’m on a ‘tour bus’ back to Brizzy. The past three days I’ve spent on Lady Elliot Island, on the Great Barrier Reef.

LEI Plane Wheel Wheel Edited

Lady Elliot is an atoll – a coral island consisting of a reef surrounding a lagoon (object to right is plane’s wing)

Here, I stayed at Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, the island’s only accommodation – Lady Elliot is 100 acres, or small enough to walk around in 45min. Just like the island, the resort is humble in size. It bares the term eco in its title due to its efforts in sustaining Lady Elliot.

Andreas Solar Panels Cropped

Andreas Supper, manager, discusses the resort’s transition to solar power during an eco tourism walk/lecture

Joe Pollock, a scientist specializing in coral disease, accompanied my program group. Along with supplying his vast knowledge of coral reefs via lectures, Joe guided us on snorkels around Lady Elliot’s reefs.

Reef Walk Pollock Cropped

Joe guides my program on a reef walk our first day @ LEI


Island Lyfe

In total, I spent three nights & four days on Lady Elliot. Here are some brief anecdotes:

Saturday, May 31st

The flight 

I left Hervey Bay (mainland AUS) Airport ~8:30 AM by a nine-passenger plane to the island.

The plane ride alone almost rivaled the experience of my first snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef later that day.

~Video of flight on its way!~

Four of us from my program (including Dr. Kris) took one plane – the smaller one, and the other 11 & Joe took another.

First Plane LEI

Finally snapped a pic of the plane after landing on LEI

The flight was ~40min. After we took off from the airport, from a birds-eye view, I was able to witness Hervey Bay, who knows how many miles of Pacific Ocean and Lady Elliot Island of course.

Hervey Bay from Plane

Hervey Bay from plane

Window view of what looks to be storm clouds ahead (and the plane's wing)

Window view of what looks to be storm clouds ahead as I fly toward LEI

Much cooler than takeoff was landing on Lady Elliot. As much as I dislike using the word blessed these days, I felt extremely lucky/special seated on a small aircraft, landing on a half-mile (stretching it) sweep of grass on an island on the Great Barrier Reef, which only accommodates 41 rooms.

Welcome to LEI

Welcome to Lady Elliot Island

After landing ~9:15 AM, Joe took us for our first snorkel on the Reef, gave us a lecture on local marine life and later guided us on a reef walk. A general highlight of Lady Elliot was the resort’s buffet (which was prepaid for), open for brekkie, lunch & dinn.

On our reef walk w/ Joe (middle)

On our reef walk w/ Joe (middle)

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A beautiful selfie of moi during reef walk

 Sunday, June 1st 

The snorkel

Round 2 of snorkeling happened ~10:45 PM – This time guided by Fabrice Jaine, a doctorate in ­­­manta rays & resort employee.

Unfortunately I didn’t have an underwater device to record with…

ACTUALLY, I was given an underwater camera that I took many pictures with…while it was turned off

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We traveled ~15min. to the snorkeling site by glass-bottom boat. This snorkel was more intense (deeper) than Friday’s – which was in the same spot we did our reef walk.

LEI from First Plane 4 Mapped

Here’s where Fabrice took us snorkeling Sunday. Friday’s reef walk & shallow snorkel took place on the upper-righthand side

At this site, I’m guessing the ocean floor was ~15-20ft. below sea level. Beside beautiful coral, which I could now somewhat classify kudos to Joe’s lecture earlier that morning, I saw at least one sea turtle and stingray.

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Pic I found that closest resembles what I saw while snorkeling

The most memorable parts of this snorkel occurred when I dove under and swam over coral on the relatively deep ocean floor. Because of my swimming background, it just felt good to dolphin kick while straining my lungs as I held my breath, propelling underwater.

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Me being a pro snorkeler – Photo Cred: Rachel Robillard

After lunch, a smaller group of us snorkeled again with Joe, close to where Fabrice took us earlier that day. Rather than boating, we walked/swam to the site this time.

Monday, June 2nd

The dive

I’ll cut straight to the chase and direct you to my fellow divers’ blogs for footage – All of them had GoPros :/

Rachel Robillard/Camille Garcia/Mikayla Martinez/Julia Noel

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I feel his pain

I was scuba certified ~2006; and because I hadn’t dove in years, I was required to take a refresher course. Said course happened at 10 AM in the resort’s pool and was painless. For an hour, my lovely Austrian dive instructor, Diana, & I went over basic skills such as regulator retrieval, mask clearing & weight belt removal/reapplication (extremely hard when done underwater).

At 12:45, all of the divers from my program were at the dive shop strenuously suiting up in full-length wetsuits – We were used to the half-length ones (wetsuits w/ short sleeves and cut off at the knee).

Dive Shop

Where dreams come true

We were in the water ~1:30 (LOL). I believe there were 11 total divers including several dive masters and even one unbelievably talented free diver.

Hands down, the highlight of the dive was witnessing manta rays. Just the night before, my program attended a manta ray talk hosted by Fabrice. We learned just how precious, smart & new (very little is known about the manta) they are – Mantas are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (Wiki).

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The reef manta is only the second confirmed (in 2009) species of manta

The dive lasted ~40min, not nearly long enough. Beside the majestic mantas, I saw a couple sea turtles, a stingray covered in sand and a glimpse of a shark as it swam away from us – It must have been a reef or nurse shark.

Tuesday, June 3rd

This isn’t goodbye

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Between brekkie & lunch, Joe & a small group of us went on our last snorkel. It was the same site as our first (Lagoon), so it was a little sentimental – Idk, it just felt right to do one more.

During this snorkel, I kind of branched off from the main group – like I always tend to do, but this time more than usual. I tried snorkeling/swimming as far as I could from the mainland until I hit waves – The lagoon is protected from waves by its extensive reef (I think); so you’ll only encounter them if you swim out ~half a mile.

Lagoon Reef 3

LEI Lagoon during low tide aka not when I snorkeled


Reflection

Lady Elliot Island is everything I love, without everything I despise, about paradise: It’s beautifully tropical, perfectly wild, very comfortable BUT doesn’t boast an enormous amount of guests.

~video of LEI Eco Resort on its way~

Also, it’s an eco resort! There’s much to learn about and appreciate here – the wildlife, the sustainability measures, the knowledgeable & caring staff. I left with a genuine feeling that the island & reef are in good hands. I wish I could say every vacation I will take could feel as environmentally conscious as my time on Lady Elliot.

Pathway to Cafe Dark

My favorite of LEI’s paths – which coincidentally leads to the buffet

Not gonna lie – I was sad leaving. Time doesn’t seem to go by when you’re in paradise (especially if you’re disconnected from Internet). It seemed as if time back on the mainland/home must’ve been going by in slow motion or not at all. I would’ve liked to stay at least another five days.

Lagoon Beach Foot

My foot on the last day of LEI

Besides missing the slow island life, there are certain attachments I made with memories/people on the island that I’ll hopefully hold dear forever.

ILY Lady Elliot

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Cam, Jules & I walkin’ the reef