Multibeam technology helping Australian scientists understand the seafloor

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05 December 2018

AIMS has welcomed 60 international delegates including marine biologists, ecologists, oceanographers, geologists, geophysicists, fisheries scientists and data analysts to the 76th Multibeam Sonar Training course at Townsville headquarters.

Lead scientist for Acoustic Imaging Nicole Bergersen and Emeritus Professor Dave Wells and his team of international experts from the University of New Brunswick and University of New Hampshire came to AIMS for a week of intensive study on all aspects of swath mapping technology.

“Swath mapping and ocean acoustic technology compliments and expands the excellent research already being conducted by AIMS scientists,” Ms Bergersen said.

“Better understanding of regional geology and geography through acoustic techniques is essential for marine ecological studies and change recognition.

She said attendees would use what they have learned to contribute to offshore engineering, charting the seafloor, continental shelf boundary delimitation, healthier harbour dredging, studying marine life habitats, planning underwater infrastructure and many other fields of ocean related research.

Attendees of the 76th Multibeam Sonar Training course in the National Sea Simulator, in AIMS Townsville

AIMS Data Manager Mark Case said the training provided a key link to AIMS research efforts.

In 2017, Acoustic Imaging partnered with AIMS to upgrade the multibeam capabilities of the Western Australian-based Research Vessel Solander.

“The RV Solander is equipped with the latest in multibeam technology,” he said.

“It is allowing our researchers to map and classify the sea floor in detail, improving our habitat mapping when combined with our biological data. This improves our environmental risk assessments particularly in deep water survey areas.”

What is multibeam?

A multibeam echosounder is a tool that uses sonar to produce a three dimensional map of the sea floor. It is used for a range of applications from assessing depth through to constructing habitat maps and spatial models.

Multibeam is able to map deeper coral reef systems on shoals which are beyond diving depth and not visible using satellite imagery of aerial photography. AIMS uses the technology aboard the RV Solander to discover and document coral reefs shoals, primarily on the North West Shelf of Australia.


Multibeam technology allows scientist to produce three dimensional shapes and structures such as Echuca Shoal, on Australia’s North West Shelf (left). When combined with imagery collected from the same area, it allows scientists to construct habitat models and maps (right).