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Lizard Island Coral Reef Study Tour 2024

Are you passionate about teaching science and engaging your students with issues around climate change? Would you like to increase your knowledge of coral reefs to inform your teaching practice and share insights with your students? Would you like to experience life on a working coral reef research station?

Following two successful student trips in 2022 and 2023, the Lizard Island Research Station is hosting a study tour just for teachers in 2024.

18 places are available for NSW primary and secondary teachers on the Lizard Island Coral Reef Study Tour 2024: a 7-night trip to the Australian Museum’s Lizard Island Research Station. There, you will be guided by marine scientists as you learn more about coral reefs and marine research.

These beautiful reef ecosystems are home to huge biodiversity and currently undergoing a period of rapid change. This tour will provide a rich stimulus for teachers of students of all ages, and ideas for excellent case studies for your senior biology students.

What is the program?

The Lizard Island Coral Reef Study Tour is an immersive, live-in educational experience in coral reef science on the Great Barrier Reef led by marine scientists.


The Australian Museum’s Lizard Island Research Station, an hour’s flight north of Cairns.


21 to 28 September 2024.


The 2024 study tour is for teachers who are employed in 2024 at any school in NSW at either primary or secondary school level. There are places for 18 teachers.

We are seeking inspirational educators who will make the most of this opportunity by incorporating their experiences into their teaching.

How much?

The cost of this trip, starting in Cairns, is covered by the Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation. The only cost to participants is for a portion of their own travel between home and Cairns, and for travel insurance which covers any activities that will be undertaken as part of the trip. The program will reimburse up to $300 of the cost of that travel for participants who live in Greater Sydney, and up to $500 for those who live elsewhere in the state.

The program covers flights between Cairns and Lizard Island, accommodation at Lizard Island Research Station, food, a busy educational program run by marine science professionals, and equipment for boating and snorkelling. These things are valued at $3,600 per person.

How can I take part?

Application details are below. Selection is based on meeting eligibility criteria, a personal statement, and a letter of support. Applications close on 21 June 2024. We will let you know the result of your application by 5 July 2024.

About the program

Lizard Island Research Station (LIRS) is a coral reef research facility that is owned and operated by the Australian Museum. The Research Station is situated at Lizard Island (Jiigurru) on the Great Barrier Reef, 270 km north of Cairns.

Researchers from all over the world come to LIRS to study various aspects of coral reefs. Their discoveries are published in scientific journals and the information is used by reef managers. Coral reefs are on the front line of climate change and much research effort is currently going into the effects of increasing temperature and ocean acidity, and finding ways to mitigate them.

Education about reefs is also an important focus of LIRS. Individual schools and universities have been running educational programs at LIRS for decades for their own students. This study tour offers the same experience to students and teachers in other schools.

The first two study tours took place in 2022 and 2023 and the educational outcomes were resoundingly successful. Those tours were restricted to students and teachers of Stage 6 Biology at NSW Government schools. On each tour, there were 16 students and two teachers.

In 2024, the tour is offered to teachers only. They must be currently employed at any primary or secondary school in NSW and there is no subject requirement. The program will revert to students and teachers in 2025.

Participating in LICRST was an eye-opening experience. I never truly understood the intricacies of coral reefs until I witnessed their extent first hand. What amazed me most was their remarkable ability to recover from adversity. Student participant in 2023

Dr Lewis and Dr Damiano have an amazing ability to disseminate complex scientific research outcomes to students in an understandable and exciting way. Their energy and enthusiasm are infectious. Every conversation with them is enlightening, both the teachers and students hang on every word, impressed with their vast knowledge. Teacher participant in 2023

The 2024 Lizard Island Coral Reef Study Tour will again be led by Dr Andy Lewis of the Coral Sea Foundation and his staff. Dr Lewis is a marine scientist with many years’ experience leading student and research groups at Lizard Island and other locations. The daily program is diverse, involving snorkelling from boats, conducting field research, and classroom sessions covering coral reef biology topics to support the field experiences. There will be substantial input from the LIRS Directors, Dr Anne Hoggett and Dr Lyle Vail, who are marine scientists who have overseen research at LIRS for more than 30 years. The group will also interact with visiting scientists which will help provide a broad overview of coral reef science.

Program details

Participants must make their own travel arrangements between home and Cairns. Arrive in Cairns no later than midday to connect with a chartered flight to Lizard Island that will depart Cairns at about 2:00 pm. For the return trip, a chartered flight from Lizard will arrive in Cairns at about 11:30 am. Your onward flight should not depart Cairns before 1:30 pm.

In Cairns, participants must make their own way to the Hinterland Aviation terminal which is at General Aviation, on the opposite side of the runway to the domestic terminal. It’s a 10-minute taxi or Uber ride costing about $20. On departure, the reverse procedure applies.

The group will board two light aircraft for the hour-long flight north to Lizard Island over the dazzling Great Barrier Reef. Research station vehicles will meet the group at the airstrip for the 10-minute trip across the island on a rough, sandy track.

Baggage is strictly limited to 20 kg per person including cabin baggage. The Australian Museum is not responsible for loss or damage to personal property during transit or at the research station.

The group will occupy two adjacent 3-bedroom houses. The bedrooms are either 3-share or 4-share. Each house has two bathrooms and a well-equipped kitchen.

The group leaders will prepare menus and order food from Cairns for delivery to the island by barge prior to the group’s arrival. Any food intolerances will need to be advised in advance so that they can be catered for. Everyone in the group will be rostered to contribute to cooking, washing up and doing other household tasks.

There are no medical facilities at Lizard Island. All LIRS and Coral Sea Foundation staff are highly trained first aiders and LIRS has advanced first aid equipment on site. The Royal Flying Doctor Service can provide phone consultations and emergency medical evacuations.

All participants will be required to advise any medical conditions that may affect their ability to snorkel safely and to provide information about any medications that are taken regularly or carried routinely in case of need. The Australian Museum may ask participants to complete a risk and physical capability assessment and medical plan which will require disclosure of personal health information.

A certain level of physical ability is required to take part in this trip due to its remote location and the nature of the activities. All participants must be able to swim at least 100 metres in a pool without aids comfortably, and to float on their back and tread water for at least five minutes. Participants must also be capable of getting in and out of small boats and light aircraft, climbing stairs, and walking on soft sand. For the safety of each participant, the Australian Museum reserves the right to determine at its discretion as to whether it will accept any participant after conducting its health and medical risk assessment.

Safety is of paramount importance at LIRS. LIRS has an excellent safety record with well-developed procedures in place for boating and snorkelling that are based on thorough risk assessment. Importantly, it is a small, well-run community of scientists with a kind and caring ethos.

The only mobile carrier to reach the island is Telstra and that is only accessible in a small area close to a booster antenna at LIRS. Participants who have Telstra as their provider can use their own device for phone and internet access. Wifi access is provided free of charge and the office phone is available for calls during business hours. There is a single desktop computer available for the group to share.

A list of clothing and equipment required for the trip will be provided prior to the trip. It is not extensive.

Snorkelling equipment will be provided at LIRS free of charge, including lycra suits for sun protection, wetsuits if needed, and masks, snorkels and fins.

Successful applicants will need to book and pay for their own travel between home and Cairns.

The program will reimburse participants for part of that cost: up to $300 for people based in Greater Sydney and up to $500 for those based in other parts of the state. Reimbursement will be made within two weeks of the end of the trip on the basis of a valid tax invoice for the fare being provided.

We urge anyone who is able to fund their own fare to and from Cairns to do so by not claiming the subsidy. That will enable our funding to go further, enabling benefits for other teachers and students in future.

Please explore options within your school and community to obtain funding for the airfare before claiming the travel subsidy.

Fri 21 June 2024 - Applications close

Fri 5 July - Offers made, including for travel support

Early August - Information meeting

  • A Zoom meeting will be set up to allow participants and key personnel involved with the trip to meet and ask questions.

Sat 21 September - Trip begins

  • Check in at Hinterland Aviation for the light aircraft flight to Lizard Island one hour before departure. There you will meet the trip leader, Dr Andy Lewis and his staff.
  • Remember that the baggage limit is 20 kg per person, including all cabin baggage.
  • Arrive at Lizard Island, transfer to LIRS by 4WD.
  • Settle into accommodation, 3 or 4 people per room.
  • Welcome and orientation session with LIRS Director, Dr Anne Hoggett, and trip leader, Dr Andy Lewis.
  • Sunset swim and beach barbecue.

Next days - Activities on the trip

  • A normal day will include lectures, field activities involving boating and snorkelling at locations around Lizard Island, and discussions with visiting researchers.
  • Meals are prepared by the group on roster.

Fri 27 September - Report and evaluation due

  • Submit a report with photos to LIRS about the group’s experiences, to which all participants have contributed. Guidelines will be provided.
  • Complete an online evaluation form about the program.
  • Final beach barbecue with all LIRS residents.

Sat 28 September - Final day of trip

  • Undertake the departure day chores that are required of all LIRS visitors.
  • Depart Lizard Island at 10:30 am, arrive in Cairns at 11:30 am. Weather can affect the schedule, which is why at least two hours between flights is recommended.

After the trip

  • Additional feedback from participants may be sought to inform the development of future programs.
  • Some participants may be invited to become involved in additional activities to promote the work of the LIRRF.

What do I need to do before starting the online application process?

Follow the How to Apply instructions carefully (below). You’ll need to prepare a persuasive personal statement to convince us that you will make good use of the opportunity. You'll also need to provide a letter of support from your Head of Department or Principal.

When all these documents are ready, it’s time to complete the Application Form which won’t take long.

I’ve never snorkelled before. Is that a problem?

If you’re a good swimmer, you will learn to snorkel quickly with the help of the course instructors and the high quality gear that is provided at LIRS. If you’re not a good swimmer, you will probably have difficulty and that is why we require a certain level of ability to take part in this trip. Being a “good swimmer” in this context is not about winning races. See Eligibilty (below) for a guide to what is required.

Where do I find more information about Lizard Island Research Station and the Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation?

Go to https://australianmuseum.net.au/get-involved/amri/lirs/ and https://lirrf.org

Application details

All applicants must meet eligibility criteria 1 and 2.

Eligibility criterion 1: Current status

You must be employed as a primary or secondary school teacher at any school in NSW in the 2024 school year.

Eligibility criterion 2: Swimming and physical abilities

The trip is physical in nature and all participants must be able to take part safely in water and other field activities. As such, you need a certain level of physical ability and skills. As a guide, you should be able to:

  • swim 100 metres in a pool easily, without aids and at your own pace;
  • float on your back and tread water for at least 5 minutes with ease, so that you feel comfortable in water that is deeper than you are tall; and
  • walk on soft sand, climb stairs, get in and out of light aircraft and small boats.

Applications will be assessed using the following criteria and marking weights:

Application is submitted in the required format (10%)

For example, the online application form is completed correctly, all documents meet stated guidelines and are uploaded correctly (see How to Apply).

Personal submission (video or written) makes a strong case for the applicant’s inclusion (75%)

For example, applicant clearly demonstrates their interests and motivations. We are looking for good communicators and thinkers who will be able to use this experience to benefit coral reef conservation into the future.

Supporting letter demonstrate that the applicant has qualities that are relevant to the opportunity (15%).

Personal submission

Tell us why you want to come on the trip and how it could benefit your teaching practice and support student learning.

Your personal submission can be in one of two formats: either i) a 1- to 2-minute video that features you, or ii) a document of no more than 4 pages that may include photos or other images. While good presentation is encouraged, you will be judged on how well you communicate those things rather than on slick production values or artistic skill. Make sure you address the eligibility and selection criteria and read the conditions.

Videos must be uploaded to Vimeo and you must provide the link to it in the online application form. It is your responsibility to ensure that the link works. High resolution MP4 is preferred for Vimeo uploads. If you wish to password protect your video, please use the password LizardIsland2024. Please record a minimum of 5 seconds of black before the start and after the end of your program. These 10 seconds are not included in your time limit.

Read Conditions of Application (below) carefully for additional information about preparing your personal submission.

Letter of support from school

Provide a letter of support from the Head of your department or the Principal of the school at which you are currently employed. If the letter is from the Head of Department, it must also be endorsed by the Principal.

Application form

When your personal submission and letter of support are ready, complete the online application form. The documents will be uploaded through that form.

Closing date

11.59 pm AEST Friday 21 June 2024.

Each school may support a maximum of two applications. If more than two teachers at the same school wish to apply, the school must determine the most suitable candidates.

All participants must be comfortable in the water and capable of moderate physical activity. They must be able to: swim at least 100 metres in a pool at their own pace without aids; float on their back; tread water for at least five minutes comfortably; and walk on soft sand and climb stairs without difficulty.

Video applications should be no less than one minute and no longer than two minutes in length, including any titles and credits. Judges will only consider the first two minutes of an entry that exceeds the time limit.

Written applications should be no more than four A4 pages including any images. Allow for easy reading by providing sensible margins, font size and spacing. A smaller number of images at larger size is better than a large number of tiny images. Judges will only consider the first four pages of an entry that exceeds the page limit.

Copyright considerations are the responsibility of the applicant. All sources of information, including any illustrations and music, should be clearly referenced, acknowledged and/or credited.

The online application form must be submitted no later than 11:59 pm AEST Friday 21 June 2024.

Applications submitted after that time will not be considered. Applications containing a video link in which the video link does not work will not be considered.

If you experience issues in uploading your application or have concerns about what has been uploaded, you must contact the Director, Lizard Island Research Station on (07) 4060 3977 or email lizard@australian.museum before the close of applications. Applications cannot be added or modified after the close of applications under any circumstances.

The deliberations of the selection panel remain confidential. All recommendations and decisions taken are binding and final and no correspondence will be entered into on such matters.

Information provided by applicants in relation to the Lizard Island Coral Reef Study Tour 2024 (including photos and video), may be used by the Australian Museum and/or the Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation for promotional/publicity purposes. This may include, and is not restricted to, the information being used on websites, social media, printed material, advertisements, press releases etc. and given to the media.

Before the end of the trip, participants are required to contribute to a joint report on their experience. That report must include short individual reflections by each participant. An online evaluation form must also be completed by each participant before departure from Lizard Island.

The cost of the trip will be covered by the Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation. However, you must pay for your own return travel between home and Cairns, and purchase your own travel insurance which covers any activities that will be undertaken as part of the trip. If requested, you must provide a copy of your travel insurance policy certificate. You will be reimbursed for travel costs between home and Cairns: up to $300 (residents of Greater Sydney) and up to $500 (residents elsewhere in NSW), or the value of the fare, whichever is lower. Reimbursement will be made by bank transfer within two weeks of the end of the trip, provided that both a valid tax invoice for the fare and bank details are provided before the end of the trip. If these things are not provided before the end of the trip, reimbursement will not be made.

Additional feedback from participants may be sought to inform the development of future programs. Some participants may be asked to be involved in additional activities to promote the work of the LIRRF and the Australian Museum.

Personal information provided to the Australian Museum for the Lizard Island Coral Reef Study Tour can be used by the Australian Museum and the Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation. Such use will only be in connection with the Lizard Island Coral Reef Study Tour.

No applications will be received or considered after the closing date and time.

Failure to meet all conditions of entry will automatically disqualify an entry.