We Call Ourselves the Beachkeepers – Volunteer Week 2022

National Volunteer Week (16 May to 22 May) is Australia’s largest annual celebration of every volunteers’ vital dedication towards a better society. During this week, we’re sharing stories from a range of wonderful EcoCentre volunteers; exemplifying why we’re ‘Better Together’ when it comes to caring for our land, water, wildlife and wellbeing.

Continue reading below for a special insight from Nadav Zisin, the EcoCentre’s Community Engagement Coordinator. Discover what it’s like to partake in our volunteer Beachkeepers crew.

I’ve became part of an inspiring group of local heroes. These heroes are community volunteers, led by the Port Phillip EcoCentre, set out to monitor and protect foreshore environments at our iconic local beaches. We call ourselves Beachkeepers!

Together, we actively and effectively participate in a wide range of conservation activities. We also learn about the important historic significance of various vegetation sites around the Bay. This year, our focus has been around the community-led native vegetation site at St Kilda West Beach, McGregor Street dunes in Middle Park and Pickles Street Dunes in Port Melbourne (the oldest dunes in the City of Port Phillip).

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We remove and research litter that washes up on the Bay’s beaches and ends up in the coastal scrub. This helps the Baykeeper collect data that contributes to healthier waterways and habitats for our unique biodiversity and provide solid evidence to inform litter strategies.

We undertake vegetation surveys to help us identify local native plants of the Dune Scrub and Saltmarsh communities to understand their ecological role in stabilising coastlines. 

Our Dune Profiling activities help the Port Phillip Baykeeper, Neil Blake, monitor sand surface levels and map coastal vegetation cover, noting the specific elevations above sea level that different species inhabit. This information will inform future planting strategies responding to rising sea levels. Shoreline Shell Surveys bring us together to monitor shells on set beach survey areas; to identify species, estimate abundance of each species, record their characteristics and learn about the important role of molluscs (shellfish) in the Bay ecosystem. The data collected will be used to record long-term changes in population, species diversity, climate change and predation by pest starfish.

This program has allowed us to strengthen our connection to nature while engaging in meaningful environmental Landcare and citizen science activities, helping the Baykeeper collect data that contributes to healthier habitats on the City of Port Phillip’s foreshore.

We explore and identify a variety of plants and their traditional purposes, and learn about the relationships between different plant communities. Developing our understanding and extending our knowledge of our coastal environment has helped enhance our personal stewardship of the foreshore. The interpersonal connections we make during these activities stimulate conversation about strategies to combat rising sea levels and help us to rethink urban landscape design to better accommodate biodiversity and withstand the effects of climate change.

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Coming together in these situations is helping to instil hope, health and wellbeing amongst our human community as well as the local flora and fauna of these vital coastal areas. I would like to thank all the amazing Beachkeeper volunteers who have contributed to this program and help support the integral work of the EcoCentre. And a very special thank you to the South Melbourne Community Chest fund for supporting this project and helping to make all of this wonderful work possible.

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The EcoCentre acknowledges the Kulin Nations, including the Yalukut Weelam clan of the Boon Wurrung language group, traditional owners of the land on which we are located.

We pay respects to their Elders past and present, and extend that respect to other Aboriginal and Elder members of our multicultural community.