Dogs may seem like unusual guardians for endangered and vulnerable animals, but Maremmas and other breeds are currently being trained to protect species that are at risk of predation and/or extinction.

For this ‘STEAM Ahead’ virtual conference, students will participate in a virtual excursion to Middle Island in Warrnambool and workshops to learn more about the Maremma Penguin Project and how animals are protecting animals.

High ability students and students with a passion for the environment are encouraged to join Ecolinc in a virtual conference, as we explore the film Oddball and learn about the impact introduced species have on native animals, and about the management strategies, such as the use of guardian dogs, that are being used to protect these vulnerable species.

Date: Wednesday 9th December 2020
Time: 9am – 3pm
Year Level: 3-6
Venue: Online
Maximum number per school: 20

9.00am: Film to be shown at students school
10.30am: Snack break at school. Students log into Webex
11.00am: Guest Speakers: Middle Island Maremma Penguin Project
Jan Barkla: Flagstaff Hill Education Officer
Trish Corbett: Middle Island Project Coordinator
12.00pm: Breakout Room Workshop Session 1: Students select one workshop.
a) Penguin Pad
The Little Penguin is threatened by predators like the European Fox. Considering all the design elements, your task will be to design the perfect ‘penguin pad’ to protect the species.
b) Fighting Extinction Dog Squad
You will work with Zoos Victoria to design and problem solve an experiment using Maremma Guardian Dogs to protect reintroduced Eastern Barred Bandicoots from fox predation in their natural habitat.
c) Animals Protecting Animals Game
Oddball protects the little penguin on Middle Island, but do you think he is the only animal that protects animals? Play Animals Protecting Animals and learn about animals which might play a part in defending other species at the same time.
d) Film-making secrets behind Oddball
Oddball is an entertaining feature film that tells an inspiring story about taking action to protect the environment. After discovering some of the filmmaking secrets behind Oddball, participants develop and pitch their own concept for an environmental film.
1.00pm: Lunch break at school
1.30pm: Breakout Room Workshop Session 2: Workshops listed above repeated. Students select a different workshop.
2.30pm: Conclusion and wrap up
3.00pm: Conference concludes.

Featured Experts

Jan Barkla: Education Officer, Flagstaff Hill, Warrnambool

After graduating with a Bachelor of Education, Jan taught P.E and Maths in a secondary school for 11 years before embarking on a trip around Australia where her life changed course. She worked in tourism in Broome and Darwin before heading to the Kimberley where she worked as a ranger on a million acre cattle station called El Questro, her dream job! Eventually she returned to Warrnambool, Victoria. For the last 10 years she has been working as the Education Officer at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village. The two guardian dogs, Avis and Amor, live onsite at Flagstaff Hill.

Dr Patricia Corbett – Middle Island Project Coordinator & Lecturer in Marine Ecology and Risk Assessment, Deakin University

Trish completed a Bachelor of Environmental Science (Marine Biology), followed by Honours and a PhD at Deakin University, Warrnambool where she investigated human pollution impact on the Antarctic Rock cod. She currently works at Deakin University as a lecturer in the Marine Biology degree. In addition, she has been lucky enough to be the coordinator of the Middle Island Penguin Project for the past 3 years. Trish is passionate about the marine environment, specifically conservation of species and investigating human impact and remediation of impact. She trains all 7 Maremma guardian dogs, monitors the penguin colonies and runs educational ‘Meet the Maremma’ tours.

Lydia Whiteway:  Guardian Dog Project – Specialist Keeper, Zoos Victoria.

Lydia has been a Zookeeper at Zoos Victoria for 16 years. She has worked as the Guardian Dog Specialist Keeper on the Guardian Dog Project for 4 years training dogs to protect the Eastern Barred Bandicoot.

Susan Bye: Education Programmer, Australian Centre for the Moving Image

Susan Bye is a Senior Producer at ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image). She is part of the Education team and enjoys developing and presenting programs and resources around screen literacy and critical and creative thinking.