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29 June 2011 - Darwin Harbour early focus for North Australian marine research

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29 June 2011

The tropical waters of northern Australia, including Darwin Harbour, will attract even greater research interest as the Northern Territory economy expands, according to the CEO of one of Australia's leading marine research agencies.

The CEO of the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), Dr Ian Poiner will update government and business leaders tomorrow (Thursday June 30) at Stokes Hill Wharf Function Centre, Darwin, about the work of the Northern Australia Marine Research Alliance (NAMRA), a collaboration between AIMS, Charles Darwin University, Northern Territory Government and the Australian National University.

Shortly after the briefing, a team of Australian, Indonesian and Timor Leste marine scientists, will depart Darwin Harbour on the 35 metre AIMS research vessel, RV Solander, for an Arafura and Timor Seas Ecosystem Action (ATSEA) research expedition.

AIMS NT Science Leader and NAMRA director, Professor David Parry outlined some of the work currently being carried out by NAMRA in the Northern Territory.

"Darwin Harbour is an early recipient of research focus, including the classification of the seafloor habitat with high resolution bathymetric mapping," he said.

"NAMRA involvement in bio-indicator research (including mud crabs and barramundi) and hydrodynamic and water quality modelling in Darwin Harbour, working with Larrakia Rangers, demonstrates the diversity of expertise available through NAMRA," he said.

NAMRA partners are also working on NT industry projects in locations such as the south-west Gulf of Carpentaria, Melville Bay and Groote Eylandt.

Dr Poiner said the AIMS research vessel, RV Solander was a valuable Australian Government platform for marine research being conducted in NT.

"As part of the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) around Australia's continental shelves, a national reference station has been established on a channel marker in the coastal waters approaching Darwin Harbour. This has been done with the support of the Darwin Port Corporation.

"The RV Solander is one of the vessels used in upgrading of the station, to provide a real-time data stream of marine weather and important ocean water quality measurements. The data is being used for hydrodynamic, sediment and water quality modelling of Darwin Harbour," he said.

The RV Solander is also being used to deploy the IMOS oceanographic moorings which monitor the Indonesian Through-flow. This is a globally significant series of currents which sweep across the seas of northern Australia, linking the Pacific and Indian Oceans and have an impact on the region's climate.

Dr Poiner said the ATSEA research expedition departing from Darwin today aboard theRV Solander was an important tri-nation research expedition.

"The ATSEA research cruise will document some of the high abundance in natural fisheries resources and rich marine biodiversity on submerged shoals off the NW Shelf, as well as measuring the influence of coastal input of sediments and nutrients to southern Timor Leste waters. To manage these vast resources, we require close cooperation between the nations that surround these seas, including Australia, Timor Leste and Indonesia."

The $5.5 millon Australian Government-funded upgrade of the Arafura Timor Research Facility (ATRF) in Darwin will provide a hub for the collaborative marine research being conducted in Australia's northern waters.

Event: Update of AIMS and NAMRA marine research projects in northern Australia AND departure of RV Solander on research expedition in the Arafura-Timor seas.

Where: Stokes Hill Wharf Function Centre, Darwin

Time: 8:30am (stand-up breakfast to be served)

Photo opportunity: Tours of the 35m research vessel, RV Solander, moored at Stokes Hill Wharf

For further information contact:

Dr Ian Poiner, AIMS CEO, 0419 702 652;

Dr David Parry, 0419 820 724;

Karen Graydon, Media in Darwin, 0417 618 545

Wendy Ellery, AIMS media liaison, (07) 4753 4409; 0418 729 265;