Marine Discovery Series

From shipwrecks to nudibranchs, members of the public are invited to learn more about the fascinating world of the oceans through our Marine Discovery Series Lectures.

The MDS lectures are held every other month at the Solitary Islands Aquarium and are free of charge. This initiative is run by Southern Cross University’s National Marine Science Centre.

Upcoming lectures

Stay tuned for the next round...


Past lectures

“50 years of banding the Wedge-tailed Shearwaters on Muttonbird Island”

Guest Speaker: Narelle Swanson, Neil Vaughan, Neil Belling

It’s an amazing story – Adult wedge-tailed shearwaters, or ‘mutton birds’, fly halfway around the globe to hatch and raise a single chick each year in colonies along the coast of NSW, returning to the same burrow every spring.

An important nesting site, Muttonbird Island in Coffs Harbour is home to thousands of Shearwaters each year. However, the exact number is not fully known, as research is limited to along the track during the breeding season. The island’s Shearwaters have been studied for over 50 years by a dedicated group of bird banders. Join Narelle, Neil and Neil as they present some of the interesting things that they have discovered about the Shearwaters on Muttonbird Island in that time.


“Whale carcass management on beaches: groundwater contamination, flow to ocean and shark attraction”

Guest Speaker: James Tucker, SCU PhD candidate

With the recovery of whale populations, carcass strandings on beaches are growing. Beach burial is a common management option for stranded carcasses. However, communities fear shark attraction following leachate transport to the ocean via submarine groundwater discharge.

James Tucker, a PhD candidate at the National Marine Science Centre, is investigating the disposal of stranded whale carcasses and the effect they may have. In this MDS Lecture, James will review current methods, discuss groundwater contamination from burials, and the potential for shark attraction in different situations.


“The Sea Slug Census – a citizen science program to document marine biodiversity”

Guest Speaker: Professor Steve Smith, Tom Davis, Matt Nimbs

Despite their uninspiring common name, sea slugs are one of the most photographed and “flamboyant” marine creatures. Most sea slugs are highly colourful, not very mobile, plentiful, and range from 4mm to 40cm in size. They also make very good indicators of environmental change because of their rapid life cycles and specific feeding requirements.

The Sea Slug Census citizen science project contributes to valuable marine research through Southern Cross University, where scientists use this data to map the distribution of sea slugs and identify changes to these patterns over time. Through teaming up with local community organisations and volunteers, Southern Cross University has coordinated 30 sea slug census events at eight locations along Australia’s east coast since December 2013. In total more than 1000 citizen scientists, scuba divers and snorkelers have taken photos to document hundreds of species, new regional records, and substantial changes in range for some tropical species

Join us in learning more about these interesting creatures and gain an understanding of The Sea Slug census and the valuable information that is being gathered.