Back to Impact Stories

Port Phillip EcoCentre

  • Project: Future Proofing Port Phillip Baykeeper: succession planning to protect the Bay through evidence, partnerships and education
  • Amount: $98,145 over two years
  • Year(s) Funded: 2020

Understanding, celebrating and protecting Port Phillip Bay now and into the future

A healthy Bay benefits wildlife, climate and 5 million Victorians. This succession planning project consolidates the successful but intermittent history of project-based research, education, network-building and promotion of the Bay into a strategic, future-proofed, holistic suite of resources and plans for the continuation of comprehensive Bay guardianship by future Baykeepers.

Port Phillip EcoCentre Team, with Baykeeper Neil Blake (center back) at St Kilda Botanic Gardens. Photo: Chris Cassar

“The Future Proofing Port Phillip Baykeeper program enables us to inspire, train and empower school students and youth, our future Baykeepers!” Dr. Cecile van der Burgh, Education Manager, Port Phillip EcoCentre

Appointed as honorary Baykeeper in 2008, Neil Blake has drawn on his 20+ years experience of community development, research, education and support activities for Bay conservation to grow the Baykeeper program, which is supported by strategic cross-sectoral partnerships and citizen science monitoring. With Neil’s approaching retirement, this project will methodically transfer knowledge from current to future Baykeeper staff, by consolidating the organic history and road mapping future priorities in consultation with community.

While the focus of this project is on succession planning for the next Baykeeper, the activities include bringing stakeholders together from across the Bay catchment to collaboratively develop a five year strategic plan and associated communications plan.


  • The retiring Baykeeper, Neil Blake, has unique historic knowledge that when digitised, will ripple as a resource to thousands of volunteers.
  • The Baykeeper program is built upon sharing skills, templates and knowledge across a network of community groups and decision-makers.
  • The Baykeeper is an integral cordinating and influencing role across the EcoCentre’s extensive collaborations, contributing significantly to volunteer engagement, and feeding into Port Philip Bay conservation research and onground actions.
  • Project partner, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will play an important role in convening the strategic planning process and in reviewing citizen science methods.
  • A catchment wide, collaborative process will see the development of the first ever Baykeeper strategic plan, developed through consultation with 20 stakeholders via issues roundtables, the consolidation of research and existing resources, and the collation of the current Baykeeper’s knowledge.
  • Advanced planning will enable continuous citizen science datasets, and proactively prepare issues papers where policy gaps remain due to lack of evidence-based advocacy and fragmented authority.
  • Citizen Science Kits will be developed to enable the unification of methods across a range of groups interested in water protection, biodiversity and climate change.
  • A comprehensive resource library will be developed, shared and accessed widely.
  • The project culminates in the recruitment and debut of a new Baykeeper.
  • In 2015, HMSTrust funded the Baykeeper Re-Generation project, to engage youth in recurring citizen science activities that would provide critical baseline data for ongoing coastal planning and decision-making. The program was designed to enable the EcoCentre’s Strategic Plan to build skills and collaborations between sectors for long-term environmental and social well-being and achieved outstanding results in youth engagement and in developing evaluation tools for citizen science activities.