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April 2005 National Research Flagship www.csiro.au/wealthfromoceans

Exploring our ocean frontiers

RV Southern Surveyor
RV Southern Surveyor

In July, the RV Southern Surveyor will embark on the first of two four-week ocean expeditions off the West Australian coast to deliver up the secrets of its unknown deep underwater region. This ‘Voyage of Discovery’ is a major Wealth from Oceans Flagship initiative that aims to characterise seabed (benthic) ecosystems on the continental shelf and slope at water depths of 100 to 1500 metres. The outcomes of the Voyage will increase our understanding of the evolution and biogeography of Australia’s deep benthic fauna and support implementation of the SW Regional Marine Plan and development of Commonwealth Marine Protected Areas by the Department of Environment and Heritage.  

Below the surface 

Several reference sites will be mapped and surveyed off the south western coast of Western Australia between Perth and Albany, together with some comparative sites between Perth and Dampier. Acoustic (multibeam sonar) and video-based methods will be used to map and film seabed habitats, and a variety of sleds and grabs used to collect animals. Seabed habitats in this region have not been mapped previously and their benthic invertebrate fauna (including the crustaceans, corals, echinoderms, sponges and molluscs) is largely unknown.

Examples of benthic fauna. L to R: Sea urchin, Mantis shrimp, Snake star and Solitary coral

Examples of benthic fauna. L to R: Sea urchin, Mantis shrimp, Snake star and Solitary coral. Photos courtesy of Karen Gowlett-Holmes, CSIRO Marine Research, taken on the NORFANZ Tasman Sea voyage, 2003

Research applications

These surveys will provide the first large-scale and systematic collections of deep benthic invertebrates from the South West region and enable comparison to existing faunal collections at regional and international scales. The surveys will be an opportunity to test and refine CSIRO’s methods for mapping deep water benthic ecosystems, enhancing their application to natural resource management at a national scale.

The project team includes scientists from CSIRO Marine Research, Geoscience Australia and several of Australia’s museums, and will have input from international taxonomic experts.  Stay tuned for further developments about the ‘Voyage of Discovery’ which will be highlighted in this newsletter later in the year. 


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Meet the Scientist

About this email

The Wealth from Oceans Flagship is a CSIRO initiative and part of the National Research Flagships program that aims to deliver scientific solutions to advance Australia's most important national objectives. One of the largest scientific initiatives ever mounted in Australia, it aligns closely with the Federal Government's National Research Priorities. The initiative brings together our national research resources to deliver breakthroughs in fields ranging from healthcare to light metals and the environment.

Wealth from Oceans Flagship

Editor: Sylvia Bell
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Phone: +61 2 9490 8006
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