Secondary School

Our interactive 60-75 minute incursions are delivered by scientists and educators, experienced in delivering exciting and informative science education programs. Each program includes an introductory and background presentation and an applied research activity for the students to collect, use and assess biological data. We have options for larger unit based assignments.

The ASEP Secondary incursions cover a range of topics including: Classification; Populations; Ecosystems; Food Webs & ChainsEvolution; Bin Not Bay/Litter Free Lakes/Bin Not Beach; and Sustainability in a Changing World.

VCE programs are currently in the final stages of development. The programs will include VCE Biology Unit 1, Area 3, Outcome 3 – Survival of a Species; VCE Biology Unit 2, Area 3, Outcome 3 – Genetic and Reproduction; VCE Biology Unit 4, Area 1, Outcome 1 – Evolution of a Species.

If you would like more information or to book in for any of our programs below, please email or complete our enquiry form.

Classification (Year 7)

The program ‘Classification of the Burrunan dolphin (Tursiops australis)’ gives students a feel for working as dolphin taxonomists. We discuss why scientists classify organisms; the use of dichotomous keys; evolutionary aspects of dolphins and whales; and species comparisons in shared environments.

We use the Burrunan dolphin as an example of a modern day discovery, formally described in 2011 by AMMCF’s Executive Director and Head of Research Dr Kate Charlton-Robb

The classification of the Burrunan dolphin was made using data collected on what they look like (on the outside and their skulls), what they eat and their DNA (Charlton-Robb et al. 2011). Two coastal Victorian populations of Burrunan dolphin are known (Port Phillip Bay and the Gippsland Lakes), with its sister species, the common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) also present in these areas. Classification assessments are crucial for correct management and conservation of both species, but especially of the small numbers of the Burrunan dolphins.

The students become a taxonomist getting hands-on with actual dolphin skulls, then photographically assessing skulls and taking three simple measures to predict which dolphin species each skull belongs to – common bottlenose dolphin or Burrunan dolphin.



Populations (Year 9)

The program ‘Population assessments of Burrunan dolphins’ allows students to become a dolphin researcher for the incursion using AMMCF’s current techniques of robust dolphin population modelling.

Two coastal Victorian populations of Burrunan dolphin are known, Port Phillip Bay and the Gippsland Lakes. Port Phillip Bay has an estimated population size of 80-100 animals, whilst the Gippsland Lakes has resident population of 65 animals and in winter the population doubles with transients entering the Lakes system (Charlton-Robb et al. 2011; Charlton-Robb et al. 2015). Population assessments are crucial for correct management and conservation of not only these populations, but of the entire species.

Students learn how to distinguish individual dolphins based on nicks and notches along the dorsal fin, then using AMMCF’s current photographic catalogue the students identify dolphins across seasonal survey periods. This data is used to assess the population structure. Is the dolphin a  resident or transient? Abiotic/biotic factors and anthropogenic impacts that may influence the population are also examined.



Food Webs  & Food Chains (Year 9)

Our ‘Food Webs’ program is designed so students can work as biologist to investigate how food chains and webs occur in nature.

We discuss trophic levels, what each level is and how changes in one level will affect neighboring levels. Students will be exposed to environmental changes that occur in marine environments, be asked to distinguish between anthropogenic and natural changes and to determine the effects these changes could have on energy flows within marine ecosystems.


Our first practical component allows students to study data gathered from the AMMCF on two marine species involved in the ‘predator prey cycle’. Here students evaluate the population levels of  interacting species in the ocean and evaluate the relationship two species share. Our second practical component will allow students to learn about the effects of anthropogenic impacts on the marine environment, such as dredging or over-fishing, and examine how this affects food webs within that ecosystem.

AMMCF food-chain-graphic1


Ecosystems (Year 9)

Our ‘Ecosystems’ incursion investigates what an ecosystem is at a scientific level, the types that can be found in both terrestrial and marine environments and introduce the students to the difference between biotic and abiotic factors present within ecosystems. We discuss human and environmental aspects that can impact  ecosystems that can cause change, both short and long-term.

Students will use current AMMCF dolphin sighting data in a practical component, learning how to plot and track dolphin sightings and movement patterns, answering questions about behaviour, habitat and protected areas, and address current issues in Conservation science.

AMMCF ppb-sightings

Adaptation & Evolution (Year 10)

Our ‘Evolution’ program allows students to become evolutionary biologist. This program explores adaptation and a deeper analysis into biological evolution, looking at the theory of natural selection and evolution and the importance of biodiversity. We look at what can influence natural selection such as variation, isolation and selection.

We look at what can influence natural selection such as variation, isolation and selection. Investigating marine mammal evolution, the students will learn how to differentiate patterns of evolution, such as convergent and divergent, and how to recognise what type of evolution separates two animals.

During the practical component, students will explore extinct and extant species bone structure (graphical) to identify pathways of adaptation, hypothesize about the type of evolution and in what environment the species may live. In the end the students will determine which species is represented. Students will also be able to touch and explore a real dolphin skull.AMMCF bones

Sustainability in a Changing World (all ages)

Our ‘Sustainability in a Changing World’ program introduces the concept and meaning of sustainability, the short and long-term impacts we as humans are having on our planet and the long term concerns facing us if we don’t “make a change”.

This program raises awareness of sustainability at all levels – ecosystem, global and into the future. As this topic can be a little overwhelming for students, we focus on the positives and enable a sense of stewardship. We stand by the motto “It only takes one drop to start a waterfall!”.

During the practical component, students are asked to be creative and come up with their own ideas of simple sustainable solutions to an environmental issue and/or use their imaginations to invent a new technology that makes a difference.


Bin not Bay; Litter Free Lakes and Bin Not Beach – Marine Environment Litter Program (all ages)

Through interactive education and key action initiatives for schools and the community, we aim to reduce litter impact on the marine environment and the Burrunan dolphin….our very own new dolphin species only found in their watery backyard… The Marine Environment Litter Program is tailored for your local area (Port Phillip Bay; Gippsland Lakes and coastal Victoria), the areas which we conduct our applied research and see major human induced litter threats.

Litter and waste is a significant threat to marine mammals. New research estimates as much as 12.7 million metric tons of plastic waste is entering our oceans annually! Each year thousands of animals become entangled and ingest plastic waste which can result in death. There is so much more that can be done to minimise these alarming figures.

Our program provides key action initiatives for people to reduce the impact of litter on the newly discovered Burrunan dolphins and on the marine environment as a whole. Our presentations provide simple take home actions that will make a difference to the Burrunan dolphin and all the species that share their habitat. Our interactive presentation includes marine mammal facts, information on our current conservation research, correct litter disposal and recycling methods and consumer choice opportunities, intermingled with games, underwater video and images.

Litter clean-up activities can also be organised as a part of the program delivery, including AMMCF NextGen Champions, for those wanting to be involved on a regular basis in their local area.