CReefs research 2009

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Sea Urchin. Image:Gary Cranitch.

CReefs (short for Census of Coral Reefs) is an international project forming part of the global Census of Marine Life (CoML), a decadal program initiated by the Sloan Foundation to understand the past, present and future states of marine biodiversity.

The CReefs project aims to discover how many species live on coral reefs, with current estimates ranging between one and nine million species. The Australian node of CReefs is supported by substantial funding from BHP Billiton.

During the reporting period, the first round of CReefs field expeditions was completed with an expedition to Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef, and the second round started with return expeditions to Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia.

Significant new investment in the project has been achieved through co-investment with the Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS), more than doubling the original budget for taxonomic support. This funding was allocated to research projects using a peer-reviewed competitive process.

A new collaboration with the Ocean Genome Legacy Project has been established this year. This collaboration will enhance the capacity of the project to produce genetic barcodes of the species sampled and represents a significant additional co-investment in the project.

Six BHP Billiton employees joined CReefs field expeditions this year. As with the previous year, feedback from all these employees was very positive and their feedback continues to be helpful to the project team in providing them with the best possible experience. Throughout the year, the project enjoyed substantial media coverage within Australia and globally.

The project has also been recognised by receiving an "Outstanding Achievement Award for Collaboration Outside the Census" at the recent all programs meeting of the CoML in Long Beach.