July 31-Aug 1, Stephanie

Welcome to Cairns!

The flight from Sydney to Cairns went smoothly. Once in Cairns, the group heard a presentation on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority from their Regional Liaison Manager, Doon McColl while eating pizza at a local establishment.  Doon started out by explaining her 20 years of experience with world heritage centers.  Doon then discussed Australia’s tourism, which is worth over eight billion dollars with Australia’s biggest tourist attraction being the Great Barrier Reef making the reef economically sustainable. The Great Barrier Reef consists of 900 islands, which contribute to Australia’s unique biodiversity.  Six of seven of the world’s marine turtles are found in Australia creating environmental sustainability.  There are over 2,900 coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef.  The Great Barrier Reef is an amazing 2,300 km long.

Some of the struggles experienced by the Great Barrier Reef started in the 1970’s with reef mining.  The federal government stepped up and implemented regulations that overruled the state level laws.  One change made was that the Great Barrier Reef became an official Marine Park.  This park starts at the lowest water mark.  In 1981, a decision that fisheries are managed by the state of Queensland became part of the Marine Park Act.  There are 12 sections of legislation in this act, including tourism being federally regulated.  Today, Cairns experiences 140 commercial passenger vessels a day.  Another new regulation is that touching marine life on the Great Barrier Reef is illegal, in order to protect the reef.  Currently, the Eye on the Reef program is the largest program ran by the Marine Park Authority.  This checks patches of the reef once a week for changes such as oil spills.  There have been 5,000 sightings of oil spills in the past three years along the Great Barrier Reef.  Another duty of the Eye on the Reef is to report when whales begin migrating north.  They also, observe for changes in corals, and crown of thorns outbreaks.  The Marine Park Authority also, partners with the state in order to preserve the reef.  The effects of climate change and declining water quality are two of the main concerns.  It has been discovered that poor water quality is due to pesticide and fertilizer runoff.  Other issues along the reef involve natural weather impacts.  Since 2009, there have been six severe cyclones which resulted in decreasing tourism and commercial fishing pressures.  In Queensland, the mining boom has affected the Great Barrier Reef as well.  It has caused plans for port expansions, doubling the number of ports and ships.  In result, dredging will eventually increase as well.  One of the greatest concerns is coral bleaching.  Proposed plans to reduce bleaching effects include using shade cloths and implementing sprinklers to break the water’s surface.  Both of these result in cooling.  Another action taken to preserve the Great Barrier Reef is that it has been declared a world heritage center.  The criteria to become a world heritage center includes possessing aesthetic value, geological evolution evidence, proof of ongoing evolution, and cultural significance.  The Great Barrier Reef resulted from four previous ice ages, which is the geological proof.  Ongoing evolution is seen through changed in bird migration patterns along the reef.

The last topic Doon discussed was the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s commitment to stewardship.  Over the last ten years, community building has been a major goal.  Reef Guardian schools for primary aged children have been developed.  These schools teach children the importance of sustainability in everyday life.  This includes taking shorter showers and turning the water off while brushing your teeth.  Another socially sustainable action implemented has been creating a new council.  Council members include local fishermen and farmers.  Topics discussed include finding ways to avoid putting cleaning products and medications down the sink.  As Doon stated, “if we look after the environment it will look after us.”

After enjoying pizza, we departed for Cairns Biodiesel where we met Steve.  Steven explained Cairns Biodiesel’s use of secondhand vegetable oils from local restaurants and other businesses. This helps create economic sustainability.  Their business focuses on recycling engine oils although; they have considered the use of coconut oils.  Clean oil as Steve explained, has a free fatty acid content of four.  Their oil is washed using water.  If oil appears white, it is overcooked.  When too much methanol and hydroxide are added to the biodiesel process overcooking becomes common.

Steve explaining biodiesel conversion process

Cairns Biodiesel also supplies Shell and various other companies with biodiesel to mix into their blends.  Their company produces a total of 20 percent glycerol waste.  Glycerol can be used to heat plants or it can be burned or refined to pure glycerol for pharmaceuticals.  Other rubbish runoff produced is used as fertilizers.  An advantage of vegetable oil over other fuel sources is that when it spills vegetable oil can decompose in about six weeks.  This is more environmentally sustainable than other fuel sources.

Cairns Biodiesel has also experimented with other endeavors such as selling to ash fault manufactures.  This became a social system sustainability issue, because the flashpoint of biodiesel is 160 degrees Celsius.  This resulted in deaths of various employees in charge of cleaning machines because they were used to kerosene.  As far as biodiesel use in cars goes, Steve explained, that for the most part no conversion in cars is necessary.  If the car contains rubber, like older cars do, then conversion is required.  The majority of cars can use 100 percent biodiesel.  The only downfall is that the car filter will need to be changed more regularly due to microbials in the system.  Biodiesel is great for unclogging these microbials from car tanks.

Some of the group snorkeling (image taken by Luke Reese)

The following day we went snorkeling on the Passions of Paradise Reef Tour.

The island we went snorkeling off of

While snorkeling we were able to observe Australia’s unique biodiversity firsthand.  We saw various schools of fish, a shark, and different types of sting rays.  On the boat a marine biologist shared the Passions of Paradise’s sustainable practices.  This includes a half hour to two hours of sailing a day.  Sadly the sail was broken when we were aboard.

Stingray (image taken by Luke Reese)

White tip reef shark (taken by Luke Reese)

Rainbow fish (image taken by Luke Reese)

Humpback whale tail

The ship cruises at 11 kilometers to 15 kilometers in order to save about 160 liters of fuel a day.  On the trip home we were able to see humpback whales.

Picture of Passions of Paradise Boat taken by Luke Reese

July 10, 2012


Can’t wait for Cairns!

It is hard to believe, but in 5 days  I will be on my way to the land down under. I have to admit I am pretty excited. Traveling to Adelaide, Wagga Wagga and Sydney are once in a lifetime opportunities that I cannot wait to experience. Although, the best part of the trip will be in Cairns. Cairns is located in far north Queensland Australia. We will by flying from Sydney to Cairns July 31st and staying until August 1st. This will be day 18 of traveling. The average temperature at this time of year n Cairns is usually is a high of 63 degrees and a low of 46 degrees.

What comes to mind when people hear Cairns? Well the Great Barrier Reef of course. This will be our first stop in Cairns. We will hear a presentation on the Great Barrier Reef learning about how the reef is managed, the biodiversity of the reef, and likely the animals that inhabit it. The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem and as a scuba diver I cannot wait to see it firsthand!

Our second stop will be Cairns Biodiesel. This company produces biodiesel and boiler fuels, recycles used engine oils, and collects used cooking oil. Biodiesel is an alternative fuel known for its clean burning. It is made commonly from renewable resources. Biodiesel is petroleum free, but can be combined with petroleum diesel to produce a biodiesel blend. Biodiesel is also, biodegradable, nontoxic, and does not increase atmospheric levels of CO2. The biodiesel from Cairns Biodiesel actually uses recycled vegetable oils for the production of fuels. Biodiesels can be used in any diesel engine such as cars, four-by-fours, boats, and generators. They are also a more sustainable source of fuel than regular diesel. This is because biodiesel is produced from renewable resources and has lower emissions. Biodiesel only has 5% of the carbon footprint of regular diesel. It is also, less toxic than table salt and degrades five times faster than fossil fuels.

The third stop of the day we will continue learning about the Great Barrier Reef though Reef Teach. Reef Teach gives presentations about the Great Barrier Reef, and even allows some hands-on-learning as well. Learning how to identify different marine life and types of coral will diffidently make snorkeling and scuba diving more exciting. They will also, teach us about the effects global warming has had on the Great Barrier Reef, such as coral bleaching.

The last stop of the day will be an optional trip to the Cairns Museum. The Cairns Museum will be a great way to learn about Aboriginal history and the heavy influence China has had on Australia throughout time.

Cairns Museum

At night we will be staying at the Cairns Queenslander. This hotel is close to the beach, shopping and nearby plenty of places to experiment with local food. We will be staying here for both day 18 and 19 of our stay in Cairns.

The second day in Cairns will be spent at Passions of Paradise reef trip. This will be our chance to put all our knowledge of the reef to good use when snorkeling or scuba diving. While snorkeling we might see Green turtles, manta rays, clown fish, and various corals. For those that choose to stay out of the water there is a glass bottom boat tour along the Great Barrier Reef.

I cannot wait to start exploring Cairns, but first I need to finish packing.


“Bio-Diesel.” Calderdale Online. (July 7, 2012). Retrieved July 10, 2012.< http://www.calderdale-online.org/environment/bio_diesel.html>

“Cairns, Australia Weather.” Weather.com (July 14, 2012). Retrieved July 10, 2012. <http://www.weather.com/weather/tenday/Cairns+Australia+ASXX0020>

“Cairns Museum.” Cairns Museum. (July 10, 2012). Retrieved July 10, 2012. <http://www.cairnsmuseum.org.au/index.php>

“Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority.” Australian Government. (2011). Retrieved July 10, 2012. <http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/&gt;.

“North Queensland and Pacific Biodiesel.” (2008). North Queensland and Pacific PTY LTD. Retrieved July 10, 2012. <http://nqpacificbiodiesel.com/>

“Reef Teach.” Reef Teach. (2012). Retrieved July 10, 2012.<http://www.reefteach.com.au/>

“The Great Barrier Reef” Lahyde. (2011). Retrieved July 10, 2012. <http://lhweatherthoughts.blogspot.com/2011/04/great-barrier-reef.html&gt;

“The Great Barrier Reef Photos of Australia.” Fun on the Net.IN. (2012). Retrieved July10, 2012. <http://www.funonthenet.in/content/view/274/31/>


30 responses to “July 31-Aug 1, Stephanie

  1. Wow, what an opportunity of a lifetime. We can’t wait to hear of your travels and experience with you. Stay safe and happy adventuring.

  2. Sounds like the experience of a lifetime, glad you can take advantage of it.

  3. What a great experience for you! Can’t wait to hear all about it. I worked with a woman from Sydney, so I’ll be very interested in hearing about that part of your trip, too!

  4. So excited to read all about your adventures!

  5. Hope you have fun on your trip. You hve to tell me about it when you get back to Chicago.

  6. I am anxious to know what you think about all of your adventure.

  7. Hope you are having a good time in the land down under

  8. Is bio-diesel a viable fuel?

    Will bio-diesel ever be competitive across the energy sector (as petroleum fuels are now) or will it always be a niche player? If the niche it settles on is vehicle fuel, is it vulnerable to being overwhelmed by advances in fuel cells and electric vehicles?

    Given the advances in petroleum extraction (slant drilling, fracking, oil-sand extraction), peak-oil seems to be a problem that keeps getting kicked down the road. When will bio-diesel be cost competitive with petroleum fuels? Has large-scale private equity been funding much of the deployment of bio-diesel or is it mostly government programs and side-projects for big petroleum companies?

    One of the benefits of bio-diesel is that its production and refinement can take place much closer to the end user? How does this play out in China, India and Indonesia? Does bio-diesel displace food crop production as other bio-fuels are thought to do? Will bio-diesel be a first-world-only fuel?

    • Like any source of energy biofuels have their perks and downfalls. Biofuels are well established in the United States and even Brazil. In Asian countries the use of biofuels has been increasing. Indonesia actually dominates in biodisel production. China and Indonesia have focused on ethanol production. Asia as a whole has the possibility of becoming a major exporter of biofuels in the near future. Encouraging the use of biofuels in Aisia has been a new push from the goverment. They created a law requiring 5% blending of ethanol and gasoline. The problem with hydrogen cars and eletric cars is the need to change cities infastructure. New fueling stations would be required, if entire cities switch over. An issue with biofuel s in Asia is that they would need more land to produce crops resulting likely in deforestation. Indonesia already suffers from loss of rainforests due to Palm oil plantations. Loss of land is a major environmental concern. This causes land erosion and even loss of biodiversity. Biodisel is also water intensive which is a problem since 400 Chiease cities already have a water shortage. I will be able to provide more information after visiting Cairns Biodisel.

  9. Did u see any druged out koalas? Also how high way the mountion you climbed? did it take long to get to the top of it?

    • Yes at the Wildlife park we were able to pet a koala, but she was not drugged out just tierd. Mount Lofty is 660 feet high. It was a really cool view.

  10. I’d like to hear more about coral bleaching after you visit with Reef Teach. How much of the Great Barrier Reef is currently thought to suffer from this condition? Can it be reversed? If so, how long of a process is it and how does it happen? And finally, in addition to global warming, what are other causes of reef bleach?

    I hope you can post some pictures of coral that you see while diving or snorkeling.

    • Coral bleeching is not reversable. The parts of the reef most affected is inshore. The major cause of coral bleeching is global warming, but you as re correct in the fact that there are other causes. These include sea temperature, solar irridance, sedimentation, inorganic nutrients, and freshwater dilution. Coral bleeching can result in the extinction of various species living in the reef. Solutions are still being researched. A major way to prevent this process is to reduce pollution. I will be able to share more on the topic once we visit the reef.

  11. I just got back from snorkeling in the Bahamas and it was increbidle!!I I can only imagine how awesome the Great Barrier Reef will be. Have lots of fun on all your travelling! I am a little jealous! haha

  12. You said you are going kayaking. Are you going on a river? If so how are the rivers there compared to the ones here in Illinois and Kentucky? Are they cleaner?

    • Yes we canoed along the River Murray. Like many American rivers, it is highly regulated. This causes land degradation. A major problem we do not have as much is that the Murray River has high salinity. Like American waterways, the invasive species are a major problem. Here carp is an invasive species that is out competing native fish such as cod. They are using fish stocking to try to help the problem. We will be kayaking or canoeing again soon, but this time at night. In terms of being cleaner, it really depends on which waterways are being compared.

  13. Hi Steph. Sounds like it has been amazing so far and getting better each day. I am curious about the reef and just how many species of animals do live there and how many of those you will actually get to see. And with regards to coral bleaching, just how many species have been affected(now considered threatened or have actually become extinct)? Gday mate! (( Do people actually say that or is that just a line from Crocodile Dundee??? haha) Love you, Aunt DeeDee

    • I do not know how many species we will get to see yet. There are over 1500 marine species living in the Great Barrier Reef. As far as species being affected, up to 90% of coral have been killed as a result to bleaching in some areas. No G’day mate is not commonly said. Good on yea is a little more common.

  14. What are the yearly temperatures in Australia–highest and lowest?

  15. Stephanie I saw the picture of the spider on the fridge. That was huge! Was is poisonous?

  16. I would hate to be you spider on the fridge.

  17. Stephanie, hope you are enjoying every aspect of your visit. Can’t wait to hear about all of it especially your trip to the reef. Would you elaborate on the influence China has had in Australia ? Is it as evident now as in the past? Which areas were influenced the most?

  18. This was definitely my favorite day in Australia so far. Not only was snorkling in the Great Barrier Reef was an amazing experience, but having the chance to speak to Doon McColl from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority the day before enhanced the trip even more. She spoke a lot about the history and laws surronding the reef, and we learned how important the reef is to the local economy. One of the greatest struggles in managing the reef is balancing the conservation aspect with the tourism aspect. As a Zoology major aspiring to do something in the field of ecosystem conservation and restoration, I found Doon’s speech to be very informative and practical. It was interesting to hear the issues that experts, who are actually working in the field, deal with on a day to day basis.

    • I agree the reef has been my favorite part so far. I found hearing from Doon about problems on the reef, useful before going snorkeling. I found it scary that more cannot be done to prevent or stop coarl bleaching.

  19. It was a great ride back to Cairnes as we saw humpback whales! Apart from that, there was a great talk with a facilty member of the boat. The masses to sail couldn’t be raised becuse there was a problem with the masses. I was shocked when he explained that they kill the engines completely when the sail. It was a very big boat. They only do it for part of the way on the return ride, but they are able to maintain the same cruising speed as at around 11-15km per hour. It saves them liters of gas daily which adds up when they run 6 out of 7 days of the week.

    • I agree that the snorkel trip was my highlight of the trip. Seeing all of the wildlife I have only seen on tv in person was life changing. Learning that the reef is degrading more and more every year really makes you think about how I have contributed global climate change. Seeing how our actions around the world effect places like the great barrier reef really puts things in perspective and makes you think differently about how you choose to live your life so that you can limit your impact on the earth.

  20. It was amazing to be able to snorkel on the reef especially after hearing all the damage it’s taken thus far. Due to climate change and melting glaciers sea waters acidity is rising drastically killing off ancient coral species. Thankfully they are working on promoting reforestation and planting mangroves to help filter out pesticides and other sediments from reaching the reef. I truly saw the power of these trees as filters today when Paul filled up a water bottle from the area we were swimming in. It tasted better than most bottled filtered water Ive purchased. Great to see nature’s systems working better than man made, proof we should do what we can to preserve them.

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