Down Under

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Well, here we are, I arrived in Down Under (Australia’s nickname), where I am about to spend at least 3 years for my PhD with Deakin University near Melbourne. During this time, I will work on the foraging ecology of different species of seabirds – shags and penguins. I’ll spend a lot of time in the field, so keep in mind that if you wanna contact me, I might not be able to answer right away. I hope to share with you through this part of my blog my new life, with my impressions, my rants, my favorites, pieces of advice for travellers or expats who will chose or have chosen Melbourne, my fieldwork and research in general! Feel free to leave comments and contact me with questions and suggestions. Enjoy!

12°C !

12°C ? What is she talking ‘bout? – I can hear you wonder… I’m talkin’ aabout the temperature of the water for my first dive ever in Melbourne waters this week-end ! Well, it, for sure, isn’t Vietnam! I have to admit that wasn’t the best dive of my life but it doesn’t mean I wasn’t happy to be back in the water after 4 months of inactivity (only talking about diving here… let’s be clear!). Despite what people tend to think, Victoria has some wonderful dives to offer… for the brave ones that don’t mind suittin up with 7mm, semi-dry or dry wetsuits, thick gloves and boots! The fish life is quite reduced at this time of year but there were still tons of colourful sponges, sea stars of various shapes, sizes and colors, urchins, abalones,  and my favorites, nudibranchs!, as well as nice big seaweeds that can reach considerable size in such cold waters! The dive on Saturday was easily accessible (beach entry from South Road, in Brighton, south of Melbourne) and nice and easy – a reef area that doesn’t exceed 5 meters in depth. Perfect for me who had not dived for a while and had a new semi-dry wetsuit to christen (it was my first time diving with this kind of equipment and I’m pretty proud of the one I found for a ridiculously low price on Gum Tree – new and it fits perfectly!). Also that was the occasion for me to christen my brand new GoPro!! Too bad my memory card got full pretty quickly, which prevented me from capturing the best part of the dive, namely the ruins (bars from old baths I think), which have been colonized by sponges, seaweeds, nudis and where a few globe fishes were hanging out. It was also my first dive with Ocean Divers, an active dive center in the Melbourne area, for which I should work in a few months time, when high season begins, if all goes well! So I got to meet new members on top of the ones I met during a cave diving presentation this week – cave diving’s pretty big here, and I’d love to get more involved in this activity if I have time! In short, there should be many more nice dives in the future, but I’ll let you know more when the times come! Ahhh, it’s good to be back in the water! Let me show you a few photos taken with the Go Pro, and I’m hopping that next time they’ll be better when I figure out the settings and the memory card thing! 


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Photos taken during my first dive in Brighton!

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A corner of paradise

Here is an article to tell you about another place I discovered recently: a corner of paradise called Gabo Island. It is located on the East coast of Victoria, close to the border with New South Wales. The access is by boat – a 15/20-minute ride from Mallacoota. The ride to access this city took us about 6 hours and was a lot of fun! Indeed, I got to see new animals, especially my first kookaburras. But the most interesting part was the encounter with a wild echidna – mammal difficult to observe as I already mentioned in my previous article - and its rescue. Melanie, being a Wildlife Victoria volunteer, we stopped to remove the animal from the road after which we realized that it had been injured, probably hit by a car – road kills in Aussie are a big problem and important threat for local species, hence the presence of such networks. She called their office to know if a volunteer could come get the animal so it could get appropriate care but no one was available so we had to bring our new friend to a shelter in Mallacoota – not that I think it considered itself as our friend and that it seemed  to understand we were here to help, judging by the time it took us to pick it off the side of the road because it had dug into the soil to make sure it wasn’t going anywhere. It took us our 4 arms and fifteen minutes to manage to have it let go to put it in a bag Melanie kept on her lap the whole trip to Mallacoota. We are not about to forget the trip! Just before getting on the boat, I also saw kangaroos, a first for me! On the way, I also got to see my first wombat and lyrebird! How exciting!

Arriving on the island, a few species of cormorans – and especially the black-faced cormorant, which is another key species of my PhD –, a few Australian pelicans, darters and white-bellied sea eagles welcomed us. Geoff, one of the two lighthouse keepers on duty that month, came to get us. We loaded our gear in his car and he gave us a ride to the house in which we were about to stay – how luxuous, by the way, compared to the cabins of Kerguelen or tents, or even the backpackers’ I’ll have to stay in during my fieldwork in other places! It’s a big house with 3 bedrooms, a large living room, a kitchen, and a bathroom; the only thing missing was the hot water but hopefully, that should be fixed soon! After dropping off our stuff, Geoff invited us to visit the lighthouse, from the top of which we got lucky enough to see humpback whales, along with Australian fur seals, and different species of seabirds – especially my first sooty oystercatchers, endemic to Australia! – under the beautiful sunset light! We went for a short walk after dinner to observe the little penguins coming back from sea in the evening and listen to them sing under a beautiful sky, in which we got to spot a few shooting star – nice, isn’t it??!!

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Echidna on the way to Mallacoota

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Gabo Island at sunset from the top of the lighthouse (photo: Melanie Wells)

P-S: due to my own camera failure, I couldn't take my own photos most of the time so here are Melanies'

To read more about the fieldtrip to Gabo Island et see photos, log in to your member account (restricted access)!

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