From Getbol to Moreton Bay: Study visit by the Korean delegation in Australia

In a significant stride toward preserving critical habitats for migratory waterbirds, the Republic of Korea’s tidal flats were inscribed on the UNESCO World Natural Heritage List during the 44th Session of the World Heritage Committee on July 26, 2021. This monumental decision underscores the importance of safeguarding the Yellow Sea’s ecosystems, which serve as crucial stopovers for millions of migratory birds traveling along the East Asian–Australasian Flyway (EAAF). To bolster conservation efforts, the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries Korea (MOFK), in collaboration with the EAAFP Secretariat, initiated a study visit to Australia to develop strategies for expanding and activating citizen monitoring initiatives in the Republic of Korea’s Marine Protected Areas, including its newly designated world heritage sites in tidal flats.

From February 25 to March 1, 2024, a group of 16 people visited the Moreton Bay region (EAAF013), Brisbane, Australia. The Korean delegation consisted of government representatives from Marine Ecology Division of the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries Korea, Gochang county of North Jeolla Province, Boseong County of South Jeolla Province, Goheung County of South Jeolla Province, Muan County of South Jeolla Province, Korea Getbol World Heritage Promotion Team, representatives from Korea Marine Environment Management Corporation (KOEM), and Eco Horizon Institute. Ms. Yoon Lee (External Relations Manager) and Ms. Jisun Lee (Foundation Officer) facilitated the visit with a support from Queensland Wader Study Group (QWSG) as an Australian local implementing partner.

Moreton Bay, on the coastal side the city of Brisbane, is a biodiversity hotspot. The biodiversity and ecological significance of the area have led Moreton Bay to be recognised globally as a Ramsar Wetland of international importance and a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA).

The four days of the program aimed to enhance capacity of local governments and CSO stakeholders in the Korea World Natural Heritage designated tidal flat sites and complement expert-led survey data through citizen science. Among the anticipated results were the implementation of citizen monitoring initiatives in UNESCO Getbol sites and the development of benchmarks for effectively utilizing citizen monitoring data.

The study visit itinerary included presentations and site visits to various locations in Queensland, Australia, offering insights into environmental management practices, shorebird policy and management, and coastal conservation efforts. Presentations from experts at the Queensland Wader Study Group, government agencies, and conservation organizations provided valuable knowledge and best practices to inform the development of citizen science strategies back in the Republic of Korea. Participants engaged in immersive experiences, visiting key sites such as the Port of Brisbane, Boondall Wetland Centre, and Nudgee Beach Environmental Education Centre.


26 February (Day 1)

First day of the study visit was started with the presentations of Queensland Wader Study Group (QWSG). The intricate dance of shorebirds across Queensland’s coastal landscape is not merely a spectacle but a vital indicator of ecosystem health. Mr. David Edwards, the Chair of the QWSG together with Mr. Peter Driscoll, the Secretary of the group briefed the audience on QWSG’s tireless efforts to monitor and conserve these migratory waterbirds.

Mr. David Edwards, Chair of Queensland Wader Study Group ©EAAFP

Established in 1992 under the umbrella of Birds Queensland, the QWSG stands as a beacon of dedication to migratory waterbird conservation. With a membership exceeding 340 individuals, the group’s multifaceted approach encompasses surveys, banding, education, and collaborative endeavours. Their surveys, spanning southeastern Queensland’s diverse habitats, have yielded a treasure trove of data, with over 40,000 counts conducted from 1,412 locations, documenting more than 211,000 shorebird records. Delving deeper into their methodologies, the presentations explained the meticulous count procedures employed by QWSG. From designated monthly counts timed with high tides to comprehensive data collection encompassing various environmental parameters, the group ensures accuracy and consistency in their endeavours. Utilizing standardized formats and employing diverse counting methods, QWSG has been able to draw a detailed picture of Queensland’s shorebird populations, crucial for effective conservation strategies for government policies.

Beyond data collection, QWSG’s educational initiatives, targeting diverse audiences from Aboriginal Land groups to school curriculums, underscore their commitment to fostering awareness and understanding of shorebird conservation. These efforts not only empower communities but also lay the groundwork for future stewardship of Queensland’s coastal ecosystems.


27 February (Day 2)

On the second day, the participants had a chance to hear presentations from corporates, government representatives, researchers, and other stakeholders.

Presentation of Ms. Penelope Webster, Environment Advisor at the Port of Brisbane ©EAAFP

Presentation of Ms. Penelope Webster, Environment Advisor at the Port of Brisbane ©EAAFP

The Port of Brisbane, Queensland’s largest multi-cargo facility, has emerged as a beacon of environmental stewardship since its privatization in 2010. Ms. Penelope Webster, Environment Advisor presented on the conservation activities of the Port of Brisbane. Through significant investments in sustainability and shorebird conservation, the port has garnered recognition and achieved a prestigious 5-star GRESB rating which is a globally recognised assessment that evaluates ESG performance and sustainability ‘best practices’ for real estate and infrastructure funds, companies and assets worldwide. Its environmental initiatives, including habitat preservation for migratory shorebirds in Moreton Bay, underscore its dedication to balancing economic growth with ecological preservation.

Mr. Mike Ronan, Manager of the Wetlands team at the Queensland Government’s Department of Environment, Science, and Innovation ©EAAFP

Mr. Mike Ronan, Manager of the Wetlands team at the Queensland Government’s Department of Environment, Science, and Innovation, outlined Queensland’s comprehensive approach to shorebird and wetland policy, planning, and management. The state government’s involvement spans planning and policy development, research, awareness and education initiatives, and coordination with stakeholders. Noteworthy are Queensland’s Ramsar sites, which hold status under the East Asian–Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP), highlighting their importance in migratory bird conservation. The government’s reliance on citizen science data and collaboration at various levels underscored its commitment to effective conservation strategies.

Presentations focusing on the challenges and management strategies in the Great Barrier Reef and Marine Parks Region by Ms. Kristy Murray, Senior Conservation Officer of Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, a division of the Department of Environment, Science and Innovation, emphasized the complex interplay between human activities and conservation imperatives. Collaboration with various stakeholders and proactive management actions were highlighted as crucial for successful conservation efforts.

Prof. Richard Fuller of the Queensland University ©EAAFP

Dr. Richard Fuller, a Professor at the University of Queensland and a former EAAFP Technical Sub-committee member, had shed light on the concerning decline of shorebird populations, particularly the Eastern Curlew, one of EAAFP’s Key species, which has seen an 80% decrease over the past three decades. His recent study emphasizes the need for collaborative conservation efforts to protect these migratory species. Focused on management strategies in Moreton Bay, the study highlights challenges such as habitat loss, agricultural conversion, and disturbance. Successful approaches including habitat enhancement and off-leash dog control have shown promise, though ongoing efforts are crucial. Recent evidence suggests positive trends in shorebird species across the Flyway, reflecting the impact of conservation actions. Dr. Fuller advocated for continued commitment to ensure the long-term survival of these birds. Local insights, citizen monitoring, and targeted management in areas like the Port of Brisbane are vital for effective conservation. Strategies such as controlling disturbance and mapping feeding habitats play key roles in preserving shorebird populations.

The next presentation was made by Dr. Simone Bosshard, the Senior Coastal Conservation and Planning Officer at the Sunshine Coast Council. The Council has launched a series of comprehensive Coastal Conservation Programs to safeguard its coastal ecosystem and promote sustainability. These initiatives include the Shorebird Conservation Plan, addressing habitat protection and human disturbances, and the Blue Heart Project, focusing on protection and restoration of critical areas of the Maroochy river flood plain.

Dr. Simone Bosshard, the Senior Coastal Conservation and Planning Officer, the Sunshine Coast Council ©EAAFP

Through proactive engagement and research-based approaches, the council demonstrated a firm commitment to conserving the region’s natural heritage for future generations.

The key takeaways from Day 2 were the imperative of balancing conservation goals with human activities. Whether through industrial initiatives, government policies, or collaborative efforts in marine park regions, stakeholders are united in their commitment to sustainability. Effective decision-making relies on robust data, stakeholder engagement, and proactive management actions. Only through collaboration and innovation can protect rich biodiversity and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.

The Korean delegation with the Australian speakers ©EAAFP


28 February (Day 3)

February 28th, the Day 3 started at the Boondall Wetland Center, followed by the visit to Nudgee Beach Environmental Education Centre, and Toondah Harbour.

Nestled within the expanse of Boondall Wetlands, spanning approximately 1150 hectares, lies the Boondall Wetland Environment Centre – a beacon of environmental education and advocacy. Recognized as a critical habitat for migratory shorebird species, the wetlands are an integral part of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway and are listed under the Ramsar Convention. During the visit, Ms. Natalie Costanzo, Environment Centre Coordinator, elaborated on the centre’s role in educating visitors about wetland biodiversity and fostering a deeper understanding of conservation efforts. The harmonious integration of the centre with its natural surroundings and its array of interactive facilities were particularly noted.

Participants experiencing the interactive educational materials at Boondall Welands Environment Centre ©EAAFP

Group photo at the Boondall Welands Environment Centre ©EAAFP

The Nudgee Beach Environmental Education Centre (NBEEC), located amidst the diverse ecosystems of Nudgee Beach, served as another highlight of the Day 3’s itinerary. Positioned within close proximity to Moreton Bay Marine Park and Nudgee Creek, the centre provides an immersive learning experience for students, leveraging the Australian Curriculum to explore various disciplines. Ms. Allison Kerr-Hislop, the Principal, emphasized the center’s commitment to experiential learning, offering students hands-on opportunities to delve into biodiversity studies and human impact assessments. The center’s action-based approach and utilization of natural assets for educational purposes were commended.

Ms. Allison Kerr-Hislop, the Principal of the Nudgee Beach Environmental Education Centre ©EAAFP

The last stop of Day 3 made a stark contrast to the serene wetlands. The Toondah Harbour holds immense ecological significance as a Ramsar site, providing critical habitat for the endangered Eastern Curlew and other migratory shorebirds. The site has been at the centre of ongoing tension due to a controversial private development proposal, which, if approved, could irreversibly damage the delicate ecosystem. Ms. Judith Hoyle, the Chair of the Toondah Alliance and BirdLife Australia board member briefed the delegation on the over 10 years of local community’s persistent efforts to save the Toondah Harbour.

Toondah Harbour ©EAAFP

The visits underscored the multifaceted nature of wetland conservation efforts, ranging from educational initiatives to grassroots advocacy campaigns. They highlighted the urgent need for collaborative action to preserve vital ecosystems and protect endangered species.


29 February (Day 4)

On February 29th was the last day of the trip. The delegates continued their journey through Queensland’s diverse landscapes, delving into the wetland ecosystems and the conservation efforts underway to protect them.

Educational application developed by Moreton Bay Council ©EAAFP

Environment Officers of Moreton Bay Council at Kakadu Beach on Bribie Island ©EAAFP

The day 4 commenced with a birdwatching excursion into the breathtaking scenery of Kakadu Beach on Bribie Island, guided by Ryan Hurley and Jess Gorring, Environment Officers of Moreton Bay Council. Kakadu Beach stands as a vital roost site for migratory birds, including the iconic Eastern Curlew and Great Knot. The visit underscored the community’s passionate advocacy for habitat conservation, despite challenges posed by regulatory complexities. Notably, initiatives are underway to develop CEPA materials, fostering greater public engagement in migratory bird conservation.

The next stop was the Osprey House Environmental Centre, situated along the picturesque Pine River. Operated by dedicated volunteers, the centre offers a rich tapestry of educational exhibits and immersive experiences amidst a stunning natural backdrop. The staff provided the group with a nice introduction with live streaming of Osprey nesting activities, interactive educational displays, and serene boardwalks traversing diverse terrestrial habitats.

Osprey House Environmental Centre ©EAAFP

The last day of the visit culminated in a thought-provoking session with Dr. Tatsuya Amano, Deputy Director – Research at the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science, University of Queensland. Dr. Amano’s pioneering research endeavors focus on bridging critical gaps in biodiversity information, leveraging advanced modelling approaches, and fostering interdisciplinary collaborations to address the global biodiversity crisis. Notable insights emerged on the importance of enhancing monitoring methodologies, fostering government-scientist collaboration, and harnessing university cooperation along migratory flyways for sustainable conservation outcomes.

Dr. Tatsuya Amano, University of Queensland ©EAAFP

The activities of the last day underscored the profound interconnectedness between community engagement, scientific research, and policy interventions in fostering effective wetland conservation.

From grassroots advocacy initiatives to cutting-edge research endeavours, it was obvious that Queensland’s conservation landscape stands as a testament to the collective action in safeguarding our natural heritage for future generations.

The 4 days of the study visit was an excellent opportunity to learn environmental management practices and conservation initiatives in Queensland, fostering exchange and collaboration between Australian and Korean counterparts. Additionally, interactions with a range of stakeholders ranging from the academia, government, NGOs and local community enriched participants’ understanding of the different roles of each group plays in conserving the flyway network site. Through knowledge sharing and experiential learning, the study visit provided a solid foundation for enhancing citizen science and site managers’ role in the Republic of Korea’s UNESCO World Natural Heritage sites and the Flyway Network Sites, contributing to the sustainable management of these critical ecosystems for generations to come. The Korean delegation endeavoured to compare the local situation with examples from Australia through question-and-answer sessions, striving to find corresponding solutions. Furthermore, they expressed their intention to apply lessons learned from their travels to Australia to conservation efforts tailored to the Korean context.


Testimonies from the participants:

  • “This program was filled with well-rounded activities without any shortcomings. I look forward to more opportunities for benchmarking excellent practices.
  • “As a site manager, I plan to sequentially incorporate advanced cases of bird monitoring and habitat conservation into our own activities.”
  • “It was a great opportunity to explore the operations of wetland centres in other country and learn about citizen science and its data utilization”.
  • “Visiting the environmental education centres allowed me to recognize the importance of ecological education, and I plan to incorporate this awareness into our ecological education efforts.”


The Secretariat hopes that this study visit will facilitate the development of best practices in capacity-building initiatives through peer learning and knowledge sharing among partners in the EAA Flyway. Additionally, we aim for it to contribute to the strengthening of citizen science within the country and among Partner countries along the flyway.

Birdwatching during Study visit ©EAAFP


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