Monitoring Australia's oceans

As climate change and over-fishing take their toll on ocean ecosystems, an ambitious new five-year project is underway to monitor physical ocean changes and track the movement of sea creatures around Australia.

The $94 million Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS), headquartered at the University of Tasmania, will use a battery of high-tech instruments and infrastructure to monitor Australia’s coastal and ‘bluewater’ open oceans for information that will support research on critical marine issues facing Australia, including the role of oceans in climate variability and change, and the sustainability of marine ecosystems.

Among the instruments to be used are:

  • A fleet of Argo robotic floats, to measure temperature, salinity and currents in the upper 2000 m of ocean;
  • High frequency coastal radars to observe inshore currents;
  • A fleet of ‘gliders’ – autonomous underwater vehicles – to monitor boundary currents such as the Leeuwin and East Australian currents;
  • Lines or ‘listening curtains’ of acoustic receivers to monitor the movement, mortality and predator-prey interactions of fish tagged with acoustic transmitters, off the coasts of Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales;
  • Shallow water moorings around the country to measure temperature, salinity and other ocean properties.

IMOS Director, Dr Gary Meyers, said the technology will be delivered through 11 facilities, including Argo Australia, the Australian Coastal Ocean Radar Network, and the Australian Acoustic Tagging and Monitoring System. Information will be channelled through eMarine Information Infrastructure, based at the University of Tasmania, and will be freely available to researchers.

IMOS is being run in collaboration with CSIRO and involves 27 partners from Australian and international research institutions. Australian Antarctic Division scientists will contribute to the project through their involvement in related marine science activities, such as the Australian continuous plankton recorder survey.

The project is supported by $55.2 million from the Australian Government’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy and a further $39 million from in-kind partner contributions.

WENDY PYPER, Information Services, AAD