Discovering the living things of the coast

Our own place in South West Australia is a biodiversity hotspot, meaning it is rich in biodiversity, which is threatened. So this splendid abundance is both a gift and responsibility. In the light of this it is vital that the community who use these natural shared spaces should come to understand the importance of conserving and protecting the natural systems that support the plants and animals that make the very places beloved. 

Most people are drawn to nature and long to participate somehow in its beauty and wonder but are not sure how. The temptation to engage in acts of conquest or consumption, like driving over things fast or collecting, catching and killing things, can simply indicate a lack of the tools to engage with nature more creatively or thoughtfully.

Activities that connect members of the public with living things in the environment will offer alternatives to recreational behaviours that are unintentionally destructive. Events like community biodiversity surveys can be an effective way of engaging the public in learning about the natural treasures on their own doorstep.

Artist Angela Rossen (foreground) with explorers, drawing the discoveries (Robyn Benkin)


The University of Western Australia School of the Biological Sciences hosted a community biodiversity survey on the South Cottesloe Beach to do just this. This event, co-presented by the Artist and Educator Angela Rossen, invited participants to log the biota of the beach from the top of the dune to the fringing reefs. Participants were able to view their discoveries under magnification and were assisted in identification by a team of biologists and members of Cottesloe Coastcare Association and Birdlife WA.

Exploring South Cottesloe Beach (Robyn Benkin)


Dune plants, pressed marine plants, local field guide books, microscopes, iScopeStands and sketch pads were all available. For a sparkling autumn morning over 100 people came to discover and record their findings.

Events like this are a way to grow a more nuanced and thoughtful relationship with nature. They also bring research scientists out to the community where they can show the relevance and importance of their work.

Angela Rossen