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Vale Peter Woodgate

By Jo McCoy, Chair

I know many readers will be saddened to learn of the sudden and unexpected passing of former director Peter Woodgate in late December.  One of the Foundation’s inaugural directors, Peter was an inspiring and methodical Chair of the Biosphere Research Committee until 2013. He was pivotal in overseeing research activities for the Foundation, in procuring grant funding and in developing the early Research Strategy.

Despite his incredible workload as chair and director of multiple organisations in the geospatial science area and elsewhere, Peter continued his active involvement in the Foundation following his retirement from our board in 2013 after more than ten years of service. He retained a keen interest in our operations, was the current independent chair of our Nominations Committee and was always available for considered advice.

Peter was instrumental in advocating for the move to a skills-based board and always ready to provide moral and intellectual support to other directors. Peter acted as a mentor to me following my own appointment six years ago and apart from his obvious skills in governance issues, I highly valued his kindness, humanity and cheeky sense of humour, along with his wise counsel and corporate knowledge.  Peter’s vision and passion will be sorely missed. The Biosphere Foundation directors and staff send our deepest condolences to Peter’s family, friends and colleagues.


A reflection from one of the Biosphere’s earliest Directors, Jack Krohn

By my recollection, Peter Woodgate was among those who collaborated under the co-ordination and with the support of Mornington Peninsula Shire Council to put together the nomination for the Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve in the very early 2000s.  While Peter’s primary technical expertise was in spatial information, he brought all of his skills and enthusiasm to the table.  Mapping was a critical element of the nomination, as the proposed Biosphere encompassed not only five local government areas but also the unincorporated expanses of French Island and Western Port Bay itself.  There were also challenges around integration with the Westernport Ramsar site mapping and with mapping from other historical (pre-digital) references such as the Shapiro report.  My memory is that Peter collaborated in particular with Neil McCarthy, then with Parks Victoria, to enable the nomination to include the best possible mapping, and I have no doubt that the quality and clarity of the mapping contributed to the success of the nomination.

So, at the end of 2002, we had a Biosphere Reserve.  Twelve months later, the Biosphere Reserve Foundation was inaugurated.  Peter took on the role of Research Committee Chair (I think the Research Committee might even have been initiated informally before the Foundation was formalised), a key role as the fledgling organisation tried to find its feet in a context where there was little practical experience with being a Biosphere Reserve, and almost as many views about priorities as there were participants.  But research was one area where things did start to move.  Peter showed his skills in managing the different enthusiasms and interests in research and in aligning those interests with the stated objectives of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Program and with the Board’s strategic direction for the Western Port Biosphere, and also with potential sources of funding or in kind resources.  He was an able advocate for good, sustainability-focussed research and a great communicator who provided clear liaison between the Board and the research community throughout the Foundation’s formative years.  From my perspective as a director at the time, Peter’s groundwork laid a sound basis for much of what has been achieved across the Biosphere’s first two decades.

Peter was also connected with a cricket club which was a “local derby” rival of my own club, and we often chatted about cricket and club personalities as an aside to conversations about the Biosphere.  Those conversations reinforced for me the human and humorous side of Peter the professional.  He brought clear thinking, positivity and empathy to the roles and service he took on, and personified the Biosphere motto “Growing connections for sustainability”.  I feel blessed to have had the privilege of working with Peter, and deeply saddened at his passing.


Updates from the Councils

Nature Stewards Program

By Mornington Peninsula Shire Council

Nature Stewards is offering a 10-week program on the Mornington Peninsula for budding naturalists! The programs aim is to introduce Victorians to they’re local ecosystems and natural places and is aimed at anyone interested in biodiversity.

Subjects covered in the program include:

Program information

10 x Weekly classes (3 hours)

4 x Field sessions (4 hours)

Certificate of completion


March 18th – May 27th (excluding EASTER)
Saturdays, 9:30 – 12:30pm

Four – five Field sessions to follow approx. 1.30 – 4.30pm on given dates (to be confirmed)


The Briars Eco House, Mount Martha; Seawinds Community Hub, Rosebud West; and Main Ridge Community Hall, Main Ridge


$175 Full fee (Mornington Peninsula Shire residents),

$45 Concession*

$350 Full fee (Non-Mornington Peninsula Shire residents),

$90 Concession*

*Concession: healthcare card holder, pensioner & full-time student


Best suited to those with little or no formal environmental education.

Willing to try or continue environmental volunteering.

Able to take part in Saturday field trips (4 during program, 4 hours in length).

This program is open to anyone over the age of 18, however preference is currently given to residents of the council areas.

Find out more information and where to join up: Nature Stewards – Outdoors Victoria



New SeedBank initiative for Cardinia Environment Coalition

By Lindsay McNaught, President CEC

Cardinia Environment Coalition wishes to publicly acknowledge and thank the Andrews Foundation for funding Stage One of the SeedBank to be established within our indigenous plant nursery at Deep Creek Reserve, Pakenham. This development will take us one step closer to Deep Creek becoming the environmental hub which has been envisaged throughout the planning stages. 

The SeedBank is supported by Bunurong Land Council and Cardinia Shire Council, each of whom has particular interest in future access to supplies of seed. Some planting has already taken place, and much more is planned to create “seed orchards” which permit simple and sustainable harvesting of seed. 

Other CEC activity is starting to resemble what it was pre-Covid. Bookings recently opened for 2023 for school groups to visit Deep Creek to attend classes run by Ecolinc and PrimeSci. The entire year is almost fully booked already but interested primary schools can visit the Ecolinc website to check availability. This high level of interest encourages CEC and others involved in provision of environmental education to plan for availability on an additional day each week. 

Funding for management of Public Land remains very tight. As other groups involved with this will know, grant opportunities are fewer.  We wonder what the consequences of this overall reduction in funding will be for the biodiversity of our Catchment. On a positive note, a report on Bandicoot Corner just completed by ecologist Yasmin Kelsall found that the vision of a 2009 report on the same site has largely been met. The colony of southern brown bandicoots is thriving. There are warnings within the report about the need for monitoring and control of pest animals and also for weed control. Many weeds listed in the 2009 report have been totally or partially eliminated but there are other weed species needing attention.   

CEC Nursery has gathered strength with the reopening of the world since Covid. Volunteers are again happy and able to attend, and they have played a significant role in the propagation of many thousands of grasses, shrubs and trees ready for delivery in 2023.  All plants have their provenance recorded and we encourage orders to be placed as early as possible to assist us and to give the maximum options on species selection. 

We are always looking for volunteers to help. This might be within the nursery or to be involved in planting on Public Land. CEC also wishes to increase opportunities for Citizen Science activities and monitoring. In particular at the moment, we wish to make the SeedBank as good as it can be from the initial planning stages. A working Committee will be formed early in the New Year.  Representation will include members from CEC, Bunurong and Cardinia Council. We would also love to hear from anyone who has knowledge and interest in this field and might potentially be able to contribute to the planning involved. 

Please send enquiries to [email protected]   

Micro-light aviator highlights the plight of Western Port Biosphere Reserve migratory shorebirds

Press release: Microlight aviator visits Western Port to raise awareness about migratory shorebirds

Micro-light aviator highlights the plight of Western Port Biosphere Reserve migratory shorebirds

Micro-light aviator, zoologist and artist, Amellia (Milly) Formby, swooped into the Western Port Biosphere Reserve recently to pay homage to the more than 20,000 migratory birds that visit annually as part of their endless transition around the East Asian-Australasian Flyway – a 25,000km round trip bookended by Australia and the Arctic.

Western Port’s Ramsar-protected wetlands are an important destination for these migratory birds and are among the core areas of focus and purpose for the Western Port Biosphere Foundation, which sponsored the Tyabb-Latrobe leg of Milly’s 180-day, 20,000km round-Australia journey.

Ms Formby told children from Mornington Peninsula primary schools and attending a special presentation and bird-spotting event at Parks Victoria’s Coolart Wetlands that the wetlands strung out across the flyway are like a chain with links in it.

“By taking care of our wetlands here at home, we help keep the Flyway chain strong and have an impact on an international scale,” she said.

Biosphere Foundation CEO, Mel Barker, said the organisation’s support of the 19th leg of Ms Formby’s marathon flight was to help raise awareness of the importance of Western Port within the flyway.

“Populations of migratory shorebirds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway are in rapid decline and protecting remaining habitat along all stages of their migratory pathway will be crucial for their stabilisation and recovery,” she said.

“Red Knots and Great Knots are endangered and have suffered population declines of around 2.25% a year. Bar-tailed Godwits, Eastern Curlews and Curlew Sandpipers are all listed as critically endangered.”

She said the Biosphere Foundation was working with local and international partners to influence programs and development that impact on shorebird populations. Land reclamation and coastal development were two examples of human activity directly impacting on shorebird populations.

The special event was partly funded through a grant from the Mornington Shire Council’s Peninsula Climate Action project. Under the grant, the Biosphere Foundation is committed to raising awareness of the important role healthy waterways and wetlands play in mitigating against the worst effects of climate change and in protecting vulnerable species.

The Western Port Biosphere Reserve celebrated the inaugural UNESCO Day of the Biosphere on 3 November, noting that Western Port is entering its 20th year as a member of the global biosphere network.

For more information about migratory shorebirds and our Flying the Flyway project click here.

Update from the Program Manager

By Glenn Brooks-MacMillan, Biosphere Foundation Program Manager

Water Stewardship – Environment Restoration Fund

As we enter into our last reporting period for our three-year Water Stewardship program, thanks to the Federal Government – Environment Restoration Fund, we are now beginning to workshop some of our water plans with each of the water stewards. This process involves going through in more detail some of the risks and opportunities identified through the assessment stage. These workshops are an opportunity for each landowner to work collectively with other stewards and trainers to clarify and build solutions in a one-on-one environment.

Our first workshop for this period was at Coolart in Somers. We conducted two workshops in one day with private businesses, schools, government, and private landowners broken across the day in two sessions.

The aim of the workshop is to assist the landowners come up with actions that are achievable. Coming up with a date to complete an action can be difficult to plan at times and being able to brainstorm options with like minded landowners is a real positive feature of the program.

Some of the actions being planned include:

These actions are considered and committed by each of the landowners and becomes part of their water plan.

We are looking forward to following up with landowners in the coming weeks to help complete their plans and get them started on their actions.

For the rest of our catchments, we are aiming to conduct more workshops to include landowners on Phillip Island (Bass Coast Shire), Frankston and Cardinia Shires and City of Casey.

Our aim is to have completed all of our plans by this Christmas which will pretty much finish this project ready for new initiatives in which we are seeking further investment from key stakeholders.

Blue Carbon Mapping

Our Blue Carbon mapping project across Port Phillip Bay and Western Port with the Blue Carbon Lab at Deakin University has progressed well with three milestone reports received so far. Milestone one helps us better understand where Blue Carbon was present pre-European settlement and where it exists today. The maps are showing areas for restoration, but it also shows there are seagrasses present now where they weren’t in the past. One reason for this might be the fact that there is limited information available on the extent of seagrasses in the past. Another reason might be the movement of sediment in the bay may have made it easier to establish now in some areas and not in others. The next milestone shows us where there are opportunities for restoration, with some initial estimates showing over 800 ha available for restoration. The third and current milestone is informing us on the co-benefits of these restoration opportunities. This includes carbon sequestered, nitrogen absorbed, kg’s of fish increased as well as increase in fish for recreational purposes. Some of the other co benefits includes the number of houses protected through coastal protection. This step compares the co-benefits as of today and then compares to what it might look like if the restoration works are implemented. We are now looking forward to the next milestone which is around a ‘road map’ for our councils on a proposed way forward. In readiness for the final report in November we will also be creating a story map to help share the information in a way that is more understandable and practical for each of the council partners.

Western Port Bryozoan Reef project

The Western Port Bryozoan Reef Community is a 1.74 km2 species rich, subtidal biogenic reef located in the Rhyll Segment of East Arm, Western Port, Victoria. While bryozoan reefs are distributed worldwide, the Western Port Bryozoan Reef community was formally described in 2017 and is unique in its species composition, depth range, and extensive linear mound formations. Bryozoans are non-photosynthetic invertebrate filter-feeders, which live in colonies and are commonly referred to as ‘lace corals’ owing to the delicate calcium carbonate matrix they produce. The biogenic reef substrate is comprised of three species of bryozoan that form large colonies of up to 1.5 m vertical relief. The Western Port bryozoans are special because they are shallow, large and form contiguous reefs providing important habitat for a multitude of marine species including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and worms. They also provide shelter for some species from the strong currents that are typical of this marine waterway.

Through money raised from the End of Year Financial campaign we are supporting a project that will enable local scientists to expand their research into Western Port’s bryozoan reefs. The research project, spearheaded by La Trobe University and marine consulting and research firm, Fathom Pacific, will quantify the extent of these fragile reefs, the processes that threaten and make them vulnerable, and will shed light on their growth rate. At present, there is no long-term datasets available on the previous known extent of the reefs as the community. It is hypothesised that the substrate that originally supported the settlement and growth of the bryozoan reefs is no longer present, and that new recruitment is limited today to on-reef growth rather than lateral expansion. Sediment impacts due to land use changes and historic oyster dredging in the area may have fundamentally altered the availability of substrate suitable for larval settlement (Ford & Hamer 2016). This leads to the hypothesis that deleterious impacts to the Western Port Bryozoan Reef community may be irreversible.  However, it is hoped that this research gives insight into ways to conserve the remaining reef and generates ideas for evidence-based methodology to create conditions for restoration and growth.

Biodiversity in Schools, Term 3, 2022

By Lucy Kyriacou, Project Science Officer

In term 3, 2022, we worked in eight schools from pre-school to secondary level across the Bunurong/Boonwurrung Western Port region. We delivered workshops on topics including Schools Tree Day, climate action, blue carbon, water stewardship, and several planting sessions to create wildlife corridors in school grounds. We supported three schools by drafting grant applications to enable them to carry out projects such as, creating a bandicoot-friendly garden, developing a permaculture designed kitchen garden, and creating a wetland, water recycling and recharge system.

We also donated indigenous plants to schools through a free-plant giveaway. Working in partnership with Willum Warrain Bush Nursery, we have 1350 local indigenous plants and trees to distribute before Christmas. Participating schools so far include Koo Wee Rup Primary, St Mary’s Primary, St Joseph’s Primary, Newhaven College, Newhaven Primary, Carrum Primary, and Western Port Secondary. We still have several hundred available. If you are interested, please do get in touch through the Project Science Officer link on

We supported St Mary’s and St Joseph’s with their Water Stewardship plans, including drafting two Climate Action grant applications, a workshop at Coolart Wetlands, and working with students to plant up areas prone to water logging.

We worked in collaboration with Kate Gorringe-Smith, a local climate activist and artist, to deliver a climate action workshop on blue carbon at Western Port Secondary. The students used art as a medium to raise awareness about the coastal ecosystems of Western Port.

Rowellyn Preschool, Frankston, applied for trees through the Schools’ Tree Day campaign. We supported them with two visits, the first to work with the 4-year-old kinder students to plant up the school garden, and the second to plant over 100 plants around the perimeter fence. The preschool gave away the remaining plants to families to create habitat for local wildlife at home.

Term 4 is upon us, and we still have spaces available for workshops. Please see for more information and to get in touch if you would like to book one for your school.

If you are a school in the Mornington Peninsula Shire, we still have a couple of spaces available for a free climate action project we are running. Please see here for more details.

Protecting the Ramsar Values of Western Port

By Stephen Brend, Biosphere Foundation Project Officer

We are delighted that our collaboration with the Catchment Management Authority, now a part of Melbourne Water, continues.  The CMA funded our project investigating the impact of recreational fishing on migratory shorebirds and the local environment.  This project successfully concluded last year.  However, there is still more to do which is why we are delighted Melbourne Water has agreed to another three year “Ramsar values enhancement project”.

We will focus on community engagement, with “community” encompassing many groups – from visiting anglers to local residents.  Everyone is familiar with Western Port’s two big islands; Phillip (Millowl) and French but there are also two other smaller islands in North Western Port: Quail and Chinaman’s.  Quail Island has had Southern Brown Bandicoots on it.  We would love to collaborate on trying to make it predator free.  Spartina (cord grass) is a highly invasive weed which can rapidly colonise mud flats.  This would rob our all-so-important migratory waders of a key resource, so we will be monitoring that as well.  Obviously, the Ramsar habitats of Western Port also represent the bay’s blue carbon stocks which dovetails with our Blue Carbon project.  As we said, there’s lots to do.

Advocacy vs Action

By Colette Day, Board Director and Chair Science & Education Committee

We all want a better world, and that looks different depending on where you stand. For those of us who live in our world class Biosphere Reserve, a better world is about conservation and even restoration of the precious biodiversity and surrounding natural beauty.

When a rural outlook is jeopardised by increased industrial activities or expanding urbanisation the hackles are raised at the prospect of any ecological impact such as removal of precious disappearing habitats.

Sustainable Development is of upmost importance to the Biosphere Foundation and is a major priority.  In one of Australia’s fastest-growing regions, we provide evidence-based advice on sustainable approaches to residential, industrial and agricultural development and promote community behavioural change sympathetic to the environment. Our water stewardship project is a practical projection of this pillar. We understand that environmental effects of industrial and urban developments are monitored by EPA and the relevant State Government’s regulators, and the Biosphere Foundation assumes compliance to these laws.

There are many community “Action” groups who watch developments more closely, often raising issues to us, and when the correct regulatory process is not adhered to, or the clear science is flouted on issues directly effecting the Biosphere, we are able to advocate a position.  We are not anti-development, but when a development ignores guidelines or avoids proper process then we will support resistance to the proposals.

Climate change is a huge issue facing the world and also a priority for the Biosphere Foundation.  Our Blue Carbon project works to directly impact this. Current Projects – Western Port Biosphere

We trust our regulators to uphold the laws which address air pollution, mining activities and planning, while we focus our Biosphere Foundation resources on our field of influence, including protecting our vulnerable ecology. We also advocate for the strengthening of environmental regulations and support developing technological solutions.


Schools’ Tree Day at Frankston Heights Primary School

By David Cross, Foundation Board Director

Students from Frankston Heights Primary School recently celebrated Schools Tree Day with activities at nearby Wallace Reserve.  “Our school considers the environment an important aspect of our student’s education,” said teacher Tara Crick.  “The students learn about environment and sustainability practices through our school’s Science Program.  We’re proud of the fact we’re very community minded and have established strong links with Frankston City Council and the Friends of Wallace Reserve.”

The students spent some of the day planting seedlings at Wallace Reserve, under the guidance of the Friends of Wallace Reserve and Frankston City Council rangers.  Many parents were also on hand to help, along with Frankston Mayor Nathan Conroy, Federal Dunkley MP Peta Murphy and State Frankston MP Paul Edbrooke and Councillor Claire Harvey and Sue Baker.

Secretary of the Friends of Wallace Reserve David Cross said “The students enjoyed their excursion through the reserve to the planting site.  After a look at the progress of their previous years’ planting, they got stuck into planting and mulching the specially prepared area.”

The Frankston Heights Primary School students have made Schools Tree Day an annual event at Wallace Reserve since 2006 and have now planted about 6,500 seedlings since then.  Friends Group president Tony Gustus stated that “We see ourselves as a truly community-oriented organisation, where everyone has the opportunity to ensure the protection of our environment.  We have fantastic support from Frankston City Council Rangers and management, as well as the local community.”

For further information, please email me at [email protected]

David Cross (Secretary)

On behalf of the Friends of Wallace Reserve