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Perth – City on Steroids

Perth Skyline

We arrived in Perth yesterday evening after flying halfway around the world from LAX. After 30 hours of flying and layovers, we were excited to be here but crashed hard in the hotel. We awoke on Thursday (we left Monday but lost May 22nd due to the International Date Line), coffee’d up and hit the streets of Perth.

Neither Andy or I have visited here before and we were surprised by what we found… a city on steroids, moving fast to exploit and sell the vast riches of the Kimberley and Pilbara regions of Western Australia. The first person we met described Perth as more expensive than London to live in (she was until recently living in London), people driven hard by employers to get mine and oil/gas projects developed, expanding, producing more wealth. And the front page of the local paper contained the story of a local woman who makes $2M/hour off her mines…. her net worth is $29B making her the 29th richest person on the planet. She is gonna get richer in 2012. Our new friend from London said she was trying to rent an apartment and when she got there, 40 people were in line ahead of her. Gold Rush Fever – WA style…

It is almost scary to be here thinking conservation: the the entire place is drill baby drill, dig baby dig… last year Western Australia exported over $100B in oil/gas/minerals. The trickle-down effect of that wealth has not happened in the US since… well the oil fields of Pennsylvania or Texas, the coal mines of Wyoming…

The good news is we are here working with my Duke colleague Dave Johnston and Murdoch University professor Lars Bejder, who runs MUCRU, the Murdoch University Catacean Research Unit. Lars and his team of graduate students and researchers are doing most of the baseline assessment of the dolphin populations in Western Australia.  Lars is our host and partner in the Citizen Science Project here.  Dave arrived a day before us and gave two talks yesterday to the university community, government personal and local NGOs.  Reception was awesome.


Lars, Dave and Andy in Fremantle Harbor

We are heading to Exmouth this Friday morning to begin our field explorations documenting the coastal dolphin population, manta rays, whale sharks, mangroves and the impact of the mining and oil/gas wealth extraction effort on the marine and coastal ecosystem.  I will post more later today/tonight.  We will be filming the annual Exmouth Whale Shark Festival this weekend to discover the feelings of the local communities about the influx of the extraction industry into what has been called the last great marine wilderness.




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