World’s brightest in marine science meet in Perth to mark major milestone

28 February 2019

The North West Shoals to Shore Research Program team at the Symposium in February (left to right): Cecile Dang, Luciana Cerqueira Ferreira, Michele Thums, Conrad Speed, Mark Meekan, Karen Miller, Michaela Dommisse, Peter Farrell, James Gilmour, Ben Radford and Robert McCauley (Curtin University)

A $20 million research project putting a spotlight on marine life in the waters of Western Australia’s unique North West Shelf, was at the centre of a marine science symposium in Perth this month.

A team of scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Australia’s tropical marine research agency, is leading the three-year North West Shoals to Shore Research Program.

The program brings together a multi-disciplinary team of researchers, technical staff and industry experts across 11 separate studies, to better understand these marine areas.

AIMS CEO Dr Paul Hardisty said the symposium marked the project’s halfway point and provided an update on its research milestones, as well as future activities.

“Our research has looked at a range of areas including the potential impact of seismic sound on fish and pearl oysters, in particular to better understand at what distance there is any detectable effect on their immunology, biochemistry, physiology and genetics.

"And we are studying the movements and distribution of iconic marine species such as turtles and blue whales along the North West Shelf,” Dr Hardisty said.

“We have also brought in the latest in acoustic technology to map and characterise the physical attributes and biodiversity of the submerged ancient coastline that’s at 125 metres depth in order to get a full picture of the diversity of marine life that inhabits the sea floor in this region.”

“As part of the project, AIMS is developing a state-of-the-art monitoring program looking at the reef surrounding the Rowley Shoals that is testing the best autonomous and automated methods that can be applied on tropical reefs.”

The research is building on AIMS’ knowledge of Australia’s tropical marine estate to provide the answers needed to inform environmental management and policy questions surrounding sustainable development in WA’s marine industry.

The North West Shoals to Shore Program is proudly supported by Santos as part of the company’s commitment to better understand WA’s marine environment.