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Tropical marine science gets $55 million budget boost

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13 May 2009

The Federal Budget delivered in Canberra last night (Tuesday 12 May 2009) has boosted AIMS' research capacity with $55 million in new infrastructure funding over three years.

The development of infrastructure will support jobs in regional Australia, particularly in Townsville and Darwin, and represents a significant new investment in the future of tropical Australia.

The funding will enable AIMS to greatly expand experimental seawater facilities at its Townsville headquarters, giving unprecedented ability to carry out leading marine research. This includes research to improve global understanding of the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification.

The new capabilities will confirm Townsville as the global hub of coral reef research, home to AIMS, James Cook University, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

The budget allocation will also improve marine research capabilities in northern Australia with new investment in AIMS' Northern Territory research facilities in Darwin. The Institute recently appointed a new Darwin research leader, Professor David Parry, and is expanding its activities in this strategically important location.

The rapid urbanisation and industrialisation of Darwin Harbour, together with coastal and offshore developments supporting mining operations in northern Australian, have created a need for greater local marine science capacity to support sustainable development of tropical Australia.

Expanding AIMS' research facilities in Darwin will enable more joint research with the Institute's Darwin collaborators, Charles Darwin University and the Australian National University.

"Through making significant new funding available to build tropical marine science capacity as part of its Super Science initiative for marine and climate, the Government has recognised that Australia is a marine nation with a vast ocean territory that requires knowledge to manage and sustainably use," AIMS CEO Dr Ian Poiner said.

"AIMS is committed to investigating the complexities of our tropical marine environment. To continue doing this to the international standard for which we are already renowned, we need to keep up with the latest science infrastructure," he said.

"This new funding will allow us to respond to the challenges of climate change and other national marine science priorities by providing Australian and international researchers with the laboratories and seawater systems they need to generate information to underpin evidence-based policy and management decisions.

"The new capabilities will build on existing AIMS strengths. Along with national and international collaborations, they will enable us to start addressing knowledge gaps that are constraining the environmental, economic and social sustainability of tropical Australia," Dr Poiner said.

"Expanding AIMS' capabilities willdeliver the knowledge, data and new technologies needed by government, industry and the community."

The Cutler Review of the National Innovation System, which reported in August last year, identified investment in marine science as being "underweight". This new Federal budget measure is most timely.

"This is one of the great nation-building endeavours, giving us new capacity to ensure a healthy marine estate that will provide us with environmental, economic and social benefits into the future," Dr Poiner said.

The AIMS Index of Marine Industries values the sector at $38 billion per year and rising, so the stakes are high and the need for strong underpinning knowledge of marine resources has never been more pressing.

In Townsville, the upgraded seawater precinct will make possible new experiments requiring sensitive control of temperature, salinity, acidity and contaminants in large volumes of seawater.

Using these new world class facilities, AIMS scientists and their collaborators will be able to evaluate future climate and development scenarios to best understand how coral reefs and other tropical marine ecosystems are likely to fare in a time of changing climatic conditions, coastal development and industry and agricultural expansion.

This new infrastructure will be integrated with AIMS' Centre for Marine Microbiology and Genetics, opened late last year. Together, these facilities will provide the latest marine science capability that will not only serve AIMS' extensive scientific research program but will also attract researchers from Australia and around the world.

The new funding will also allow AIMS to improve storage of valuable marine collections. AIMS has the world's largest collection of coral climate records, the AIMS Coral Core Archive. This irreplaceable resource – essential for understanding climate and climate change – will be housed in the new facility, as will the Marine Bioresources Library, which contains over 20,000 samples of marine organisms.

The funding will enable construction of a new vessel berthing site in Townsville for AIMS' research vessels Cape Ferguson and Solander and visiting national and international vessels. It will also provide updated environmentally friendly building services and plant at its headquarters site, ensuring energy efficient and sustainable growth for the Institute into the future.

For further information, please contact:

Dr Ian Poiner, AIMS CEO
Phone: 0419 702 652; 07 4753 4490

Wendy Ellery , AIMS Media Liaison
Phone: 4753 4409; 0418 729 265


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