AMSA Conference puts national spotlight on WA marine science

The Western Australian Marine Science Institute (WAMSI) was proud to convene a  symposium on the integration of science in support of management in the Kimberley at the 54th Australian Marine Sciences Association (AMSA) Conference, in Darwin, Northern Territory on the 2nd–6th July 2017.

The annual conference attracted more than 300 delegates from a broad marine science community of academics, industry and government scientists, as well as postgraduate students and traditional owners from around the region to discuss issues currently facing Australia’s marine and coastal environment.

Dr Stuart Field, Kimberley session convenor and WAMSI’s Kimberley Marine Research Program Node Leader, explained the conference worked to strengthen collaboration between marine science disciplines; traditional and western knowledge; and Australia and its regional neighbours.

“The AMSA Conference provides a vital platform for marine scientists to engage with researchers in their chosen discipline and to present their own research to the broader marine science and natural resource management community,” Dr Field said.

Dr Field also emphasised the importance of the WAMSI convened Kimberley session.

“The Kimberley session allowed us to showcase the important research that is being undertaken in the Kimberley to underpin the management of the natural values of the region,” he explained. “Exposure to a range of other large research programs at the conference provided an opportunity to see the other examples of the integration of science into management from around Australia.”

On the Friday, Dr Field and Danial Oades, representing the WAMSI Kimberley Indigenous Saltwater Science Project, presented at the Indigenous Engagement Workshop providing a forum to discuss the building of productive relationships between traditional owners and researchers.

“The workshop was a great opportunity for researchers and Traditional Owners to share both positive and negative experiences associated with marine research being conducted on Country and to further the understanding of the best practice for working with Traditional Owners,” Dr Field said.

The latest WAMSI research was presented by a number of scientists, including:



  1. Jim Underwood: Expect the unexpected: remarkable genetic divergence among and within the wild coral reefs of the Kimberley
  2. Stuart Field: The Kimberley Marine Research Program – Integrating Science into marine conservation management.
  3. Halina Kobryn: Evaluating conflict potential in the marine and coastal areas of the Kimberley region through public participation GIS
  4. Hector Lozano: Integrated land-sea modelling of the Kimberley
  5. Ming Feng: Climate drivers of marine heatwaves off the Kimberley coast.
  6. Peter Bayliss: Integrating Indigenous knowledge and survey techniques to develop a baseline for dugong management in the Kimberley
  7. Verena Schoepf: Will Corals from the naturally extreme Kimberley Region be able to cope with Climate Change?
  8. Michele Thums: Modelling the spatial distribution of humpback whales in the Kimberley region of Western Australia
  9. Lynnath Beckley: Is the Kimberley coast still a pristine wilderness?
  10. PEP – Oliver Berry: Going with the flow: genomic insights into ecological connectivity in the Kimberley Presented by Jim Underwoood


  1. Rebecca Fisher: Accounting for opposing objectives and environmental uncertainty in deriving thresholds for managing dredging impacts near coral reefs.
  2. Pia Bessell-Browne: Cumulative impacts: thermally bleached corals have reduced capacity to clear deposited sediment


  1. Zoe Richards: The Kimberley – Australia’s great unsung coral sanctuary
  2. Kathryn McMahon: Patterns in diversity of seagrasses in the tropical Indian Ocean
  3. PEP – Oliver Berry: Complex ocean currents promote adaptive diversification and lower dispersal in a tropical reef fish from north-western Australia. Presented by Mike Travers
  4. Ryan Lowe: Oceanic drivers of reef heat budgets in northwestern Australia: the role of tides on regional and reef-scales
  5. PEP  – Matthew Adams: Identifying robust bioindicators for seagrass light stress over several timescales. Presented by Kathryn McMahon

AMSA2017 Abstracts –

AMSA is Australia’s peak professional marine science body, with over 800 active members across the nation. Conference website


Attached files: 

PDF iconAMSA program 2017.pdf


Kimberley Marine Research Program

Understanding the ‘impact’ of the Ningaloo Research Program

On Friday 4 August Dr Chris Cvitanovic, an Interdisciplinary Research Fellow in the Centre for Marine Socio-ecology at The University of Tasmania, presented his research evaluating the impact of the Ningaloo Research Program, an extensive program of marine research conducted through the Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) and the CSIRO Wealth From Oceans program between 2006 and 2011.  

The Ningaloo Reef is Australia’s largest fringing coral reef, extending across 300 kilometres of coastline between Exmouth and Carnarvon in Western Australia. This area is a global biodiversity hotspot and in 2011 was inscribed on the World Heritage List in recognition of the ‘outstanding universal value of the area’. It is also a premier tourist destination, a key service point for oil and gas development and exploration, and supports two permanent communities in Exmouth and Coral Bay.

Given the multiple and competing uses of the region, in 2004 the Western Australian Government allocated $5 million for research to support the management of the Ningaloo Marine Park. This program was then incorporated into the broader WAMSI research program in 2006 and grew in value to $36 million of research funding over ten years.  
In this talk, Dr Cvitanovic will present two of the key impacts that have resulted from the Ningaloo Research Program.  

Dr Cvitanovic’s presentation provides an overview of the new scientific knowledge that has emerged from the program that can support the ongoing management of the region. He also presented the results of his current research that explores how the Ningaloo Research Program has enhanced trust between the local Ningaloo communities and WA Parks and Wildlife service, and how this can be leveraged to further engage local communities in the management of the region.   

This is where the link will jump to

Link to presentation:

Cvitanovic C, Understanding the ‘impact’ of the Ningaloo Research Program WAMSI Presentation at Parks and Wildlife, Kensington (4 August 2017) (Presentation Audio) (Presentation Slides)


Dr Chris Cvitanovic is an Interdisciplinary Research Fellow in the Centre for Marine Socio-ecology at The University of Tasmania.  His research is focused on maximising the real world impacts of scientific research by enhancing knowledge exchange among scientists and decision-makers and improving public engagement in science.  In doing so Chris draws on almost ten years of experience working at the interface of science and policy for the Australian Government Department of Environment, and then as a Knowledge Broker in CSIROs Climate Adaptation Flagship.

Kimberley Marine Research Program Lunch and Learn sessions scheduled for 2017

For more information, or to RSVP, please contact Kelly Waples, Science Coordinator, Kimberley Marine Research Program

Rare soft corals feature in Kimberley photographic field guide

More than 90 images, giving a glimpse into the rare soft coral gardens of Australia’s remote northwest, have been compiled in a photographic field guide by Dr Monika Bryce of the Western Australian Museum.

Octocoral (non reef-building coral) specimens collected on five expeditions conducted in 2015 and 2016 in and around Camden Sound, Maret Island, Eclipse Islands and Lynher Bank have been identified and the species are characterised in the guide.

The locations for investigation by the Western Australian Marine Science Institution’s Benthic Biodiversity project team were selected with the WA marine park initiatives in mind, in particular Lalang-garram/Camden Sound Marine Park and the North Kimberley Marine Park in the Cape Bougainville-Cape Londonderry region.

The ship based surveys focussed on the deeper areas, from around 12-100m below low tide, where little information is available from previous Kimberley studies. Samples were also taken in nearshore areas at low tide reef walks and sediment grabs.

The guide is designed to walk scientists through the characters they require to identify species of octocorals. It features images of the octocoral species, and the sclerites that form their skeletons which are used to determine species identifications.


Chironephthya sp. 2  Chironephthya sp. 2  sclerites (that form their skeletons)


“The simplicity of the guide belies the complex taxonomic science that underpins it, and the enormous amount of time it has taken Monika to identify the 92 species presented in it,” Dr Jane Fromont, Head of Department of Aquatic Zoology at the Western Australian Museum said.

Video of sponge gardens at Nick’s Rock.

“There are rich sponge and octocoral gardens in the Kimberley and this guide gives a snapshot of the octocoral biodiversity.

“This is the first identification guide of octocorals of the Kimberley region,” Dr Fromont said. “As a new resource into a virtually unknown fauna it will be incredibly useful to researchers attempting to identify these animals. It also provides general estimates of abundance and rarity, and the habitats where the animals are found, and is therefore important for managers of the region.”



Ultimately all available data will be drawn together to provide an overview of the large scale trends in habitats along the Kimberley including:

  • A habitat map identifying the major seabed habitat types throughout the Kimberley.
  • A better understanding and appreciation of the importance of marine biodiversity in the Kimberley (including number of species and identification of species new to science and/or new to the region)
  • An improved ability to plan and manage marine protected areas in the Kimberley.


“The Kimberley is an increasingly active, multiple-use marine region, with a growing need for accessible environmental and socio-economic information,” WAMSI Benthic Biodiversity Project leader, Dr Andrew Heyward (AIMS) said. “These are voyages of discovery, which is inherently exciting for the scientists. We expect the project will reveal much about life on the seabed in this region and make a useful contribution to planning and management.”

WAMSI’s joint venture partners, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, CSIRO, Curtin University and Tradional Owners also supported the fieldwork and provided laboratory facilities.

The Octocoral Field Guide, Kimberley, Western Australia can be found at:

The $30 million Kimberley Marine Research Program is funded through major investment supported by $12 million from the Western Australian government’s Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy co-invested by the WAMSI partners and supported by the Traditional Owners of the Kimberley.



Dredging Science

Counting cows of the sea in The Kimberley

A three year Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) project has seen CSIRO researchers form long-term partnerships with Indigenous coastal communities to share knowledge and skills in the gathering of data on dugong densities and movements.

Click here to read the full story on the CSIRO ECOS blog


Kimberley Marine Research Program