Nelson Bay Sea Slug census was born in December 2013 as a joint partnership between Southern Cross University & Combined Hunter Underwater Group Inc (CHUG). The fifth Sea Slug Census was held on Sat 13 December 2014 and URG was represented by moi, Allyson Groth, Kris O’Keefe and John Turnbull.
Allyson and I traveled together on Friday afternoon and after a brief coffee stop in Tuggerah Westfield we managed to get lost and found ourselves heading back to Sydney on the highway. It’s the case of the blind leading the blind! Actually no, we blamed both the car GPS and google map 🙂
When we reached our YHA Samurai accommodation Kris was already there so the three of us moved into her car and squeezed among her gear (mostly the Starship Enterprise camera bits and pieces) and rushed to the first talk at the local library. First speaker was Dr Richard Willan, senior curator of molluscs at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory who is a wealth of information on everything nudies. He kindly informed as that in dorid nudibranchs, the anus is found in the centre of the gills. What a strange place to deposit faeces but obviously that has been working well with nudibranchs! Some things you can’t unheard unfortunately… *sigh*
The second talk of the first night talk was David Harasti, a marine scientist who works with NSW Department of Primary Industries in Port Stephens. He showed us a photo of a nudibranch on top of a seahorse and told us that it is a brain-eating nudibranch. The whole room fell straight into his trap and there were lots of “oh nooo” and “aaahh” heard from the audience. It all turned out to be a joke but when you’re a newbie nudie girl like me and a marine scientist tells you such thing you just have to believe him, right? Good one, Dave!!
Next stop was the local pub and after a glass of beer each, Allyson and Kris gathered enough courage to decide that they were going on a night dive to do the first survey. At 1.45am. Now that’s dedication to research! I, on the other hand, was ready to go under the blanket so we parted our ways. I didn’t even hear them when they got back!
So much adventure even before the survey started but now Saturday is here and we were ready to count some nudies! John and Kris were in one team and Allyson and I were the second team. Kris’ friend Sam joined us as nudie spotter and he was a great help pointing out the teeny weeny ones. All five of us dived Seahorse Garden for the first dive, two hours before high tide. Visibility wasn’t good at all but it was a really nice relaxing dive with lots of nudies. John, Kris and Sam did the second dive at Fly Point while Allyson and I did the Pipeline. Visibility was even worse here with a bit of current and surge and we did not see much nudies at all but we did see a seahare the size of a big cat.
Back at the marina the Southern Cross University had set up a display of various nudies and also a touch tank for the public. What a great way to educate people and especially children about these beautiful creatures that they would otherwise never see.
To summarise, the total tally for URG is 20 species of sea slugs spotted by John and Kris and 11 species spotted by Allyson and I. I guess next year we will be carrying a magnifying glass! 😀 John made his way back on Saturday evening after the talk and us three girls did some more dives on Sunday afternoon. All in all, we had such a great weekend that I am already planning to attend all four census in 2015 (better mark it in my calendar now before the kids can book my weekends with their birthday parties!). There’s also talk about us hosting a sea slug census in Sydney in the near future so stay tuned for more news on this.
To see more nudibranch photos from Port Stephens please visit Marine Explorer’s Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnwturnbull/sets/72157633285332576/