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Applications have now closed

What is the program

The Lizard Island Coral Reef Study Tour 2020 is an immersive, live-in educational experience in coral reef science on the Great Barrier Reef led by marine scientists.

Where

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

When

10 to 19 April, 2020

Who

16 places are available for Year 11 students in 2020 who are studying Stage 6 Biology at NSW government schools.

2 places for teachers of Stage 6 Biology at NSW government schools.

How much

The full cost of this pilot program is $4,000 per person, however participants will be asked to contribute just $300 towards the running of the program. The remainder will be covered by the Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation. Students may wish to fundraise in their school and local community to cover their contribution by increasing awareness of the program and of coral reefs.

How do I apply - Please note Applications have now CLOSED

Make a video or prepare a written submission showing us who you are, how you will benefit from the experience, and how you can help to conserve coral reefs. A completed application form and various letters of support was also required by 20 October 2019.


About the program

The 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 on the Great Barrier Reef, 270 km north of Cairns.

From research conducted at Lizard Island, about 100 scientific publications are produced each year. The information is used by reef managers to conserve coral reefs, which are proving to be an increasingly vulnerable resource. Since 1973, the Australian Museum has provided excellent accommodation and facilities to support research and education right on the reef at LIRS.

Individual schools have been running educational programs at LIRS for decades. In 2020, for the first time, we are fortunate to offer the same experience to students at NSW government schools as part of the Lizard Island Coral Reef Study Tour 2020 - thanks to generous funding from the Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation and the James N. Kirby Foundation. This opportunity will give high performing, interested science students and enthusiastic Biology teachers the chance to experience coral reef research and understand the issues facing coral reefs.

The Lizard Island Coral Reef Study Tour 2020 will be led by Dr Andy Lewis and Reef Ecotours. Dr Lewis is a marine scientist with many years’ experience leading student and research groups at Lizard Island and other locations. The program will be diverse, involving snorkelling from boats, conducting field research with 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, marine scientists who have overseen research at LIRS for nearly 30 years. The group will also have the opportunity to interact with visiting scientists which will help provide a broad overview of coral reef science.

The cost of the trip is approximately $4,000 per person including travel, food and accommodation. Each participant is asked to contribute just $300 towards this cost. Students may wish to raise their contribution from their school or local community to help awareness of the program and of coral reefs.


20 October 2019

Applications close

2 December 2019

Selected students and teachers advised of their successful application.

Feb 2020

Selected students and teachers will be invited to an information evening at the Australian Museum. A virtual option will be provided for those who are unable to attend in person.

9 April 2020

Last day of Term 1. Students not based in Sydney travel to Sydney for overnight stay as arranged by their families. Teachers not based in Sydney make arrangements for overnight accommodation.

10 April 2020

Students and teachers meet Australian Museum staff at Sydney Airport for the flight to Cairns, and then on to Lizard Island

19 April 2020

Depart Lizard Island and travel through to Sydney, arriving late on the same day. Students and teachers are responsible for arrangements after arrival at Sydney Airport.

28 May 2020

Students and teachers submit a report on their experience at Lizard Island in video or written format. Guidelines and submission details will be provided.


I don’t live in Sydney and will need to spend a night there at one or both ends of the trip. What should I do?

We request that if possible, students make arrangements to stay with family or friends in Sydney who are able to accommodate you and get you to and from Sydney Airport. If this is not an option, please let us know via the tick box on the application form. We are hoping to be able to arrange billeting with families of Sydney-based participants who will be able to host you for the night. Students and families will have the opportunity to meet other participants and families at an information evening at the Australian Museum in February 2020 or via phone or internet.

What happens if I miss the plane in Sydney?

Unfortunately, the program offers no Plan B for this eventuality. If you miss the plane, you will have to make your own arrangements to get to Cairns and then to Lizard Island via commercial flights at your own expense (approximately $800). We suggest your make your airport transfer arrangements with plenty of time so that you do not miss the flight!

What documents do I need for air travel?

You need a form of identification that bears your photo and signature, such as a secondary student ID card, passport, or learner driver permit. If you don’t already have one, apply for it well ahead of the trip. Students will be responsible for the safety of their photo ID during the trip.

Will the trip be run in future years, and will it always be limited to NSW government schools?

We hope that this trip will become a regular event and that it can be expanded to all schools. This is dependent on future funding.

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



Further information

Excellent behaviour is required from all participants throughout the trip. Participants will be living and working in close proximity for nine days and will be expected to contribute to the program, dealing with others in a polite and respectable manner. Rules will be explained on arrival and compliance is required. These rules include those that are expected at Australian high schools, those that relate to the remote location of Lizard Island, to the fact that the research station is an operating workplace and to the activities that will be undertaken during the trip.


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. LIRS staff and Reef Ecotours staff will have passed Working with Children checks.


There are no medical facilities at Lizard Island. All LIRS and Reef Ecotours 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 impact their ability to snorkel safely and to provide information about any medications that are taken regularly or carried routinely in case of need.

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 the sea without aids comfortably. For students, swimming ability must be verified in writing by a suitable representative of the school such as a physical education teacher. Participants must also be capable of getting in and out of small boats and light aircraft, climbing stairs, and walking on soft, sandy tracks.


Participants will be met by a member of the Australian Museum education team at Sydney Airport and will travel as a group by air to Cairns. It will be the responsibility of individual students (and their parents/carers) to ensure they are at Sydney Airport at the required time for departure.

In order to take the morning flight out of Sydney, participants who do not live in Sydney will need to spend the previous night in Sydney. An overnight stay there may also be necessary for the return trip. Travel costs between home and Sydney will be covered by the program but it is up to each family to make arrangements for overnight stays. Billets with Sydney-based participants may be possible. The Australian Museum’s duty of care starts and finishes at Sydney Airport.

On arrival at Cairns Airport, the group will be met by the Reef Ecotours staff who will be leading the group during the trip. They will arrange transfers to General Aviation for the onward journey to Lizard Island.

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. Two of the bedrooms in each house will be occupied by students (8 people) and the third by adults (3 people). Four students of the same gender will share a room. Teacher participants will share a room with each other and/or Reef Ecotours staff of the same gender. Each house has two bathrooms and a well-equipped kitchen.

Reef Ecotours 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.


A list of clothing and equipment required for the trip will be provided prior to the trip. It will not be extensive. Snorkelling equipment will be provided at LIRS including lycra suits for sun protection, wetsuits if needed, and masks, snorkels and fins.


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. Because not all students will have Telstra as their carrier and to encourage full participation in the Lizard Island experience, students will be required to remove the sim card from their phones when they arrive on the island. These will be kept securely in the LIRS office and returned prior to departure. Internet access will be provided for educational purposes if required.

The trip has a very full timetable and families should not expect to be contacted by participants during the trip. Conversely, we ask families not to contact LIRS unless absolutely necessary. LIRS will have emergency contact details for each participant and will call in the event of injury, incident or illness.



How to apply

The Australian Museum and the Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation are committed to supporting research and education about the natural world. The Lizard Island Coral Reef Study Tour 2020 is intended to inspire and motivate students who have a strong interest in the natural sciences and science teachers who can use their experiences to inspire other students into the future.

Places on the study tour will be awarded competitively. We are looking for high-achieving students (typically with marks in top 25% of their science classes) with good communication skills who can demonstrate their interest in the natural sciences. We are also looking for enthusiastic Biology teachers who can show how a coral reef field experience will enhance their teaching practice and support student learning.


Students must be enrolled in Year 11 in 2020 at a NSW government school with the intention to study Stage 6 Biology (or another Stage 6 science subject if the school does not offer Biology). Teachers must be currently teaching Stage 6 Biology at a NSW government school at the time of application (or scheduled to teach Stage 6 Biology 2020) and demonstrate an interest in marine science.

Students and teachers must be able to participate in water activities safely, as evidenced by a statement about their swimming abilities. As a guide, all participants should be able to swim at least 100 metres in the sea easily without aids. The trip is physical in nature and participants must also be able to climb stairs and get in and out of light aircraft and small boats.

If eligibility in these two areas cannot be determined clearly from the application, the application will not proceed to further judging.


Selection will be made using the following criteria and marking weights:

1.Application is submitted in the required format (10%)

For example, all documents are submitted as outlined (see How to Apply).

2. Personal submission (video or written) makes a strong case for the applicant’s inclusion (50%)

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.

3. Supporting letters demonstrated that the applicant has qualities that are relevant to the opportunity (40%).

For students, the level of academic achievement accounts for half of that 40%.


  1. Application form. Complete a Student application form.
  2. Student personal submission. Tell us why you want to come on the trip and how it could benefit your studies, your future career and the wider world. There are two format options for your application, either i) a 1-3 minute video that features you, or ii) a 2-6 page written statement that may include photos, drawing or 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 selection criteria and read the conditions.
  3. Letter of support from school. Students must provide a letter of support from their Science teacher or the Head of Science at their school. The letter of support should outline the student’s academic achievements and relevant interests, and the teacher’s opinion of the student’s suitability for a live-in, field-based program. It must confirm that the student will be enrolled in Year 11 in 2020, that they will be studying Stage 6 Biology and must include an endorsement by the school Principal. The requirement for Stage 6 Biology will only be waived if the subject is not available at the school. In that case, the letter should state that fact and the student must be enrolled in another Stage 6 science subject for Year 11. An informed assessment of the student’s swimming ability in relation to the eligibility criterion must also be provided on school letterhead. This may be provided in the supporting letter or in a second letter if verification is by a third person such as a PE teacher.
  4. Verification of swimming ability. All participants must be able to swim at least 100 metres in the sea without aids comfortably. For students, that must be verified in writing by a suitable representative of the school such as a physical education teacher or swimming coach.
  5. Letter of support from parents/guardians. Students must provide a letter of support from their parent(s) or guardian. It should include the parent’s assessment of the student’s ability to travel with minimal supervision, to swim and snorkel from a boat, and to behave responsibly away from home while contributing to group work (scientific and household).

1. Application form. Complete a Teacher application form.

2. Teacher personal submission. Tell us why you want to come on the trip and how it could benefit your teaching practice and support student learning. There are two format options for your application, either i) a 1-3 minute video that features you, or ii) a 2-6 page written statement that may include photos, drawing or 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 include information about your swimming ability, address the selection criteria and read the conditions.

3. Letter of support from school. Teachers must obtain a letter of support from the Head of Science or the Principal of the school. If the letter is from the Head of Science, it must also be endorsed by the Principal.


Videos can be submitted via upload or in hard copy through the mail.

  • For uploaded applications, you must use Vimeo and provide a link at the time you submit the rest of your application. 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 LizardIsland2020
  • For applications submitted in hard copy, use a USB flash drive in PAL (720x576 25fps or better) format.
  • 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.

Applications should be submitted either by email (preferred), posted in hard copy or can be a combination of both.

Email applications must include all documents in one file and be in a single email with subject line:

“<Your first name> <Your last name> Lizard Island 2020 <student or teacher> application”

Do not attach any additional files. They will not be read.

Send your email applications to learning.services@austmus.gov.au

Email applications close at 5 pm AEST Sunday 20 October 2019.

Hard copy applications should be sent to the following address:

Lizard Island Study Tour 2020

Manager, Education

Australian Museum

1 William Street

SYDNEY NSW 2000

Full or partial applications sent as hard copy must be received at the Australian Museum before 5 pm AEST Monday 21 October 2019. Please send via trackable mail.


This opportunity is open to Year 11 students at NSW Government schools who will be studying Stage 6 Biology in 2020. It is open to students of other science subjects only if Stage 6 Biology is not offered at their school. In this case, the school must provide evidence that the subject is not available and the student must demonstrate their interest in biology.

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

All participants must be able to swim at least 100 metres in the sea without aids comfortably. For students, that must be verified in writing by a suitable representative of the school such as a physical education teacher. All participants must also be capable of getting in and out of small boats and light aircraft, climbing stairs, and walking on soft, sandy tracks.

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

Written applications should be no less than two A4 pages and no more than six A4 pages including any photographs, drawings, images etc. Margins must be at least 1.5 cm all round and font must be 12 pt Calibri or 12 pt Times New Roman. Judges will reject applications that do not meet font and margin requirements and will only consider the first six pages of an entry that exceeds the page limit.

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

Emailed applications must be received by the Australian Museum no later than 5pm AEST Sunday 20 October 2019. If all or part of the application is sent in hard copy, it must be received by the Australian Museum no later than 5 pm AEST on Monday 21 October 2019.

Applications received at the Australian Museum after these times will not be considered. Applications with incomplete sets of documentation will not be considered. Submitted material will not be returned.

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 the entrant(s) in relation to the Lizard Island Coral Reef Study Tour 2020 (including photos and films), 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.

Following the trip, participants are required to provide a report on their experience by 18 May 2020. This may be in video or written format and guidelines will be provided. 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.

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 close of applications. If you experience issues in uploading your entry or have concerns about what has been uploaded, you must contact the Manager, Education at the Australian Museum on (02) 9320 6317 or email learning.services@austmus.gov.au before the close of applications. Applications cannot be added or modified after the close of applications under any circumstances.

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


For any questions about the program or the information provided please contact the Manager, Education via email learning.services@austmus.gov.au