diver over underwater structure


A partnership delivering significant research capability since 1995

Since 1995, the AIMS-BHP partnership has brought significant research capability to Australian tropical marine science, with a particular focus on our north-west region.

From early work revealing Australia’s unknown marine ecosystems and extensive biodiversity, to understanding climate history through coral cores, this partnership has delivered important information to science, industry, management, and the Australian community about our tropical marine estate.

Most recently, AIMS and BHP have partnered for Australian Coral Reef Resilience Initiative (ACRRI); a joint initiative to global promote coral reef resilience.

Big Bank Shoals

AIMS’ first engagement with BHP was in 1995, studying the ecosystems of the Big Bank Shoals in the centre of the Timor Sea. This project provided important data for BHP’s operations as well as providing information for the community through an Environmental Resource Atlas.

The atlas won the prestigious Golden Gekko award for environmental excellence.

Ningaloo – the Big Picture

AIMS and BHP partnered to develop ‘Ningaloo – the Big Picture’ in the early 2000s, a portfolio of collaborative research programmes with several universities, which delivered innovative science and new knowledge of the Exmouth region, new tools for BHP’s environmental operations, and fostered community engagement.

Projects developed through the partnership included the world’s largest hyperspectral study of a coral reef at Ningaloo, and cutting-edge underwater seabed surveys in 2007 using Sydney University’s Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) operated from the AIMS research vessel, Cape Ferguson.

Coral cores

From 2008, BHP and AIMS began a collection of cores from large coral bommies on West Australian reefs, from the Abrolhos to north of Ashmore Reef, in a project called ‘The Search for the Ancient Sentinels’. This work contributes to AIMS’ national programme of coral core analysis, reconstructing the past using cores from 400-year-old corals to inform our understanding of the resilience of coral reefs under climate change.

Associated papers include:

AIMS and BHP also collaborated on a project involving coral cores between 2018-2020, focused on the Fitzroy Basin along the Queensland Coast.

The Ningaloo Atlas

In recognition of the quantity of important data being generated by research conducted at Ningaloo, AIMS with BHP support, pioneered the development of ‘The Ningaloo Atlas’; an information tool to share all the important knowledge being gathered in the Ningaloo region. The Ningaloo Atlas developed into a multi-agency partnership to improve understanding, raise awareness, and celebrate the biodiversity, heritage, value, and way of life of the greater Ningaloo region.

Today, this information tool has grown into the North-West Atlas, covering both Ningaloo and Australia’s broader North-West shelf region.

Australian Coral Reef Resilience Initiative

The Australian Coral Reef Resilience Initiative (ACRRI) is a seven-year, $27 million research program, built on the long-term relationship between the AIMS and BHP. ACRRI is a novel, whole-of-ecosystem approach focused on developing new and innovative methods to speed up the natural process of reef growth and recovery, improving the resilience of coral reefs under climate change. Findings from this study will be relevant and applicable to coral reefs worldwide.

Blue Carbon Seascapes

The five-year, $20 million Blue Carbon Seascapes project began in 2023 and is jointly funded by AIMS and BHP to measure how much blue carbon flows from a tropical seaweed known as Sargassum into different coastal and deep ocean environments. A team of scientists are investigating how long this carbon is stored in these marine environments, and how we can best protect and enhance this natural process. 

Blue carbon refers to the carbon stored in our oceans via the natural pathway of photosynthesis that involves carbon dioxide being drawn from the air and water into coastal and marine plants. This project, based in Australia’s north-west seeks to establish if tropical seaweeds like Sargassum could be used as part of the world’s portfolio of nature-based solutions to mitigating climate change.