From red dust to the blue sea

Host: Charles Darwin University, Katherine Rural Campus
Written by Alison Haines

Hello again from the NT!  So far, we have mostly done Central Station blogs on the Katherine Rural Campus and our team, the Agriculture and Rural Operations team, since we do horses and cows! (and machinery). So we thought for something different this year we would tell you a bit more about the other teams in the Charles Darwin University’s School of Primary Industries.

The School of Primary Industries sits within the VET Sector of Charles Darwin University. There are four teams, within the school, that cover training in Agriculture and Rural Operations, Conservation Land Management, Horticulture and Maritime & Seafood.

The dedicated staff of the Primary Industries school are committed to strong contact with industry to ensure training is current and outcomes are relevant to industry.

The Maritime & Seafood Team provides nationally accredited training in Maritime Operations and Aquaculture. The team is also responsible for the delivery of specialised industry programs including workplace traineeship qualifications and Coxswain Grade 1 Near Coastal licensing, both at the Casuarina Campus and at remote locations across the Top End of the NT.

Now that we have the details out of the way, today I’d like to share with you a photo essay from the Maritime and Seafood Team (MAST). Just like at the rural campus where our led show cattle and horses are a novelty for the visiting Darwin based staff, whenever a member of the Agriculture and Rural Operations team goes to the Casuarina, Darwin campus the Aquaculture sheds are a “must-visit” to see the barramundi and the turtles, along with the various other fish, clams and coral the MAST team cares for and researches. If we are lucky, we occasionally get to feed the barra or a turtle hatchling. I have to say, since we usually go to Darwin for work related meetings, these visits to aquaculture sheds are the highlight of my visits (other than the excellent coffee machine in the Primary Industries staff room).

Another MAST activity is to rehabilitate and release turtles and turtle hatchlings injured by boats or nets in the Darwin region. This extract from a 2017 CDU media release highlights a recent success story.

“Two native sea turtles have returned to their ocean homes after being cared for by staff at the Top End’s only ongoing turtle rehabilitation facility at Charles Darwin University. The aquaculture team at Casuarina campus spent months preparing Chompa the olive ridley hatchling and Gretchen the green sea turtle for their release at Dundee Beach earlier this month. Two staff members care for turtles in two dedicated four tonne water tanks on campus, sourcing their food and building up their strength before their release. Chompa was found trapped in her nest at Bare Sand Island last year, and had grown to more than twice her size to about 15 cm while living on campus. Five-year-old Gretchen was nursed to health and released after being found at Dundee Beach three months ago, suffering from floating gas syndrome and unable to dive. The MAST team provided ongoing rehabilitation for up to a dozen Top End marine turtles each year, for more than five years.The initiative is coordinated by NT Wildlife Operations and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in partnership with CDU, the Ark Animal Hospital, and Aus Turtle.”

Contact the MAST Team:
T: 08 8946 7513

MAST Team Leader Chad Mumme with some Top End Red Claw, species of freshwater crayfish that grow to about 600g.

MAST VET Lecturer / Workplace Assessor in Aquaculture Daniel Costa with students at Warruwi in Arnhem Land NT. Not a bad office at all!!

Michelle Lewis, the Primary Industries Educational Program Manager, the lady that helps all of us get our paperwork right, with one of the large barramundi. Michelle started with the Aquaculture team when she first came to CDU, so we often pester her to take us out to the sheds and visit the fish and turtles.

MAST Team Leader Chad Mumme with students in the Aquaculture shed.

MAST VET Lecturer in Aquaculture Daniel Costa, next to the Rock Cod tank with Agriculture and Rural Operations VET Lecturer Tegan Dunn. He is explaining how to feed the fish, on one of our visits to the Darwin campus.

A baby saltwater crocodile with his meal of redclaw.

Gretchen, the green sea turtle, ready for release.

MAST VET Lecturer / Workplace Assessor in Aquaculture, Daniel Costa about to release Gretchen, a rehabilitated green sea turtle.

A baby sea turtle in the MAST Aquaculture shed.

Fiona Plunkett feeding the barramundi with Kayla Kurnof videoing. This is always fun as the barra are unbelievably fast! Fiona and Kayla are both VET Lecturers for the Agriculture and Rural Operations team.


 Kayla and Fiona – Turtle cleaning