SCHOOLS are preparing to team up with scientists across Australia as part of a three-year national marine debris research and education program being launched today.
Marine debris is largely made up of plastic, glass and fishing nets. It affects more than 270 species of animals worldwide, yet little is known about the full impact of marine debris on wildlife.
The executive director of Earthwatch Australia Richard Gilmore said that Earthwatch wanted to support the national survey and saw an opportunity to involve students and teachers in this important work.
"TeachWild provides Australians with the opportunity to learn about the global challenges of marine debris and to take part in hands-on field research," Mr Gilmore said.
TeachWild will involve up to 100 teachers in a seven day field-based learning experience, 2,500 students and teachers in one-day research programs.
Up to half a million teachers and students across the country will gain access to scientific tools online, and contribute to a national marine debris database.
The program aims to survey and map the distribution of marine debris, identify major sources of debris and measure the impacts on wildlife.
Data collected will contribute to a national marine debris database which highlights the extent of the issue andprovides information to improve waste management and better protect marine life.
Dr Denise Hardesty of the CSIRO said that the marine environment project is of national importance.
"Australia has some of the world's most eautiful and remote beaches," Dr Hardesty said.
"Yet I challenge anyone to find any beach in Australia or anywhere in the world that has no rubbish originating from humans."