AIMS chief heads up Census of Marine Life governing body


3 June 2008

The CEO of AIMS, Dr Ian Poiner, has been appointed Chair of the international Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) of the Census of Marine Life( www.coml.org ).

The Census of Marine Life, which began in 2000 and whose secretariat is based in Washington DC, is a growing global network of researchers in more than 70 nations engaged in a 10-year initiative to assess and explain the diversity, distribution and abundance of marine life in the world's oceans, past, present and future.

Support for the Census comes from theAlfred P. Sloan Foundation, government agencies concerned with science, environment and fisheries in a growing list of nations as well as from private foundations and companies includingAustralia's BHP Billiton.

The Steering Committee is made up of scientists from around the world who provide conceptual guidance, determine scientific goals and oversee the progress and direction of the program. They meet three times a year.

Townsville-based Dr Poiner is a prominent tropical marine researcher and science leader, with a background in tropical fisheries and ecological systems including the Great Barrier Reef, Torres Strait and the Gulf of Carpentaria. He has led AIMS since July 2004, following a long stint with CSIRO Marine Research.

"It's vital, with the world's oceans and marine resources under threat from climate change and other human-induced or natural pressures, that we understand in as much detail as possible what is in the oceans and what changes can be tracked over time," Dr Poiner said.

"The Census probes all parts of the marine world, from the polar regions to the tropics, from the deepest ocean trench to the shorelines, from its microbes to whales," he said.

"As well as the five per cent of the oceans well-traversed by humans, the Census also examines the 95 per cent that is largely unexplored."

The three overarching questions that the Census is seeking to answer are: What did live in the oceans? What does live in the oceans? What will live in the oceans? It's a huge task, and a bracing scientific challenge, according to Dr Poiner.

He has taken over from the foundation SSC Chair, Dr FredGrassle, Professor of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University in the United States who, with Mr JesseAusubel, Program Manager, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, instigated the Census. His new position was confirmed during a meeting of the SSC in Hangzhou, China, over the past week.

Dr Poiner now heads up a committee of 16 prominent scientists, including Vice-Chair Victor Ariel Gallardo, Professor at the Department of Oceanography at the Universidad de Concepcion in Chile and DrGrassle. Other committee members are from France, Japan, Canada, Italy, China, the US, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Australia is playing a role in the Census with scientists from AIMS, Australian Antarctic Division, CSIRO, Queensland Museum, Victorian Museum, University of Tasmania and others participating in the program. Australian institutions lead two of the 17CoMLPrograms – Census of Antarctica Living Marine Resources (CAML) and Census of Coral Reefs (CReefs).

For further information, please contact:

Dr Ian Poiner,
Telephone: 07 4753 4490
Mobile: 0419 702 652
email: i.poiner@aims.gov.au

Wendy Ellery, AIMS Media Liaison
Telephone:07 4753 4409
Mobile:0418 729 265
email: w.ellery@aims.gov.au