Wherever we live, we all have important connections to the ocean.

The ocean provides much of the oxygen we breathe, powers the weather and climate, and provides some of the food we eat. Our individual choices, from how we harness energy to how we dispose of waste, all play a role in the health of the ocean. The sustainable future of the ocean depends on all of us. We need innovative solutions to meet the global demand for food and energy, while protecting marine life and ecosystems.

Our vital connections video

Beth Fulton kicks off our National Science Week 2020 Challenge, revealing how we are all connected to the ocean.

[Image appears of Dr Beth Fulton standing in an office talking to the camera and text appears: Dr Beth Fulton, Research Group Leader, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere]

Dr Beth Fulton: G’day. I’m Dr Beth Fulton. I work at the CSIRO. 

[Images move through of dolphins swimming in the water, fish swimming around a sea plant, and then tiny tropical fish swimming around a reef]

I’m a little bit different from most scientists that you might think about in that I live entirely inside a computer. 

[Images move through of a facing and then rear view of Beth working at her computer, her fingers typing on the keyboard, Beth working at her computer again, and fish swimming on the screen]

Now, that sounds funny but that’s because I use maths to create a picture of how the world works, how the climate influences, how people work in it, so that we can basically figure out what the future would look like and find a really good future.

[Images move through of the fish swimming on the screen and then Beth talking to the camera again]

So, I got into that by always have a love of maths. So, my mum and dad say that I used to sort my peas and vegetables on my dinner plate as a little kid into mathematical patterns which sounds a little bit odd but it worked for me.

[Image changes to show a harvester moving through a crop]

I grew up on a farm so I’ve always loved animals. 

[Images move through of a male working on a fishing boat, a close view of a tub of fish, and then a turtle swimming over a reef]

So, when I went to university I married the two together. 

[Images move through of a river in the foreground and high-rise buildings in the background, a pristine waterfall, and a wide, flowing river]

So, I brought together ecology and maths so we can describe that world.

[Images move through of a view looking down on the ocean bed, tropical fish swimming over a coral reef, the sun setting behind a jetty and the camera pans around the harbour]

What really got me interested in the ocean was that living on a farm my mum would take us to the beach to get away from the farm so that we had a break.  

[Image changes to show a female sitting on the beach watching the waves crash on the rocks]

And I would sneak out and sit on the beach. 

[Image changes to show an aerial view looking down on a pod of dolphins playing in the water]

One early morning when all my brothers and sisters were asleep a pod of dolphins came in to play on the beach and they came right up to me. 

[Image changes to show Beth talking to the camera]

I should have been scared but I wasn’t. Actually they came right up close, they touched me. So, I wasn’t going after them; they came to me. 

[Images move through to show a brook rippling through the undergrowth, a lizard on a rock near the base of a waterfall, and then a turtle swimming over the sea bed]

And that really, really got me stuck into wanting to do marine science.

[Images move through to show a very close view of a crab digging into the sand, bright tropical fish swimming around a reef, and then scuba divers watching the fish around the reef]

I’d always loved climbing over rocks and looking at the crabs and stuff like that but those dolphins really made it for me and from then on it was always about the ocean.

[Images move through of stripy fish swimming on the ocean floor, fish swimming around a reef, the Investigator ship moving through the water and a male in the cab of the ship]

About 50% of the oxygen that we breathe, so that’s every second breath that you take is probably made by plants that live in the ocean. So, we’re all super connected to the ocean. It doesn’t matter where we live, in Australia or anywhere in the world.

[Image changes to show a rocky island in the ocean and then the image changes to show tubs of fish in ice being hauled up] 

Ocean fish also produce a lot of food, all the way around the world. 

[Image changes to show a close view of a fisherman talking and then the camera pans down to the tub of fish he is standing next to]

In some places it’s all they eat. 

[Images move through of scuba divers moving along the ocean floor looking at the fish and then the image changes to show Beth talking to the camera]

But if you took all the ocean fish that are caught and you smeared it across all the people in the world, every year each one of us would eat 20 kilos of ocean fish.

[Image changes to show crew at the back of the Investigator deploying a marine corer from the deck of the boat with a crane and the camera zooms in on the head of the crane]

So, the ocean is really important to the way that we live. 

[Camera zooms out to show the crew on the deck of the boat again and then the image changes to show a view over the ocean and the camera pans over the surface of the ocean]

It’s also important to understand how what we do on the land is connected to the ocean. 

[Image changes to show a close view of snow capped mountain peaks and then the image changes to show an aerial view looking down on a motorway in a big city]

Even what we do right up on the top of a mountain or in a desert feeds back to the ocean by the signature it leaves in the water. So, the things that we put in the water, the things that we do on land is connected. 

[Image changes to show a view looking up at three wind turbines turning and then the image changes to show a cow standing in a green paddock]

So, the way that we can help the ocean is to be sensible about how we use it, to think about putting your rubbish in the bin, about being careful how we use the land. 

[Image changes to show many cows grazing in a paddock]

And so that’s where my challenge to you comes. 

[Images move through to show a broccoli crop being irrigated by overhead sprinklers, a close view of the broccoli plants, a desert landscape, and a group of people looking at a map on a screen]

I spend a lot of time thinking about what that future of that ocean looks like and I get to hear from Prime Ministers and bank managers and fishermen and traditional owners of the land. 

[Image changes to show Beth standing in an office talking to the camera again]

But I want to hear from you about how you’re connected to the ocean and what you want that future of that ocean to look like.

[Music plays and text appears on a black screen: Get involved at www.csiro.au/CSIROChallengeYourself and share your ideas on social media using #CSIROChallengeYourself]

[Image changes to show the CSIRO logo on a white screen and text appears: CSIRO Australia’s National Science Agency]

Hide transcript

Take the plunge

Now you’ve heard from Beth, take up the challenge to find out what connects you to the ocean, wherever you are.

Use the ideas and links below to inspire you or come up with your own deep dive – your idea or project can be as simple or complex as you like, everyone's connections to the ocean are different.

Stay tuned throughout National Science Week for a showcase of some of your inspiring work.

Share what you've learnt on social media and check out other ideas and projects using #STEMchallenge

Download

Thought starters: Use these prompts to develop your project, or come up with your own project idea.

Observe

What do you notice around you? Can you form an idea about how something near you might have ties to the ocean?

Your observations may include using your senses (sight, sound, touch, smell or taste), taking photographs or drawing pictures. Here are some thought starters:

  • If you live near a body of water, take a picture at different times of day and see if you can notice any changes. What might be causing these changes?
  • Draw a picture of some of the plants or animals you find living in or near some water. What features might help them live in this kind of habitat?
  • Look in your pantry or fridge and see how many foods contain something derived from the ocean.

Collect

What data can you collect to explore your idea or question about your connection to the ocean?

Look around your house, garden, neighbourhood or school for something that inspires your curiosity and ask a question that you could answer by gathering information. Here are some thought starters:

  • Conduct a biodiversity audit of a water system near you. It could be a creek, river, dam, lake, billabong, beach, etc.
  • Do a plastic waste or energy audit around your home or school.
  • Explore differences in buoyancy of objects in fresh water compared to salty water.

Explore

How can you explore your ocean connections further?

Look beyond what you have found near your home to expand upon your ideas or explore a deeper connection. Here are some thought starters:

  • Explore the environmental impact of your food. How far has it travelled or how is it sourced?
  • Track a river system and investigate the journey the water makes from land to sea.
  • Investigate the energy that powers your home. How are scientists and engineers harnessing the power of the oceans to produce electricity?

Extend

What can you investigate, design, create or change based your ties with the ocean?

Come up with your own scientific inquiry, design project or behaviour change. Here are some thought starters:

  • Scientific inquiry – Think of something you'd like to know more about and form a question that you can answer through your own investigation.
  • A design project – Identify a problem you'd like to solve, then design and/or build a prototype to address the problem, e.g. a water filter to trap pollutants, or energy capture for transport using sail/wind technology.
  • Behaviour change – Design a strategy for changing a behaviour or habit and test how well it works, e.g. reduce the amount of single use plastic in your home by testing alternatives.

Resources: Use the resources below to help launch your own project.

Discover

Dive into more detail about ocean currents

See collaborative research that uses novel ways of measuring the oceans 

Learn about our work on the Great Barrier Reef from inland to outer reef.

See which rivers near you deliver plastic into the ocean with The Ocean Cleanup’s interactive map

Watch

Find out more about the impacts of plastic on marine life with the short film Plastic Ocean and simple things you can do to help .

See what wave and tidal energy might be coming to an ocean near you.

Check out how your seafood can be tracked from boat to plate.

Be inspired

Get to know some of CSIRO's seafaring superstars.

Learn about the ocean-inspired student research of some of the 2020 BHP Foundation Science and Engineering Award Finalists:

Get involved

Contribute to scientific research via the Atlas of Living Australia .

Join the take 3 for the sea campaign.

Log litter near your home .

Join a citizen science event online or in your local area .

Explore

Take a look at the global effort to protect the health of our oceans.

2021 is the start of the UN's Decade for Sustainable Ocean Science and now the UN Sustainable Development Goals include a focus on 'life below the water' .

Participate

Make sure you join us online for National Science Week (August 15 – 23) events in your state or territory.

Check out the Deep Blue schools’ resource book (PDF)

Expand

Talk to your teacher about getting recognised for your own inquiry or design project through CSIRO’s programs including the CREST non-competitive awards program.

Analyse

Analyse data to identify patterns and trends, draw conclusions and ask questions using CSIRO’s related Educational datasets.

Choose from:

See for yourself

Come aboard our RV Investigator using this virtual tour! Commonly referred to as 'the boat' by CSIRO staff, this 94-metre ocean research vessel is capable of delivering up to 300 research days each year. The vessel was purpose built and commissioned in 2014. It has impressive scientific capabilities and possesses a wide range of on-board and modular laboratories and facilities.

The vessel supports biological, oceanographic, geological and atmospheric research, as well maritime training and education and outreach activities. It accommodates 40 researchers and technicians and 20 crew, and has an endurance of 60 days and 10,000 nautical miles without resupply.

Take a look at Port Phillip Bay (VIC) with Nature Australia's live underwater reef camera

Note from the owners

The webcam is solar powered and therefore only operates during local daylight hours and when there is enough sun. A pre-recording will be shown when the live feed is offline.

From time to time the webcam will be temporarily turned off when scientists are engaged in webcam maintenance or research activities.

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National Science Week Challenge

Challenge yourself to explore your own vital connections to the ocean.

Questions? Comments? Contact CSIRO Education and Outreach