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The challenge

Accurate and precise chemical analysis of oceanographic and coastal waters.

Quantifying the composition of seawaters allows us to understand our marine environment on the molecular scale, which leads to enhanced environmental knowledge – important for Australia as a nation with strong connections to its coasts and oceans.

Our hydrochemistry teams' methods for making seawater measurements are consistent with the world's best practice, and the instrumentation we use is state-of-the-art. Our data is used to build real-world spatial models over long periods of time, with which scientific hypotheses can be tried and tested.

The three water parameters that we specialise in are vital in gaining a basic understanding of an ocean's movement, health and ecology. These measurements are fundamental in understanding anything marine related, which is why our specialist analyses is standard for oceanographic research.

Salinity measurements are valuable to science as they are one of the best proxies for 'finger-printing' a water mass. Salinity also provides valuable insights in to whether the world's oceans are becoming fresher or saltier as the climate changes.

Dissolved oxygen is a key measurement for understanding how well marine life can survive in the ocean, as oxygen is necessary for aerobic organisms. As oxygen in the oceans decreases as marine life consume it, oxygen measurements can identify the age of water bodies, and allow distinguishing of different water masses.

Nutrients, also known as dissolved inorganic macro nutrients (Nitrate, Nitrite, Phosphate, Silicate, Ammonium) are often called the building blocks for life. Nutrients act as the primary food source for the ocean's smallest organisms, phytoplankton. Accurate measurement of these nutrients provides biologists with real data of the food available in the ocean, and an indication of where the food is coming from.

CSIRO researchers can accurately measure chemicals and compounds in water with hydrochemistry.

Tracking of nutrients in the ocean helps us to understand where a phytoplankton bloom might occur. Near shore phytoplankton blooms pose a toxicity risk to humans and can have disastrous effects on the fisheries and aquaculture industries. Open ocean nutrient and phytoplankton analysis is also used to better understand the oceanic biogeochemical carbon pump, which will be directly affected by climate change.

Our response

World's best practice in marine analytical chemistry

We work with the leading Australian oceanographic research organisations (such as Marine National Facility, Integrated Marine Observing System, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, Australian Antarctic Division and Australian Institute of Marine Science), many universities and environmental consultants to help them achieve their research objectives.

In turn, our hydrochemistry team strives for continual improvement in our capabilities and areas of expertise, leading to improved methodologies for sampling and analysis and higher quality data.

Staff attend annual training events, participate in international proficiency testing, collaborate with institutions around the world, and contribute to the discussion on world's best practice analysis techniques among the international oceanographic community. We have published a methods paper for our nutrient analysis in Limnology and Oceanography, and worked with international organisations to compare methods for seawater nutrient analysis through a collaborative voyage onboard the RV Investigator.

This work is looking towards reducing the variability between nutrient data-sets worldwide – currently identified as a very important task within the oceanographic community.

A CTD instrument (or rosette) is retrieved from under the ocean where it measures conductivity, temperature and pressure of seawater (depth).

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