New eyes on northern waters
In the ocean off the Pilbara and Kimberley coasts, a new array of moored buoys, ocean gliders and acoustic listening stations are busy gathering data for use by scientists, managers and decision makers.
Part of the Western Australian Integrated Marine Observing System, these new measurements have come about through State Government investment of $6M over three years.
The state-of-the-art equipment is being operated by the University of Western Australia, Curtin University, and the Australian Institute of Marine Science. These three organisations, and seven others around the nation, are working collaboratively to create a national Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS), funded by the Australian Government.
Science and Innovation Minister John Day today welcomed the marine research being undertaken using the Western Australian Integrated Marine Observing System with $6million in assistance over three years from the Liberal-National Government.
Minister Day said access to better information about our oceans would ensure the sustainable management of the waters off the coast of WA for future generations.
“The ocean off WA influences our climate and weather on a daily basis. It also contains valuable fisheries, oil and gas reserves and unique marine biodiversity that attract tourists from across the world,” Mr Day said.
“The State Government’s $6million investment will go a long way to provide research infrastructure that will enable the State’s world-class marine and ocean scientists to generate new insights and understanding.
“This investment by the Western Australian Government is a fantastic development” says Mr Tim Moltmann, Director of IMOS. “The system has been operating in the west for some time, but funding limitations have restricted us to an area from about Perth to Ningaloo Reef. So this new infrastructure closes a big and very important gap.”
Working off its Research Vessel Solander, the Australian Institute of Marine Science is operating moored buoys at four sites near Broome on the Kimberley coast, in water depths from 50 to 400 metres. The buoys have sensors measuring ocean temperature, salinity, currents and water quality. Another three mooring sites are being operated near Dampier on the Pilbara coast, at depths of 50 to 200 metres. The Kimberley moorings lie along the path of an orbiting satellite which measures the height of the ocean surface, adding further power to the observing system. Data obtained from all of the moorings will be used to improve numerical models of the ocean, used by scientists and managers in Government and industry.
The University of Western Australia is operating ocean gliders along the Kimberley and Pilbara mooring lines. These ocean ‘robots’ are piloted from the offices of the Australian National Facility for Ocean Gliders on the University’s Crawley Campus. Gliders descend to the ocean floor then come back to the surface, beam the data home via satellite, then continue on their mission for up to a month at a time. They provide an unprecedented level of information about the three dimensional structure on the ocean below the surface, and have the potential to revolutionise understanding of ocean processes.
Later this year, Curtin University will deploy acoustic listening stations to provide new information on a range of ocean phenomena, including movements of whales and fish.