Students from Ocean Shores Public School are excited about the launch of a Wetland Discovery Teaching Kit based around their school’s wetland trail, which is home to the critically endangered Mitchell’s Rainforest Snail.
A live Mitchell’s snail was recently discovered at the school’s wetland trail and the launch will be attended by Dr Jonathan Parkyn, snail expert from Southern Cross University, who will be delivering a presentation on the conservation, ecology, and habitat of these rainforest critters.
Finding some more snails at school would be ‘really good, because there aren’t many left,’ said school vice-captain Oliver Cronin.
The discovery of a live Mitchell’s Rainforest Snail is significant because it is one of an estimated 500 remaining adult snails, which are primarily threatened by loss of habitat from land clearing and the expansion of urban areas.
They enjoy areas with palm and fig trees in the low-lying rainforests and swamplands of the north coast; however, their range has now diminished to a meagre 5km².
The snails in question are larger than the garden variety – around 5cm across the shell – and their shells are also more conical than those of regular snails.
Ocean Shores Public School boasts an ecologically significant wetland area backing onto a dedicated nature reserve but the wetland trail, which was initially constructed in 1994, had become overgrown and inaccessible over time.
In 2009 the school decided to make restoration of the wetlands trail a priority and teamed up with WetlandCare Australia, which helped with the removal of invasive weed species, planting, building up the path and removing the school’s back fence for effortless access to the area by wildlife, among other improvements.
Then in 2011 Ocean Shores Public School won an Impact Award of $50,000 for their community partnerships from the NAB Schools First awards program, which rewards improved outcomes for students through school-community joint ventures.
Ocean Shores Public School brings a strong environmental focus to education and has established partnerships with WetlandCare Australia, Bird Buddies, DuneCare, community gardens, Southern Cross University, local farmer markets, Byron Shire Council, and Agtrix, a Billinudgel-based company for agricultural and environmental monitoring systems.
The wetland trail was further improved with the addition of learning stations and a bush-foods area.
Nesting boxes now have cameras networked to classrooms so children can see up close some of the animals that make their school home, including squirrel gliders and numerous bird species.
School Captain Maia Shaw said, ‘the wetland trail is really important because it helps us learn about the environment and conservation’.
The teaching kit launch will be held at the school on Friday (March 28) from 10am to 1pm and members of the public are welcome to attend.
Hopefully with potential eco-experts such as the students at Ocean Shores Public School on the case, creatures such as the Mitchell’s Rainforest Snail will still be around for future generations to enjoy.