CReefs marine science project inspiring BHP Billiton staff
May 8, 2009
The Australian resources company, BHP Billiton, has a growing pool of marine science knowledge and appreciation in its ranks, thanks to a successful employee engagement program in the Australian node of the international CReefs project.
BHP Billiton is a partner in the four-year $3.4 million project, along with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and AIMS. CReefs is the coral reef component of the Census of Marine Life, a decade long global scientific initiative to assess and explain the diversity, distribution and abundance of marine life.
AIMS leads a consortium of scientists from the Australian Museum, the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Museum Victoria, the Queensland Museum, the South Australian Museum and the Western Australian Museum, the University of Adelaide, Murdoch University, the South Australian Herbarium and the Smithsonian Institution.
On the eve of the next CReefs exploratory expedition, BHP Billiton's Townsville-based superintendent of health, safety, environment and community for the Cannington mine, Mr Mark Daniell, reflected on his recent trip to Lizard Island in the northern reaches of the Great Barrier Reef, accompanying the CReefs scientists.
Providing a global context for his work at BHP Billiton is a big plus, he said. "It made me more aware of the potential downstream impacts and influences that need to be considered by any resources company," Mr Daniell said. "I think it aligns well with our global charter on the environment and sustainability," he said.
Mr Daniell had the rare opportunity for a resources industry professional of helping CReefs scientists collect animals and plants from the reefs around Lizard Island and generally pitching in to help.
He was directly involved in collecting the innovative Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS) that had been placed there on the first CReefs trip to Lizard last year and within which a huge variety of reef creatures had since taken up residence.
"It was a wonderful trip, not only because it involved meeting interesting people in a lovely place but also because it gave me an insight into some of the detail of the CReefs project and a renewed appreciation of the potential power of multi-disciplinary teams," he said.
As part of his work at Cannington, 700km west of Townsville, Mr Daniell has become involved with several marine-based environmental groups and stewardship programs. He is also a keen snorkeller, so when the opportunity to join CReefs was made available, he put his hand up.
Since participating in CReefs, he has come to fully appreciate why BHP Billiton chose to sponsor the program as it fits with the company's stated aim of actively enhancing its contribution to biodiversity protection.
The leader of the Australian node of the CReefs project, AIMS scientist Dr Julian Caley, has been delighted with the success of the BHP employee engagement program. "It's great to have the BHP people along, getting real hands-on experience. It is a unique opportunity that gives them insights into marine science," he said.
Several BHP Billiton employees will be joining the next CReefs trip, this time for a return visit to Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, which gets under way on Wednesday 13 May and runs for three weeks. A blog from a journalist accompanying the CReefs expedition will operate at http://www.aims.gov.au/creefs/latest-field-trip.html, where blogs from previous expeditions may also be found.
Mr Mark Daniell, BHP Billiton Cannington
Dr Julian Caley, AIMS
Ms Judy Stewart, Great Barrier Reef Foundation
First Australian CReefs expedition underway
Knowledge of life on coral reefs will be boosted from 2 April 2008when a team of scientists led by AIMS heads for LizardIsland, north of Cairns, for the first CReefs Australian expedition.
CReefs Australia, funded by $3.4 million over four years by the giant Australian resources company BHP Billiton in a deal brokered by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, will address important questions about the diversity of coral reef associated species including how many species live on reefs, how many of these only live in this habitat, and how this diversity responds to human induced disturbance.
AIMS is leading the Australian node of the international CReefs project. CReefs is the coral reef component of the Census of Marine Life (CoML), a global network of hundreds of researchers in more than 80 nations engaged in a 10-year scientific initiative to assess and explain the diversity, distribution, and abundance of life in the oceans. The world's first comprehensive Census of Marine Life—past, present, and future—will be released in 2010.
The Institute has assembled a team of 25 scientists and support staff drawn from AIMS and a group of Australian natural history museums and herbaria to head to LizardIslandfor a three-week field survey. The expedition, led by AIMS research scientist Dr Julian Caley, will systematically search waters around LizardIslandfor species previously unknown to science.
The consortium is made up from scientists from the AustralianMuseum, the Museum and ArtGalleryof the Northern Territory, Museum Victoria, the QueenslandMuseum, the SouthAustralianMuseumand the WesternAustralianMuseum, as well as the Universityof Adelaide, MurdochUniversity, the Australian Herbarium and the Smithsonian Institution.
Later in the year, there will be similar expeditions to HeronIslandon the Great Barrier Reefand Ningaloo Reef off the coast of Western Australia. Three expeditions to each of these locations are planned over the next four years.
"We can't protect what we don't know exists or know how well we are doing it without comprehensive knowledge that can serve as a baseline," Dr Caley said. "Taxonomy – the science of identifying and describing the natural world – is indispensable but has been in serious decline worldwide for many years, threatening our capacity to provide this understanding of natural systems. We hope this project can go some way to reversing this decline in capacity".
The scientists will use a variety of methods to sample habitats around LizardIsland. Specimens collected from the sites will be analysed by taxonomic experts at a number of Australian natural history museums and herbaria who will describe and name new species, publishing their results in global, publicly available, databases and scientific publications.
As part of the BHP Employee Engagement Program linked to this project, several environmental staff of the company will be participating in each expedition, giving them unique insights into marine science.
The Lizard Island CReefs team was officially farewelled on 31 March by the CEO of AIMS, Dr Ian Poiner, Ms Bindi Perkins of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, and BHP Billiton's Mr Shane Hansen, Asset Leader of the Cannington Mine.
For further information, please contact:
Dr Julian Caley, AIMS, 0439 472 148; 07 4753 4148; firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms Wendy Ellery, AIMS Media Liaison, 07 4753 4409; 0418 729 265; email@example.com
CReefs Australia: A partnership between BHP Billiton, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation,
the Census of Marine Life and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).
CReefs Australia is a node of the Census of Coral Reef Ecosystems (CReefs),
a project of the Census of Marine Life.