Exploring the Myth and Reality about cartoon animals

Cartoons have been a beloved part of many peoples childhood, entertaining audiences with colourful characters and crazy adventures. One of the enduring aspects of cartoons is the portrayal of animals, which often take on exaggerated characteristics and behaviours. From the lightning-fast Road Runner to the whirlwind Tasmanian Devil, these cartoon animals have captured our imaginations.

While the cartoon Road Runner may be a fictionalized version of this bird, it’s clear that the real roadrunner is a remarkable creature in its own right, perfectly adapted to its harsh desert environment. The cartoon Road Runner is depicted as a blue bird with long brown legs and a dark blue crest on top of its head. Living in the southwest American desert surrounded by cacti, boulders, and sand.

There really is a Roadrunner!

Roadrunner cartoon character

The Greater Roadrunner Geococcyx californianus, the larger of the 2 species for roadrunner measures about 55 cm in length.

Roadrunners have various predators including coyotes. But the coyote can run at 65 km/h which is much faster than the speed of a roadrunner, so would have no problem catching up with one.

The roadrunner will be forever remembered by the sound ‘Meep meep’. Listen below to what they really sound like.

© Looney Tunes by Warner Bros.

© Bob DuHamel

What makes the real roadrunner really remarkable is its adaptability and intelligence. These birds are skilled hunters, preying on insects, lizards, and even snakes. They are also known for their distinctive appearance, with long legs, a crest of feathers on their head.

Greater Roadrunner walking in the Mojave desert, California USA
© Jessie Eastland

Another iconic cartoon animal is the Tasmanian Devil, famously portrayed in Warner Bros. cartoons as a spinning whirlwind of energy and chaos. With its ferocious growl and insatiable appetite, the cartoon Tasmanian Devil is a force to be reckoned with. The real Tasmanian Devil is a unique marsupial found only in Tasmania, off the south coast of Australia.

Tazzie Devil cartoon

While it shares some characteristics with its cartoon counterpart, such as its stocky build and powerful jaws, the similarities end there.

In reality, the Tasmanian Devil is a solitary and nocturnal creature, known for its scavenging habits and loud vocalizations.

© Looney Tunes by Warner Bros.

Unfortunately, the real Tasmanian Devil faces significant challenges in the wild, including habitat loss and Devil Facial Tumour Disease a contagious cancer, which has decimated populations. Efforts are underway to protect this iconic species, including conservation breeding programs and initiatives to control the spread of the disease.

Tasmanian Devil
Tasmanian Devil

Cartoon animals may entertain us with their exaggerated antics and larger-than-life personalities, but they often bear little resemblance to their real-life counterparts. While characters like the Road Runner and the Tasmanian Devil may capture our imaginations, it’s important to remember the beauty and complexity of the natural world they are based on. By learning more about real animals and the challenges they face, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the incredible diversity of life on Earth. So whether you’re watching cartoons or exploring the great outdoors, take a moment to marvel at the wonders of the animal kingdom, both real and imagined.

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Outdoor Classroom Day

Outdoor Classroom Day is on 23 May and the 7 November. Outdoor education leads to a greater connection with nature and improves student engagement. Outdoor education and nature play teaches critical life skills including resilience, teamwork and creativity and is also central to enjoyment. 

Kids exploring nature with hand lenses

The Australian Curriculum section on Outdoor learning states it can be instrumental in:

  • the teaching and learning of self-reliance, interdependence and leadership
  • the development of an adventurous spirit
  • managing personal risks
  • experiencing safe journeys in nature
  • learning the value of lifelong outdoor recreation for enjoyment, health and wellbeing
  • understanding nature through direct experience; and the development of deeper human–nature relationships.

Outdoor Education resources

Australian Environmental Education has a range of resources on earth and environmental science. These programs are designed to get your kids outside exploring the world around them. Try the What’s in your Backyard series of resources and videos on YouTube.

The What’s in your Backyard resources are designed to help you explore the amazing wildlife in your local area. Look for the clues that are left behind to discover more about these animals and what you can do to protect them.

There are many ways to connect nature and teach outdoors. Go on a nature walk, collect natural material to use in art projects, become citizen scientists and record wildlife observations. These are all simple ideas you can do with your kids at home or at school.

Use all your senses to discover the amazing world around you.

Remember to look up and change your perspective
Touch and feel different tree bark
Visit your favourite tree, if you don’t have one, find one
Listen to the sounds around you

Find out more on the Outdoor Classroom Day website

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World Water Day 2024

Today is World Water Day, the 22 March highlights the importance of freshwater. The day is used to promote the sustainable management of freshwater resources. This years theme of World Water Day 2024 is ‘Water for Peace’.

World Water Day 2024 banner

Water is essential for all life and is the most abundant substance on Earth, yet water scarcity is one of the biggest issues facing us today. Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent and 2019 was on of the the hottest and driest year on record. Because of many years of dry conditions, the drought worsened in 2019, resulting in Australia’s driest year on record. With area-average rainfall of just 277.6 mm almost the entire continent was in drought.

However in many part of the world, Water can create peace or spark conflict. When water is scarce or polluted, or when people have unequal, or no access, tensions can rise between communities and countries. More than 3 billion people worldwide depend on water that crosses national borders. Yet, only 24 countries have cooperation agreements for all their shared water.

As climate change impacts increase, and populations grow, there is an urgent need, within and between countries, to unite around protecting and conserving our most precious resource. Public health and prosperity, food and energy systems, economic productivity and environmental integrity all rely on a well-functioning and equitably managed water cycle.

Even through water covers 75% of the earth’s surface, only a very small amount is freshwater that can be used directly by people, animals and plants. This is because:

  • 97% of this water is in oceans and is too salty for people, animals or plants to use
  • 2% is frozen at the north and south poles, in glaciers and on snowy mountain ranges
  • Only 1% is avaiable as freshwater in rivers, lakes and groundwater.
Earths water vector illustration. Labeled global liquids ecosystem scheme. Environmental fresh
Earths water: ocean, river, sea and groundwater ©: normaals

This World Water Day think of how you can use water more wisely in your daily life. Below is some information to help you get started.

How to be Waterwise

Water is essential for all life and is the most abundant substance on Earth, yet water scarcity is one of the biggest issues facing us today. Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent and 2019 was the hottest and driest year on record

The Urban Water Cycle

The natural water cycle has been modified by people to ensure a constant water supply and the safe disposal of wastewater. The Urban Water Cycle incorporates the Water Supply System, Wastewater system and the Stormwater system.

Why is Water Important

Water is the most common substance found on earth, so why is it important? Water is essential for all forms of life and can dissolve nearly anything. It can exist as a gas (water vapour and steam), a liquid (water) and a solid (ice).

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Citizen Science for school students

Citizen science projects are a great way to engage school students in scientific research and environmental monitoring. In Australia, there are several projects that students can get involved in.

Here are some examples:

Students can participate in wildlife monitoring and observation projects. You can report sightings of native animals like birds, possums, or kangaroos through platforms like the Urban Wildlife App

FrogID is a project by the Australian Museum that involves recording and identifying frog calls. Students can use the FrogID app to record frog calls in their local area. This data helps researchers monitor frog populations and biodiversity.

Seek by iNaturalist allows curious naturalists of all ages to earn badges and participate in challenges to observe organisms with on-screen identification using computer vision for identifications based on data from iNaturalist.

The National Waterbug Blitz is a nationwide waterway monitoring event. Everyone is encouraged to become ‘citizen scientists’ and investigate the health their local waterways and wetlands by exploring and identifying the waterbugs.

Students can learn about local flora by participating in tree planting initiatives and surveys of native plants. This helps with reforestation efforts and conserving native species. The School Tree Day is on 26 July 2024

The Aussie Backyard Bird Count is a great birdwatching and monitoring projects. Students can participate in bird surveys, recording the species they see and their behaviours.

The Australian Pollinator Count is taking place during Australian Pollinator Week, from 11-19  November. Taking part is quick and easy. You simply need to observe some flowers for 10 minutes, record the pollinators you see and register your results.

Australia has a unique range of native bee species. Students can learn about these bees and participate in bee monitoring projects to help researchers understand and protect these important pollinators.

Students can set up weather stations at their schools or homes and contribute to climate data collection. Organizations like the Bureau of Meteorology offer resources and guidelines for setting up these stations.

To get involved in these projects, students can often find information on the websites of relevant organizations, science institutions, or local community groups. It’s also a good idea to reach out to teachers, as many schools have partnerships with organizations that offer citizen science opportunities. These projects not only provide valuable data for research but also offer a hands-on and engaging way for students to learn about the environment and scientific processes.

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Celebrating Biodiversity Month

September is Biodiversity Month, a time to celebrate our natural wonders and diverse ecosystems. Biodiversity Month offers us the perfect opportunity to pause and appreciate the beauty, complexity, and importance of biodiversity. Biodiversity Month also encourages us to reflect on our relationship with the natural world and take action to protect it.

Images representing 3 years of AEE

Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth and is typically a measure of variation at the genetic, species, and ecosystem level.

Genetic diversity

Genetic diversity is the variety of genes within a species. Each species is made up of individuals that have their own particular genetic composition. This means a species may have different populations, each having different genetic compositions. To conserve genetic diversity, different populations of a species must be conserved.

Species diversity

Species diversity is the variety of species within a habitat or a region. Some habitats, such as rainforests and coral reefs, have many species. Others, such as salt flats or a polluted stream, have fewer. In Australia, more than 80% of plant and animal species are endemic, which means that they only occur naturally in Australia.

Ecosystem diversity

Ecosystem diversity is the variety of ecosystems in a given place. An ecosystem is a community of organisms and their physical environment interacting together. An ecosystem can cover a large area, such as a whole forest, or a small area, such as a pond.

Biodiversity Month serves as a reminder of the extraordinary diversity of life on our planet and the importance of preserving it. Biodiversity is not just a concern for scientists and conservationists; it’s a global responsibility that each of us can contribute to in our own way. Whether through education, advocacy, or personal lifestyle choices, we can all play a role in safeguarding the web of life that sustains us. So, this September, let’s celebrate and protect the incredible biodiversity that enriches our world.

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National Tree Planting Day

Trees play a vital role in supporting life on Earth and their significance encompasses ecological, environmental, social, and economic aspects. You can make a difference by planting tree on any day especially Schools Tree Day on Friday 28th July, National Tree Day is Sunday 30th July.

Australian dry forest

Here are some key reasons why trees are essential:

  1. Oxygen production: Trees are primary producers of oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. They absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen, making the air we breathe cleaner and more breathable.
  2. Carbon sequestration: Trees act as natural carbon sinks, absorbing and storing carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas responsible for climate change. They play a critical role in mitigating the effects of global warming by reducing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.
  3. Biodiversity support: Forests, which are primarily composed of trees, are incredibly diverse ecosystems that provide habitat and sustenance for a vast array of plants, animals, insects, and microorganisms. Trees contribute to the preservation of biodiversity and help maintain a balanced ecosystem.
  4. Soil conservation: Tree roots help prevent soil erosion, which is crucial for maintaining fertile soil and preventing landslides and desertification.
  5. Water cycle regulation: Trees influence the water cycle by absorbing and releasing water through their roots and leaves. They help regulate rainfall patterns, prevent floods, and maintain groundwater levels.
  6. Climate regulation: Large forests and mature trees have a moderating effect on local and global climates. They regulate temperature, humidity, and precipitation patterns, creating a more stable environment.
  7. Wildlife habitat: Trees provide shelter, food, and nesting sites for a wide range of animal species, including birds, mammals, and insects. Many creatures rely on trees for their survival.
  8. Economic value: Trees are essential for various industries, including timber, paper, and pharmaceuticals. They provide raw materials for construction, furniture, and other products, supporting economies and livelihoods.
  9. Aesthetic and recreational benefits: Trees enhance the beauty of landscapes, parks, and urban areas, contributing to the overall well-being and mental health of people. Green spaces with trees offer opportunities for relaxation and recreation.
  10. Air quality improvement: Trees act as natural air purifiers, filtering harmful pollutants and particulate matter from the air, which is especially crucial in urban environments with high levels of pollution.
  11. Noise reduction: Trees can absorb and dampen sound, reducing noise pollution and creating a more peaceful environment.
  12. Health benefits: Interacting with trees and spending time in natural environments has been shown to have positive effects on mental and physical health, reducing stress, anxiety, and promoting overall well-being.

Given their numerous ecological and societal benefits, the preservation and responsible management of trees and forests are essential for the long-term health and sustainability of our planet.

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Roaring Back in Time

National Dinosaur Day is a time to celebrate Australian Dinosaurs is celebrated on 7 May every year. This special day is a time to recognize and appreciate these incredible prehistoric creatures that roamed the Earth millions of years ago.

The first known dinosaur fossil was discovered in England in the early 1800s. Since then, hundreds of species have been identified all over the world, including Australia. The study of dinosaurs has provided us with invaluable insights into the evolution of life on our planet.

Dinosaur Fossils in Australia

Queensland, in particular, boasts some of Australia’s most significant dinosaur discoveries. The Dinosaur Trail and Winton is the gateway to the prehistoric past. I visited the world-renowned Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum last year, you can see ongoing fossil discoveries and even participate in dinosaur digs. One of the most remarkable dinosaur fossil discoveries in the areas is “Banjo,” Australia’s most complete carnivorous dinosaur.

Whether you are a lifelong dinosaur enthusiast or just starting to learn about these amazing creatures, today is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate their place in history and learn more about the science behind their existence. With new discoveries and advancements in technology, the study of dinosaurs continues to fascinate and inspire people of all ages. So why not join in the fun and celebrate? You never know what you might learn!

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2022: it’s a wrap

What a year it has been! 2022 started with continued restrictions in the education sector. As the year progressed restrictions were reduced and face to face session were able to resume. It was also great to participate in community events again.

Australian Environmental Education 2022 in review

15,000 people were reached across all the programs and events during 2022. Over 150,000 people visited 250,000 pages across the website for their earth and environmental science needs. There were 6.6 million impressions on Google, with the Noises in the Night , Geologic Timescale and the Scientific Method the top 3 performing pages.

Awards

Education services finalist poster

Finalist in the 2022 Local Business Awards: Northern Districts for Outstanding Education Services and Outstanding Business Person of the Year.

Twinkle Blog logo

Australian Environmental Education was awarded ‘Top Sustainability Blogs’ of 2022 by Twinkl

2022 was a great year and I’m looking forward to see what 2023 brings.

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Amazing Minerals

Last week I visited the new Minerals Exhibition at the Australian Museum. It was amazing to see the minerals collection on display again. All my old favourite specimens were back along with new specimens and interactives.

I have loved rocks and minerals my whole life and started my rock collection when I was 4 years old. Thankfully it has improved in quality since then and I have moved past painting river stones in my backyard.

Molybdenite

One of my favourite objects from the old museum’s display has always been a large Molybdenite specimen. Molybdenite is extremely soft with a metallic luster.

I would talk about that specimen when I took highlight tours as a volunteer at the Australian Museum over 25 years ago. I loved that is was a metal, but very soft and that one of its uses was as an industrial lubricant. There are so many other stories connected with the amazing mineral collection and my time at the museum. It was an honour to be able share my passion with visitors for so many years.

If you don’t already have one, I challenge you to find your favourite rock or mineral. Why not start your search at your local natural history museum and find your passion.

If you are in Sydney check out the new minerals exhibition at the Australian Museum. A visit to this new exhibition is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon or explore with the kids school holidays.

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Coastcare Week

Coastcare Week 2022 is about discovering what you can do to help protect our coasts and marine environments. Australian Environmental Education has a range of free resources to show what you can do to help protect our coasts, no matter where you live across Australia.

Where the rivers meet the sea

Explore of the interactions between the land and sea. Eighty-five percent of Australians live within 50km of the coast. This session looks at the waste that washes downstream in our catchments, the impacts it has on our estuaries, wetlands and coastal areas where the rivers meets the sea.

Mangroves on Georges River Sydney

Marine Life

Take a journey beneath the waves with Karen from Australian Environmental Education to explore Australia’s amazing marine life. Discover different marine habitats and the animals that live there.

Clockwise: male White’s seahorse, stars and stripes puffer, mourning cuttlefish and common stingaree
© John Turnbull

How to conduct a beach survey

Recognise Coastcare Week by learning how you can conduct a beach survey. Our coasts are impacted by our actions on land. Rubbish and microplastics can be found washed up on almost every Australian beach. Join Karen from Australian Environmental Education to learn more about micro plastics and how to conduct a beach survey.

Detail of hands holding colander with microplastics on the beach
Detail of hands holding colander with microplastics on the beach

Caring for our Oceans

Coastcare Week is about working together to care for our coastal and marine environments. Our coasts are impacted by our actions on land. Rubbish and microplastics can be found washed up on almost every Australian beach. These are great activities to do with your high school students.

The Beach Survey provides a starting point to understand the types of rubbish in the marine environment.

The Beach Clean up can help you work together as a team and community to remove this of rubbish.

Find out more about the impacts on plastics in our oceans.

Coastcare Week

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