Fulfilling life on Lizard

Lyle Vail and Anne Hoggett.
Image: Alex Vail

The CReefs Lizard Island expedition would not be able to go ahead without the Lizard Island Research Station. Without the accommodation, laboratories, boats and staff support, the vital research conducted here would be impossible.
The Lizard Island Research Station is owned and operated by the Australian Museum and is supported by the Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation.
The Research Station has been run for 17 years by joint directors, and husband and wife, Lyle Vail and Anne Hoggett. Two other couples, Lance and Marianne Pearce, and Bob and Tania Lamb, alternate as maintenance staff for six months of the year.

Anne and Lyle both worked at the Australian Museum as scientists in the 1970s and 80s.
"Lyle did his PhD out here and I came along to help and we both decided then that we loved this place and we would want jobs here. Then one day they became available and we pulled out all stops to get them," Anne says.
Lyle says that the location of Lizard Island is ideal for a research station.

"Lizard Island is located mid-way between the coast and the outer barrier reefs…you're able to go right across the continental shelf," Lyle says.

"Day-to-day we run the station, plan for its future, raise money, and look after the visitors (researchers, student groups, resort guests). In the winter we get a lot of yachties too – there might be up to 60 boats at Watsons Bay for the season," he says.

Anne says that initially the most difficult thing was to raise money for the station but now they have a "fabulous foundation" with many people, both private investors and organisations, keen to help the facility.

"It's remarkable what we've been able to achieve since then," she says.

The Station has just recently been, and continues to be, upgraded thanks to the Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation and other key supporters including the Ian Potter Foundation and the Queensland Smart State Research Facilities Fund.

"We're in the middle of a five-year program of upgrading the station's infrastructure. It includes new buildings, new boats, extending the aquarium, and improving the labs and power supply," Anne says.

Since station opened in 1973, more than 1,100 scientific publications have been produced by both Australian and international researchers based on work done there.

"All the discoveries are exciting in their own way," Anne says.

The scientists are all extremely happy with the station and particularly with the facilities.

This is Merrick Ekins' second visit to the station. Merrick is from the Queensland Museum.

"It just keeps getting better and better – and it's because of Lyle and Anne. They're so friendly and helpful and they just have so much energy. Nothing's too hard for them," Merrick says.

Apart from a stint in 2000 when Lyle and Anne's son Alex was starting school in Sydney and the couple took turns flying there to look after him, they have not left the island for more than a month at a time.

"It's just so beautiful here. It's a unique spot as it's a national park surrounded by a marine park…we just love being in a natural environment. You walk from the house to the office and often see a couple of monitor lizards and lots of bird life," Lyle says.

"It's the idea of doing something useful too, it's a very fulfilling life," Anne says.

"We always say we'll stay for five more years, but it's rolling. It's always five years from today," Anne laughs.

For more information on the station, visit the website at http://www.lizardisland.net.au/