Doris Teufel isn’t one to seek out the limelight. She is happiest spending time exploring the intertidal reef which fringes Port Hedland and provides a haven for a fascinating range of marine life.
Documenting life on the coral reef and trying to raise awareness of its value has been a passion project for Doris for more than a decade.
She runs regular free reef walks to show locals and visitors the natural treasures on Hedland’s doorstep, and collects data that is sent to the WA Museum, providing a valuable repository of information about Hedland’s unique environment and marine life, including stingrays, turtles and nudibranch.
This year, Doris was named Port Hedland’s Senior Citizen of the Year for her leadership in raising community awareness around the intertidal reef.
But she fears she is fighting a losing battle to protect the area from the pressures of development.
Doris is from Germany originally but has lived in the north of Western Australia since 2003. She is a keen diver and snorkeller and spent time diving around Broome and Exmouth.
She arrived in Port Hedland in 2007 as she was making her way around Australia and had to extend her stay while she had her camera lens repaired.
“That stop was a bit longer and by the end I never did the big loop but went backward and forward between Derby and Port Hedland because I got hooked with the intertidal reef,” Doris said. “Much cheaper to see marine life that way than diving!”
She has explored it extensively by wandering the zone on foot when the reef is exposed at low tide.
“I have no scientific background. My passion is the marine life in the ocean. The reason for that is that people only care about things they see, unfortunately you only see the marine life in the ocean either for a short moment during low tide or you have to go diving. That makes it hard to get any type of awareness.”
“Although it plays a very important part in the cycle of life in the ocean you can´t compare it with the Great Barrier Reef or the Ningaloo Reef. Unfortunately, that makes it much harder to promote it.”
She is disappointed that there is not more interest in the reef from local authorities and has concerns about development causing irreparable damage to the ecosystem.
But she is buoyed by the enthusiasm from young people about preserving the reef, especially children who are regulars on her reef walks. She hopes some might become the marine biologists of the future.
Anyone interested in joining Doris on a free early morning reef walk should contact Port Hedland Visitors Centre for details, phone 9173 1711.
All photos by Doris Teufel