Season’s Greetings 🌲

WAMSI Bulletin December 2018

Scientists create Perth Fish book for schools

Amazing fish facts that help to explain the serious side of Western Australia’s marine environment and why it’s so important to protect it, as well as a species identification guide for young explorers are all in a new book available free to schools.

Written and compiled by fish ecologists Dr Dianne McLean and Research Assistant Michael Taylor and published by The University of Western Australia’s Oceans Institute, the book explains everything from the cultural significance of the ocean, to its diversity and abundance of marine life all interspersed with fun facts and beautiful images.

The researchers are providing free copies to schools in an effort to engage primary and secondary children in marine science by developing knowledge and promoting an appreciation of fish life off our coast.


Above: Coco Stacey (13), Alex (6) and Chloe McLean (8) put their Perth fish questions to Dr Dianne McLean and Mike Taylor


“I am hoping the book grows a love of the ocean in children and a desire to be in it and on it. That, like me, they like learning about all the different fish species and what makes each one unique,” Dianne said.

The species identificaton guide includes biological illustrations by Michael Taylor and Juliet Corley, as well as photographs and statistics on 106 different species.

“There is a lot of interesting information throughout the book, but the real star for me is the identification guide,” Michael said. “Photographers from around Australia donated some great images for it, and I hope that the children who come to look through it will start to recognise and learn about the fish that they see when they go out into the ocean.”

The researchers plan to visit schools in 2019 to get feedback and develop resources with teachers.

Schools can access hard copies of the book through the Western Australian Marine Science Institution by emailing

A PDF of the book is available for download here.


About the authors:

Dr Dianne McLean started with Australian Institute of Marine Science in WA as a fish ecologist in 2018 having previously been with UWA for more than 14 years. Dianne’s research focusses on the impact of oil and gas infrastructure on fish and fisheries.

Michael Taylor is a Research Assistant with the Fish Ecology Group the within the School of Biological Sciences at The University of Western Australia’s Oceans Institute

Perth Fish book authors Mike Taylor and Dr Dianne McLean



Sticky sediments and low sperm increase risk to coral fertilisation

Coral fertilisation is most sensitive to sticky inshore sediments according to researchers working to define the effects of dredging-related pressures and natural high turbidity events.

The Western Australian Marine Science Institution Dredging Science Node study, published in Marine Pollution Bulletin, involved a team of scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), The University of Western Australia and James Cook University. It analysed a range of realistic mineral and organic compositions to try to determine what combination is most likely to affect coral fertilisation success.

The research, which spanned a five-year period and eight mass spawning events, identified various characteristics that make sediment ‘bind’ to coral sperm, preventing contact and fertilisation of the eggs.

Lead researcher Dr Gerard Ricardo (AIMS) explained that collecting data to assess the risk of many sediment types to coral fertilisation was difficult because corals only spawn a few times per year.

“We needed to work long into the night whenever the opportunity arose that the corals spawned,” Dr Ricardo said. “It was a massive effort from everyone who helped and volunteered, and we have benefited greatly from having access to incredible facilities like the National Sea Simulator (Seasim) at AIMS in Townsville.”

The researchers found that sediments high in ‘sticky’ components, such as mineral clays and mucous-like products of microorganisms, had the greatest impact on coral fertilisation, whereas less cohesive sediments had relatively lower impacts.


Coral sperm (blue) bound to fine sediment grains are incapable of fertilising eggs (Image: Gerard Ricardo)


The study also discovered that fertilisation success was most vulnerable to sediments when sperm concentrations were low. Lower sperm concentrations are likely to occur as coral populations become more degraded.

“Healthy reefs are at a lower risk of sediment impacting fertilisation success because even if some sperm are lost, there should be sufficient sperm to fertilise the eggs,” Dr Ricardo said. “As reefs become more degraded and there are fewer reproducing adults, this leads to lower sperm concentrations which may increase the risk of fertilisation impacts by sediments.”

The study provides a number of sediment-specific ‘thresholds’ that can be used by regulators and industry to assess whether dredging at a given location poses a risk to coral fertilisation and the ongoing health of nearby coral populations.


Ricardo G, Jones R, Clode P, Humanes A, Giofre N, Negri A. (2018) Sediment characteristics influence the fertilisation success of the corals Acropora tenuis and Acropora millepora. Marine Pollution Bulletin

WAMSI Dredging Science Node – Dredging Pressures on Coral project page.


The WAMSI Dredging Science Node is made possible through $9.5 million invested by Woodside, Chevron and BHP as environmental offsets. A further $9.5 million has been co-invested by the WAMSI Joint Venture partners, adding significantly more value to this initial industry investment. The node is also supported through critical data provided by Chevron, Woodside and Rio Tinto Iron Ore.


Dredging Science

Legacy funding for earth observation

A consortium of state and federal departments and universities that set up an automated satellite tracking station to record earth observations has gifted more than $280,000 in legacy funds to further remote sensing knowledge in Western Australia.

Western Australian Satellite Technology and Applications Consortium (WASTAC) was set up in 1989 to establish, operate and maintain an automated satellite tracking station to receive, process and archive remotely sensed data from satellites including NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. The satellites are used in a range of activities including weather forecasting and mapping the impact of human activity and natural disasters on communities and ecosystems. 

In 2016, the WASTAC Board reviewed its role and relevance after 30 years of operation, resulting in an agreement to fund a new reception dish capability in North Western Australia, and transfer the ongoing operations to the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM). 

The consortium has now been wound up (31 Dec 2018), with the satellite reception function that was undertaken by WASTAC, now transferred to the BoM  in Learmonth, WA. The new Learmonth capability will be integrated into a national ground station network coordinated by the Australian National Ground Segment Technical Team.  

WASTAC also supported the aims of the Australian Satellite Utilisation Policy through the creation of a website that publishes the reception schedules from all government operated earth observation satellite receiving stations ( 

The third priority for the WASTAC Board was to support projects that foster collaboration, and invest in sustainable research, education on earth observation for Western Australia and to support national strategic capability. This will be achieved through a legacy fund administered by the Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) and its terrestrial counterpart The Western Australian Biodiversity Science Institute (WABSI). The $280,000 in legacy funds will be used to:

  1. Build capacity in the earth observation (EO) community in Western Australia through the support of research and education opportunities;
  2. Strengthen the research and education opportunities for the Western Australian EO community;
  3. Strengthen the link between research outcomes and operational outputs for EO initiatives;
  4. Expand funding opportunities and linkages for Western Australian EO research and education;
  5. Support capacity building and professional development opportunities in the Western Australian EO community;
  6. Support the definition of data access and delivery standards requirements for the Western Australian EO community; and
  7. Provide a mechanism for coordination and targeting of research and development efforts to support applications of EO data for Western Australia and in a national context.

WAMSI CEO Luke Twomey welcomed the funding announcement saying that satellite remote sensing is an important aspect for global change research in Western Australia.

“From a marine science perspective, Western Australia’s vast and largely isolated coastline is difficult to access and so remote sensing is playing an ever-increasing role in our ability to gather information about those environments and to monitor any changes,” Dr Twomey said. “The funding from WASTAC will allow us to support new initiatives and will help to improve existing applications using earth observation data.” 

A selection committee will be established in 2019 to outline the criteria for applications and administration of the awards.

WAMSI appoints Research Director

The Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) has welcomed Dr Jenny Shaw to the team as Research Director to manage the development of the Blueprint for Marine Science priorities.

In the lead up to major investment in the next projects for WAMSI, Dr Shaw (Jenny) will be working to determine stakeholder questions on issues, synthesis of existing knowledge including collation of data and the determination of researchable management questions resulting in a science plan to address residual gaps.

Jenny has had a long association with WAMSI prior to coming from Department of Mines, Industry, Regulation and Safety. In 2017 Jenny was the lead author on a review of Western Australian stakeholder views and science priorities on decommissioning offshore infrastructure.

In 2014, she won multiple awards for the Abrolhos PhotoVoice project and the ‘Seeing Change’ exhibitions. The PhotoVoice project showcased a fishing community’s experience of environmental and social change as seen through the lens of a camera. The project highlighted the issues affecting the Abrolhos Islands, the rock lobster fishing industry and the Island community over a five to ten year period. It was a successful collaboration between the Western Australian Marine Science Institution, Curtin University, WA Department of Fisheries, FRDC, Coastwest, the Northern Agricultural Catchments Council, the WA Museum, ABC Open,  and of course, the Abrolhos Islands fishing community.

 Jenny was an inaugural Director and foundation member of the Women’s Industry Network Seafood Community and was recently acknowledged as a life member for outstanding service to the organisation since its inception. In October this year she was inducted into the inaugural Women’s Honour Roll for Women in Seafood Australasia (WISA).

“Jenny is a proven high achiever with extensive experience performing a broad range of high level roles in stakeholder engagement, transdisciplinary knowledge brokering, research, management, and policy,” WAMSI CEO Dr Luke Twomey said. Her extensive experience in both Government and the private sector and her demonstrated practical experience and published theoretical knowledge will help to strengthen WAMSI’s capability to facilitate collaborations that will respond to the science priorities for the state. We welcome Jenny aboard and look forward to a constructive year ahead.” 

New WAMSI Chair

Mr Bruce Lake will take over as interim Chair of the Western Australian Marine Research Institution (WAMSI) from 1 January 2019.

Bruce Lake is currently Director and previous Chair of the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) and was a member of the Premier’s Roundtable discussions to guide the foundation of a long-term collaboration between all sectors operating in WA’s marine environment.

Mr Lake joined the WAMSI Board in 2017 and has some 40 years’ experience in the oil and gas industry in Australia and New Zealand in engineering, operational and management roles both onshore and offshore for a broad range of operating companies including majors and Australian independents.

Mr Lake succeeds Mr Peter Millington who steps down as Chair of the Governing Board, having been associated with WAMSI since its foundation.

Over the past 12 months Mr Millington has helped to guide the joint venture partnership Board through the startup of WAMSI’s third business cycle following the State Government’s decision to invest in the implementation of the Blueprint for Marine Science 2050. He has also overseen the completion of the Kimberley Marine Research Program, the Dredging Science Node.

Before taking up the appointment as WAMSI Chair, Peter was Chief Executive Officer at WA’s chemical and forensic science services provider, ChemCentre, after moving from the Department of Fisheries where he instituted a series of reforms to take WA’s fisheries into the future.

A well known figure in the Western Australian marine science field, Peter is also a Board Member of the Ear Science Institute of Australia.