Back to Heron Island


Heron Island.
Image: Gary Cranitch.

 

Thursday 12 November 2009
 
The CReefs team is back on Heron Island.
 
How much more biodiversity is there for them to discover here?
 
Over the next three weeks the assembled team of 20 scientists will find out as they dive for samples and examine specimens.
 
And what a diverse team of scientists it is.
 
Australians and ex-pats from Brazil, Germany, Latin America, Ireland, Austria and even a Canadian living in Japan's tropical Okinawa make up the group of scientists from institutions as far-reaching as the Australian Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, Japan's University of Ryukyus and the University of Iceland.
 
Among these experts are specialists in isopods, macroalgae, octocorals, zoanthids, commensals in live and dead corals, echinoderms, crustacea, polychaetes, bryozoa and fish parasites, just to name a few.
 
Giving the CReefs project's continuity, a number of scientists from last year's field trip to Heron Island have returned.
 
Dr Julian Caley, AIMS Principal Research Scientist and Principal Investigator of the CReefs project, said the field trip amassed expertise to fill in knowledge gaps about what lives on coral reefs.
 
"The expeditions are about four things: filling in taxonomic gaps, making information about reef biodiversity accessible, carrying out large scale analysis of reef biodiversity (a field of study called macroecology), and education and outreach," Dr Caley said.
 
To realise its goals, CReefs expeditioners use a diverse range of sampling methods in a wide range of habitats to sample species associated with coral reefs that not have been previously well-sampled.
The field trips also give scientists the opportunity to collect samples of species currently in museum collections but which don't have tissue samples available for genetic analysis.
 
This is CReef's second field trip to Heron Island after first visiting the coral cay in September 2008. It is CReefs Australia's sixth expedition in total, including trips to Ningaloo Reef off the coast of Western Australia and Lizard Island on the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef.
 
The research trip began on November 10 and finishes up on November 30.
 
Reports on the discoveries, scientist profiles and news from the expedition will be updated regularly on this website.