AIMS and Geoscience Australia (GA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding committing to collaborative voyages of discovery using GA's new multi-beam sonar swathe mapper and AIMS' RV Solander. In September 2008, the two agencies undertook a major survey of the Carnavon Shelf, particularly mapping deep-water habitats adjacent to Ningaloo Reef.
The vessel proved a highly suitable platform for shallow-water mapping and seabed sampling, and the research voyage produced an important new dataset for the area.
About 1,000 square kilometres of the Carnarvon Shelf was mapped using the GA equipment. Towed underwater video, still photographs, and seabed sediment samples were collected at 120 sample stations. Acoustic sediment profiles were collected across the shelf and upper slope and current-meter data was collected on the inner and middle shelf.
Initial collections of sponges and other marine creatures are being processed, with the potential that many of the species will be found to be new to Western Australia or new to science.
The research results are being made available to managers of the Western Australian and Commonwealth Marine Parks to better identify the distribution of marine habitats in this unique area of high biodiversity in support of marine conservation objectives.