As a small conservation organisation we understand the value of providing these meaningful opportunities to students of natural resource management.

It not only give the students a real taste for working in the conservation and environmental sector, but it also provides us with many valuable insights and benefits

Recently we’ve been privileged to support two students – Jake Manning and Sophia Bagatsing – in different ways. Read below for their stories.

Work experience with Jake

In February, Jake Manning completed work experience with us as part of his Environmental Science studies at Deakin University.

Jake was tasked with updating some of our extensive spatial data, as well as undertaking environmental monitoring of shorebirds and waterbirds across our region’s internationally significant Ramsar wetlands. He also attended a number of project meetings, where saw first-hand how different agencies and conservation groups come together to plan and implement biodiversity action.

Being a small organisation, we at the Port Phillip & Westernport CMA don’t often get the opportunity to host students,

Jake’s thoughts? “Work placement at PPWCMA has been incredible, I couldn’t have felt more welcome by all the staff which made the entire experience that much more enjoyable. While here, I have been able to monitor threatened and endangered birds, build on my mapping skills, as well as witness the future proofing of our public lands. The past three weeks has been an incredible insight into the hard work that goes into environmental project management every day and I cannot thank them enough for it.”

A big thanks to Jake, our Environmental Projects Coordinator Andrew Morrison for hosting Jake, and to all of our partners for making him feel welcome.

Mentoring with Sophia

As part of the Mornington Peninsula Landcare Network’s Women in Conservation Mentoring Program, Agricultural Science student, Sophia Bagatsing, was paired with the PPWCMA’s Regional Agriculture Facilitator, Karen Thomas.

The purpose of the program is to provide professional development opportunities to the mentors and mentees through leadership strengthening and sharing mentor wisdom with the next generation of leaders in natural resource management.

Each month , Sophia and Karen have a Skype catch up and work through the program’s topics including goals, aspirations, elevator speeches and volunteering opportunities in the conservation and agricultural food systems sector. Below Sophia shares her story.

“I started out like many millennials, struggling to figure out what I wanted in life. Having completed a business degree, there was pressure to simply conform and work for one of the top 100 companies’. For a while, I dabbled in market research, events management, fundraising, and retail and sales, but I was hungry for a career that helped make the world a better place.

“When I worked in hospitality, I found myself on a food journey – I started behind the counter serving sandwiches and coffee; then in the kitchen as the chef of my own rice-bowl business; then I ended up in a farm learning about how food is grown.

“As I went further up the supply chain, I started to look at food differently. I learned about closed loop and zero waste systems, and I was so fascinated by organic farms that I started planting my own vegetables. As I enjoyed eating my freshly harvested lettuce and tomatoes, I began to consider that maybe a city-girl like me has what it takes to work the land.

“After visiting my grandmother’s hometown, I realized that I am the product of four generations of farmers. My paternal and maternal grandparents all hail from small rice farming villages in the Philippines. Maybe becoming a farmer is in my genes?

“Since then, I have wanted to fight global warming by creating and supporting sustainable food systems. Moving to Melbourne has allowed me to volunteer with The Werribee Heritage Orchard, Transition Australia, UN Youth, and Landcare Victoria.

“I’ve met so many great folks who love the land as much as I do, and they’ve shown me that we all have what it takes to do our part for Mother Nature. I’m so excited to be part of the future of Agriculture. If you were able to eat today, I hope you find the time to thank a farmer.”

As part of the new Two Great Ramsar Wetlands project, the Port Phillip & Westernport CMA will soon be partnering with Phillip Island Nature Parks to help protect and enhance the ecological values around Rhyll Inlet and Observation Point on Phillip Island, which form part of the internationally important Western Port Ramsar site.

This project is a continuation of a long-standing partnership with the fantastic staff at Phillip Island Nature Parks, who work tirelessly to protect Victoria’s native wildlife, including the iconic Little Penguin.

Over the next four-years, Phillip Island Nature Parks will deliver targeted pest animal control at these sites to reduce the impacts of feral cat predation on waterbirds and shorebirds.

In addition, extensive weed control will be completed to improve the quality and extent of native vegetation and habitat vital for a range of native species.

The project is supported by Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

You can visit this amazing wetland via a walking track and boardwalk, starting at Conservation Hill Reserve (via Cowes-Rhyll Road), which takes you through beautiful bushland and mangroves.

The Port Phillip & Westernport CMA, along with Western Port Biosphere Reserve Foundation and Parks Victoria, attended the San Remo Fishing Festival over the weekend.

They were there to promote the internationally important Western Port Ramsar site and to encourage responsible fishing and boating practices.

In between deckie-races, fishing clinics, cooking demonstrations and boat tours, attendees learnt about the amazing natural values of Western Port – from snapper and shorebirds to saltmarsh, seagrasses and mangroves. 

Kids young and old were blown away by the stories of shorebird migration, never imagining that Western Port was home to such incredible wildlife. 

The Western Port Biosphere Reserve Foundation is currently leading an important project that’s working with the recreational fishing and boating communities around Western Port to raise their awareness of the bay, with the aim of limiting their impacts on the sensitive environmental values. The project is supported by the Victorian Government.

Related information

The Western Port Biosphere, in conjunction with the Port Phillip and Westernport CMA, has launched their latest project, Protecting Ramsar Values. The project, funded by the Victorian Government, is aimed at conserving the internationally significant Ramsar listed wetlands of Western Port.

“We have birds that make an annual migration over thousands of kilometres to come to Western Port as this place is so special,” said Project Officer Casey Lee.

“Many people don’t realise that most of Western Port Bay has been listed as an internationally significant wetland under the intergovernmental Ramsar convention – a treaty aimed at the conservation and wise use of wetlands.”

The project will engage with recreational watercraft users across the Ramsar site to raise awareness of the vitally important wetlands and how to limit impacts on them.

“The wetland consists of seagrass meadows, mudflats, mangroves and saltmarshes which fringe the bay. These start the food chains that sustain the fishery and provide for our international migratory shorebirds. These birds rely on the wetland for food prior to their epic migrations to the Arctic Circle,”  Casey said.

“Our local fish like the King George Whiting grow to adults in the seagrass meadows of Western Port. Whiting from our bay then migrate along the Victorian coast to spawning sites far along the coast to the west.

“Western Port faces challenges, as do most natural systems, in balancing conservation with recreation. However, these factors can be reconciled as responses to pressures on conservation can overlap with recreation. For example, damage to seagrass can lead to less fish for us to catch and can deny birds the nutrients that they need for migration.

“The project will bring together bay users to collaborate in looking after this special place so that future generations are able to enjoy it like we have.

“We are particularly looking for interested boat users (those people who spend significant time on the bay) to contact the Biosphere if they’d like more information and perhaps to attend an upcoming field day.

Interested community members and those with specific project enquiries can contact Project Officer Casey Lee at or (03) 5979 2167.

Visit the Western Port Biosphere website

Work to monitor feral cat activity and native animal populations on French Island continues to yield positive results since it was established a few months ago.  Part of a project to eradicate feral cats from the island, the work aims to establish the ‘baseline’ activity of feral cats and native wildlife populations, particularly ground-nesting birds, prior to undertaking intensive broad-scale control across the island.

Funded through the Australian Government’s Office of the Threatened Species Commissioner, the project team has now deployed sixty remote cameras across the island to help determine feral cat distribution and abundance.

The information these camera gather is critical to help plan for the island-wide eradication of feral cats over the next few years. Contractors Michael Johnston, Vaughn Thompson and Julie Trezise have been working tirelessly analysing the 500,000 images that have been collected to date.

The cameras also provide insights into some of the native wildlife that is found on French Island. Recent reviews of the images has identified recordings of Latham’s Snipe, Long-nosed Potoroo, Painted Button-quail and Swamp Harrier. It is expected that populations of these species will benefit from the feral cat eradication program.

As part of the project, a team led by Elizabeth Znidersic from Charles Sturt University has also been monitoring ground-nesting birds, including Australasian Bittern, King Quail and Lewin’s Rail, to determine their distribution and abundance on the island.

French Island supports a rich diversity of birds, with over 240 bird species recorded, many of which are vulnerable to predation by feral cats. The data will be used to estimate the level of impact that the feral cat population has on these species and their recovery after the cat’ eradication in the coming years,

The ground-nesting birds monitoring team have been delighted with the results to date, with analysis confirming the presence of Lewin’s Rail, Buff-banded Rails and Swamp Skink. A second survey is scheduled for early December 2018.







Tiger Snake


Flax Lily


Indian Pea Fowl

Buff-banded Rail

The Port Phillip and Westernport CMA has delivered another highly successful Indigenous Wetland and Shorebird Conservation training program.

Delivered in partnership BirdLife Australia, the three-day training (14-16 November 2017) focused on the Port Phillip Bay (western shoreline) and Bellarine Peninsula Ramsar site.

Participants learnt all about wetlands, including bird identification, wetland management and conservation monitoring. They visited the internationally-important Western Treatment Plant at Werribee, Lake Connewarre Wildlife Reserve, Swan Bay and Mud Islands, as well as Thirteenth Beach near Barwon Heads to study the Hooded Plover beach-nesting bird project.

This training program forms part of the Ramsar Protection Program and was funded by the National Landcare Program.

Participants included reps from Wurundjeri Land Council’s Narrp Team, Barengi Gadjin Land Council, Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation Budj Bim Rangers, Wathaurong Aboriginal Co Op and Glenelg Hopkins CMA.

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