Secondary School Education Programs

Our interactive 60-75 minute incursions are delivered by qualified scientists
and experienced science communicators, delivering interactive and informative
education programs. Each program includes an introductory and
background presentation and an interactive workshop or applied research
activity for the students to collect, use and assess biological data. We have
options for larger unit based assignments.  Our secondary school programs include:
Science Programs:
  • Classification
  • Populations
  • Ecosystems
  • Food Webs
  • Adaptation & Evolution
  • Sustainability in a Changing World


Geography Programs:
  • Water in the World
  • Landforms & Marine Landscapes
  • Ocean Biome & Food Security
  • Environmental Change & Management

Science Programs


Grounded in our Foundation’s research, our 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 newly described Burrunan dolphin as an example of a modern day discovery! Students act like taxonomists during the practical activity, with the opportunity to handle and study actual dolphin skulls, then photographically assess skulls and take simple measures to predict to which dolphin species each skull belongs, either the common bottlenose dolphin or Burrunan dolphin.



Our program ‘Population assessments of Burrunan dolphins’ allows students to become a dolphin researcher during the incursion using the Foundation’s current techniques of robust dolphin population modelling. Students learn how to distinguish individual dolphins based on nicks and notches along the dorsal fin and, during the practical component, use our current photographic catalogue to identify dolphins across seasonal survey periods. This data is used to assess the population structure. Is the dolphin a resident or transient individual within the population? Abiotic and biotic factors as well as anthropogenic impacts that may influence the population are also examined.

Flap dolphin


Our ‘Ecosystems’ incursion will investigate the scientific definition of an ecosystem and the types of ecosystems found in both terrestrial and marine environments. Students discuss human and environmental impacts on ecosystems that can cause change, both short and long-term. The practical component incorporates the Foundation’s dynamic research by plotting dolphin sightings data on marine maps, discussing dolphin habitat use and behavior, and relating this to the importance of Marine Protected Areas in an ecosystem. Students use the Foundation’s current dolphin dataset and address contemporary issues in conservation science.


Food Webs

Working as biologists, students investigate how food chains and food webs occur in nature. We discuss trophic levels, and how changes in one level will affect neighbouring levels. Students expand on these concepts through the practical activity, creating models of food webs based on local marine environments. We also study the ‘predator-prey cycle’, evaluating population levels of interacting species in the ocean, and explore the effects of anthropogenic impacts such as overfishing, population declines and climate change.

Food web

Adaptation & Evolution

Our ‘Evolution’ program allows students to act like evolutionary biologists. This program explores adaptation and a deeper analysis into biological evolution, addressing the theory of natural selection, evolution and the importance of biodiversity. We discuss what can influence natural selection such as variation, isolation and selection. Students learn how to differentiate patterns of evolution and recognise what type of evolution separates two animals. While examining the significance of the fossil record in developing theories of evolution, students focus on the theories of convergent and divergent evolution using local examples. Students learn the global significance of fossil discoveries in two prominent local locations, Jan Juc beach and Beaumaris beach, and how they facilitate the development of theories of evolution in marine mammals. They will also have the opportunity to handle and examine marine mammal skulls.

Evolution tooth

Sustainability in a Changing World

Our ‘Sustainability in a Changing World’ program introduces the concept sustainability, the 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. Despite issues in society of neglect of sustainability, we focus on empowering the students and enabling a sense of stewardship. The program can be tailored to both a primary school and a high school audience, with different consolidation learning activities.

Secondary school – Students are given the opportunity to take the position of different stakeholders in a sustainability issue in society, and discuss the viewpoint of their stakeholder in relation to the issue.


Geography Programs

Water in the World

Our ‘Water in the World’ program discusses the ocean as
a major water resource, and how global water cycles and shifting weather patterns as a result of climate change are influencing human reliance on water. Using local examples of our Victorian desalination plant and the ecosystem functions of Port Phillip Bay, students learn how we rely on ocean water and marine systems as a resource to support our society.

Landforms & Marine Landscapes

Our ‘Landforms & Marine Landscapes’ program links terrestrial and marine environments, showing how terrestrial and urban landscapes impact marine ecosystems. Beginning with the geological history of Port Phillip Bay, and making reference to the traditional use and significance of the Bay to Indigenous peoples, students explore how approaches to sustainability and urbanisation have shaped our environments. Students can also examine current management practises by mapping Marine Protected Areas in the Bay and discussing their effectiveness when compared to dolphin habitat use.


Ocean Biome & Food Security

Seafood is a major global food source, but how sustainable is it? Our ‘Ocean Biome & Food Security’ program focuses on oceans as a major biome contributing to global food demand. However, with global fish stock being depleted well over biological capacity, students are introduced to the impacts humans are making on our marine systems and food security. Local examples of aquaculture are given, and the impacts of fishing and fish farming are discussed. Students also have the opportunity to consolidate their learning through a debate on the sustainability of the fishing and aquaculture industry.

Ecosystem - Secondary Education Program

Environmental Change & Management

Our ‘Environmental Change & Management’ program allows students to delve into a comparative study of Port Phillip Bay and Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong in an investigation into environmental geography. Students explore the ecosystem functions, marine life and urbanisation impacts on our local environment of Port Phillip Bay and draw comparisons to a global example of Victoria Harbour harbour. Using the Burrunan dolphin and Chinese White Dolphins as the focus species from these respective environments, students investigate current challenges to sustainability and marine management.

Project Burrunan - Melbourne cityscape

VCE Science Programs

The VCE 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.

VCE Geography

If you would like more information or to book one of our programs, please email education@marinemammal.org.au or complete the enquiry form.

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