WASTAC Small Research Grants


The Western Australian Satellite Technology and Applications Consortium (WASTAC) was comprised of state and federal departments and universities whose main objectives were to maintain a reliable, comprehensive and accessible archive of NOAA-AVHRR MODIS and SeaWiFS satellite data. WASTAC had a strong focus on information exchange to broaden public awareness of the available data sets and applications.


In 2018, the WASTAC agreement expired and the parties agreed to disband. The assets were distributed to the Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) to be held and applied to achieve the following common objectives:       

  1. To enhance the contribution of strategic scientific and technological research and innovation to Australia’s sustainable environmental, social and economic development
  2. To enhance the transfer of research outputs into outcomes of economic, environmental and social benefit to Western Australia
  3. To enhance collaboration among and between researchers and industry, and improve efficiency in the use of intellectual and other research resources.  

To that end, WAMSI is seeking expressions of interest in research proposals in accordance with the following principals:

  1. Small scale projects with additional, in-kind support.
  2. Undergraduate student project support.
  3. PhD top-up scholarship/project grants.
  • The WASTAC Small Research Grants are not intended to be student grants for students to apply, rather it is intended that supervisors apply on behalf of their students.
  • Preference will be given to PhD top-ups associated with new programs or extensions to existing programs, assessed through the WASTAC Small Research Grant awards.
  • Applications for PhD top-ups for existing programs, where the program is not assessed under the WASTAC Small Research Awards, will only be considered with very strong justification.
  1. Visiting research expertise – travel/training program.
  2. Research amenities – access to data/expertise support for relevant projects.
  3. Operationalise research outcomes.
  4. Improve existing applications using earth observation (EO) data.

Key Dates

 Call for Applications

 23 April 2020

 Applications Close

 24 May 2020, 5.00 pm AWST

 Awards Announced

 June 2020

 *Dates are subject to change pending government instruction on COVID-19


Conditions of Award and Application Form (click here)


For more information contact info@WAMSI.org.au


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Attached files: 

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Five-Year Study Quantifies How Sediment and Light Affect Coral

Results from the culmination of five-years of groundbreaking research to understand how dredging and sediments affects corals have been released in a new paper published in Scientific Reports.

One of the main themes of the $19-million Dredging Science Node, facilitated by the Western Australian Marine Science Institution partnership, describes the primary cause-effect pathway and how to establish a quantitative relationship between water quality and coral health.

Node Leader (Science) Dr Ross Jones from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) said the paper Responses of corals to chronic turbidity, is the 18th and final journal article of the effects of dredging on adult and juvenile corals, and sponges carried out by AIMS during the WAMSI Dredging Science Node.

“The sediment plumes from dredging can travel many kilometres, are quite spectacular and are a visible manifestation of the ‘hazard’ associated with dredging,” Dr Jones said. “The study translates that hazard into a risk, showing negative effects are much more localised allowing a much better understanding of the spatial effects associated with dredging.”

Satellite image from the United States geological Survey Operational Land Imager showing sediment plumes caused by dredging and dredge material placement near Onslow in the Pilbara region of Western Australia  (courtesy of Mark Broomhall and Peter Fearns (Curtin University of technology, Perth WA) 


Sediments are resuspended into the water column by dredging and dredging activities and the increase in water cloudiness, reduces underwater light levels. This is an issue for hard corals that derive a lot of their energy from the photosynthesis of the symbiotic algae that live within their tissues.

Although the hazard of light reduction caused by dredging was first identified in the 1970s, it has never really advanced beyond that initial hazard identification. This has led to a great deal of uncertainty for regulators and dredging proponents.

“This study is the first to quantify how a combination or elevated suspended sediment concentrations and the associated reduction in light affects the health of corals,” Dr Jones said.

“Importantly, when compared to the conditions that have been measured during dredging projects, the study shows effects are probable, albeit close to the dredging activity,” he explained. “The numbers that have been derived can be used to predict what will happen and hence act as a guide for management intervention and, if necessary, varying the intensity of dredging.”


AIMS technician and coauthor Natalie Giofre monitors corals in the AIMS SeaSim lab


Jones R, Giofre N, Luter H, Neoh TL, Fisher R, Duckworth A (2020) Responses of corals to chronic turbidity. Scientific Reports https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-61712-w


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

Warming and Higher Rainfall Could Be a Recipe for Phytoplankton Success

Historical records from seabed sediment cores have revealed that the warming climate and increased rainfall in Australia’s North West could in fact be creating ideal conditions for the increased production of phytoplankton, one of nature’s most important indicators of ocean health.

The findings from the study: Phytoplankton Responses to Climate‐Induced Warming and Interdecadal Oscillation in North‐Western Australia, published in the journal Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology, are the first to confirm these patterns.

The sediment cores were collected as part of the Western Australian Marine Science Institution’s Kimberley Marine Research Program from three bays along the Kimberley coastline, including Roebuck Bay off Broome, Koolama Bay off King George River, and Cygnet Bay in King Sound.


Above: Sediment cores were collected from 3 bays – Roebuck Bay off Broome, Koolama Bay off King George River, and Cygnet Bay in King Sound.  


Lead researcher Dr John Keesing from CSIRO’s Ocean and Atmosphere said the results were surprising given that warming of the ocean had been forecast to reduce phytoplankton productivity in tropical/subtropical oceans, through increasing stratification of the water column, locking deep-water nutrients away from productive surface layers, and through temperatures exceeding the thermal tolerance of some phytoplankton species.

“What we found is that up to three times more phytoplankton biomass has been produced since the 1950s along a large section of the Kimberley coast,” Dr Keesing said. “The majority of that can be linked with climate change induced increases in sea surface temperature, strong tidal mixing of coastal waters and increased rainfall creating improved nutrient supply conditions, feeding phytoplankton growth and production in shallow coastal waters.”


Above: John Keesing obtaining cores in the Kimberley with the assistance from Traditional Owners from Kalumburu and Wyndham


The study also found that 20.4 per cent of the variation in phytoplankton biomass was related to long-term changes in the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) which has an important influence on coastal nutrient supply. The positive, or warm phase of the IPO, is associated with a weaker Indonesian Through Flow (ITF) current , which enhances upwelling, a process which brings nutrients from deep water to shallow coastal waters. The present, negative or cool phase of the IPO has the opposite effect, with a strong ITF suppressing upwelling and restricting nutrient supply from the deep ocean.

“We predict that the negative impact of rising temperatures on phytoplankton in northwestern Australia could be buffered by increasing rainfall, perhaps associated with more tropical cyclones, evolutionary adaptation of local phytoplankton species to warm conditions and the upcoming warm phase of Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation,” Dr Keesing said.


Yuan Z, Liu D, Masqué P, Zhao M, Song X, Keesing J K (2020) Phytoplankton Responses to Climate‐Induced Warming and Interdecadal Oscillation in North‐Western Australia. Paleoceaonography and Paleoclimatology doi:10.1029/2019PA003712


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


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Kimberley Marine Research Program

Chief’s advice for women in science

Always say yes to an opportunity and work out the details later. That was the advice handed out by CSIRO Chief Scientist Dr Cathy Foley at a keynote International Women’s Day address to marine scientists in Perth.

The event, organised by institutions at the Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre, saw more than 100 scientists and support staff come together for a series of lightning talks and Dr Foley’s views on why and how to have women in the mix.

Dr Foley, who was appointed to the role of Chief Scientist at the national research agency in August 2018, says when more women work, economies grow so it makes good economic sense.

“Statistics show that businesses with women senior executives are 15 per cent more likely to financially outperform their counterparts,” Dr Foley said. “Nationally, closing the gender gap would boost GDP by 11 per cent and increasing the number of women in leadership positions would boost economic activity by 20 per cent.”


CSIRO Chief Scientist Cathy Foley addresses marine scientists and support staff at the Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre IWD2020 symposium


The statistics also reveal that women in their late 30’s to early 40s are most at risk.

“When women reach their late 30’s to early 40s that’s when we tend to see the split between those who continue a steady path to build on their successes and those whose career stalls, and the problem is complex.“

On the topic of how to empower women to get their career trajectory back on track, Dr Foley handed out some personal advice.

“Women can’t ask directly for resources or opportunity without been considered inappropriate.” Dr Foley said. “So I say feel free to tell your employer: ‘I was speaking with CSIRO Chief Scientist Cathy Foley and she advised me to ask you ….’ I have seen it work!”

A panel discussion with Dr Foley, UWA Oceans Institute Director Dr Peter Veth, Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) CEO Dr Luke Twomey, Director of CSIRO Oceans, Atmosphere Dr Tony Worby and Dr Karen Miller from the Australian Institute of Marine Science opened up a discussion on promoting opportunity.

Panel members Dr Worby and Dr Twomey highlighted that CSIRO and WAMSI had achieved institutional goals to have equal gender representation on both executive teams and boards.


IWD2020 Panel members address questions:  (L-R)  – CSIRO Chief Scientist Cathy Foley, UWA Oceans Institute Director Dr Peter Veth, Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) CEO Dr Luke Twomey, Director of CSIRO Oceans, Atmosphere Dr Tony Worby and Dr Karen Miller from the Australian Institute of Marine Science.


IWD2020 three-minute lightning talk presenters


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Western Australia’s largest marine environmental information database

Western Australia’s capability to respond to environmental pressures including marine heatwaves, oil spills and fish kills, has been significantly improved by the development of a ground-breaking initiative that will see hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of government and industry survey information made publicly available.

The Index of Marine Surveys for Assessments (IMSA) portal was launched last night by the Minister for Water; Forestry; Innovation and ICT; Science; Youth; the Hon Dave Kelly MLA.


(L-R) Minister for Science Hon. Dave Kelly MLA, WAMSI CEO Luke Twomey, Executive Director DWER Nygarie Goyal, EPA Chair Tom Hatton, Executive Director Pawsey Supercomputing Centre  Mark Stickells and WAMSI Chair Paul Vogel at the launch of IMSA



The new online platform, developed by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) and the Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI), provides the first free access to vast amounts of environmental impact assessment data that would otherwise be locked away.

WAMSI Chair Paul Vogel said IMSA achieves a key priority identified in the WA Blueprint for Marine Science.

“Data sharing is integral to the research that will address the information needs of industry and regulators,” Dr Vogel said. “Achieving this major milestone within the first five years of the Blueprint is an outstanding accomplishment and I congratulate all those involved.”

DWER Director General Mike Rowe said it’s estimated that more than $50 million per year is spent undertaking marine surveys for environmental impact assessments in Western Australia.

“By collating and providing access to existing data, IMSA will lead to lasting benefits for industry, Government, the community and the environment,” Mr Rowe said. “It will result in more efficient assessments and an expanded knowledge base of the State’s vast and unique marine environment.”

The portal, called BioCollect, is provided by Atlas of Living Australia. It will provide access to marine survey reports, metadata and map layers as well as the processed data products and raw data packages which will be stored at the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre.

Related Links:

Index of Marine Surveys for Assessments (IMSA) portal

DWER media statement

IMSA launch photos