Raeleen Draper, Sunshine Coast Council
Raeleen Draper is the Environmental Operations Senior Project Officer for the Coastal, Constructed Water Bodies and Planning team at Sunshine Coast Council. She is currently responsible for a number of coastal environmental projects including this seagrass monitoring, marine creature monitoring in constructed waterbodies, investigating the spread of invasive fish within our water bodies and the recently launched Coastal Discovery Van. Raeleen has an honours degree in Marine Biology and Zoology and has spent many years in coastal and terrestrial environments working with sharks, jellyfish, turtles, crocodiles and flying foxes around Australia.
For the past four years Sunshine Coast Council officers have been working with experts from CSIRO and Queensland Museum to identify, quantify and record the jellyfish species that reside in our waterways over the summer months – from November to March. The surveys were undertaken to establish a picture of the “normal” microscopic jellyfish that live here. Once there is a better understanding of what our plankton communities look like, we will be better able to investigate any changes that may be happening to that community associated with the variations of climate change.
Plankton, and in particular jellyfish, are the building blocks of our oceans. All manner of animals feed on plankton, from small juvenile fish like we find in our estuaries here, to some of the largest animals in the ocean – humpback whales. Plankton is also a good indicator of waterway health and the make-up of the community can tell us a lot about the water quality and ecosystem resilience.
This project commenced in the summer of 2017 and is still continuing today with plankton samples being collected from seven sites across the Sunshine Coast – including two within the Pumicestone Passage. The species diversity, including the discovery of several new species, has been astounding– our waterways are teeming with gelatinous life.