Researchers' return brings chance to evaluate
Thursday 12 February 2009
FOLLOWING the successful start to the Australian CReefs project last year, 2009 is about consolidation and expansion.
Dr Julian Caley, AIMS Principal Research Scientist and Principal Investigator of the CReefs team, said the current expedition to Lizard Island was interesting for a number of reasons.
"It's the first chance we'll get to properly evaluate the use of the ARMS [Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures] for monitoring coral reef biodiversity," he said.
The ARMS, tiered boxes designed to simulate a reef environment, were deployed on the Lizard Island reefs during the trip in April last year.
So far the team has collected several ARMS from the ocean and begun to sort through their contents.
Dr Caley said that the intention of the ARMS was to develop a standardised way of collecting information on how organisms colonise reefs. However he said there were still details to be sorted out about how they can use mass genetic sequencing techniques to get a good estimate of what is living on these structures.
Dr Caley also said the project team had expanded to include new scientists looking at different species groups.
Cephalopods (for example, octopuses), echinoderms (including sea stars) and gastropods (including sea slugs) will all be studied and collected on this trip.
Other scientists who made the trip to Lizard last time have returned to examine new areas and new habitats to expand their knowledge of life in the area.
The project is part of the international Census of Marine Life (http://www.coml.org/), and is being used to establish a baseline about what lives on coral reefs – information that will prove invaluable to future study.
The three locations for the CReefs Australia trips were chosen because of their diverse locations and impressive marine life.
Lizard Island is on the northern edge of the Great Barrier Reef, while Heron is near the southern end. Ningaloo is off the coast of Western Australia.
The current expedition will be on the island for three weeks.