Introducing the Cockburn Sound Science Program Manager

Cockburn Sound Science Program Manager Dr Alan Kendrick is leading the research study to fill knowledge gaps, investigate potential impacts and improve understanding of Cockburn Sound’s ecosystem.

Involvement in large, science-based marine environmental programs has always piqued Alan’s career interests.

In his previous role he oversaw marine conservation science at the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, managing large marine research programs associated with offset funding from the Wheatstone, Pluto and Gorgon gas developments.

During this time, he was also involved with the delivery of WAMSI’s Ningaloo and Kimberley Marine Research Programs.

Alan will now manage a huge collaboration of research effort that will inform environmental assessment of the State’s new container port.

The WAMSI Westport Marine Science Program is a three-year program that will see local scientists deliver about 30 ecological and social research projects designed to support environmental assessment of the new port and the future management of Cockburn Sound.

Alan is looking forward to the challenge of managing the science program and developing knowledge that will help to protect Cockburn Sound’s unique marine environment.

“As the biggest collaborative investigation into the ecosystems of Cockburn Sound that has ever been undertaken, the science program is an incredible venture that will fill important knowledge gaps and deliver the information needed to manage this environment now and into the future,” he said.

Alan hopes the research outcomes resulting from the program will pave the way for future strategic science collaborations across the State.

“The science program is a great example of local scientists carrying out research in our own backyard.”

“It showcases how industry, government and the wider community can access WAMSI’s rich expertise in marine science to inform the sustainable development of how big WA projects are implemented.”

A new life for old infrastructure

Coastal development is expanding rapidly across the state and it is estimated there are now more than 7,400 man-made marine structures, ranging from oil and gas infrastructure to shipwrecks and artificial reefs, in Western Australia.

In coming years, there will be increasing proposals to build new infrastructure in WA’s marine environment and regulatory approval will need to consider the impacts on stakeholders with a vested interest in the future of these structures.

Recreational fishers are an example of a sector that have become increasingly aware of the value of the marine life that has grown on, around and near these structures and are keen to capitalise on the ecosystem benefits to improve fishing experiences.

Recognising the need to better understand these impacts, research, funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and Chevron, assessed the values and benefits associated with these structures, examining stakeholder attitudes towards their installation or removal.

The published report, Enhancing the Understanding of the Value Provided to Fisheries by Man-made Aquatic Structures, is the result of a collaboration of researchers and subject experts across the WAMSI partnership.

Taking into account the hopes, aspirations, and concerns of all stakeholder groups, it suggests future installation of marine man-made structures will need to meet the social and environmental values and expectations of the community.

Lead researcher Professor Euan Harvey from Curtin University, said the work would inform future policy decisions, not only for the decommissioning of built structures in marine environments, but also for the design and installation of new projects.

“Whether it be in the form of new ports, offshore renewable energy, subsea cables and aquaculture facilities, WA is paving the way in delivering future marine infrastructure projects,” Professor Harvey said.

“This report will provide a vital point of reference for regulators, proponents and other stakeholders when considering the social and economic impacts of installation and removal.

“By considering the socioeconomic values of all potential stakeholders during the planning process, it will become increasingly more possible to maximise the social and economic benefits to potential users.”

“The marine structures of the future could be designed with decommissioning and removal in mind.”

WAMSI acknowledges the following authors for their input:

Euan Harvey, Fran Ackermann, Georgie Hill (Curtin), Julian Clifton, Michael Burton, Carmen Elrick-Barr, Johanna Zimmerhackel, Julian Partridge, Paul McLeod (UWA), Stephen Newman, Mark Pagano (DPIRD), Jenny Shaw (WAMSI) and Dianne McLean (AIMS)

Modelling reveals greatest threat to Kimberley

Climate change, not economic development, is the biggest threat to the Kimberley region, putting resident species such as reef fish at risk according to long-term environmental modelling.

A team of researchers from CSIRO carried out complex modelling across a network of Kimberley marine parks to explore the future impacts of climate change and human development at a regional scale.

Using a range of economic development and climate change scenarios they applied socio-economic and environmental modelling to create a projection of the Kimberley marine system up to the year 2050.

Based on the projected future models, CSIRO lead Dr Fabio Boschetti anticipated climate change would have the most significant long-term impact on the region.

“While one-off investments in large infrastructure can affect a region for decades to come, environmental sustainability appears to be more heavily affected by slow-dynamics climate change processes,” Dr Boschetti said.

The results uncovered a need for tougher management strategies, particularly expansion of sanctuary zones and Marine Protected Areas, to protect resident marine species.

“These models project a future where both strategic and reactive planning is necessary and prediction becomes as urgent as standard adaptive management,” Dr Boschetti said.

“It builds the groundwork to ensure basic bookkeeping of ecological processes are in place and that expectation of future regional developments are realistic and consistent.”

The research, carried out under the Kimberley Marine Research Program, provides meaningful scientific information to support environmental decision making at a regional scale across several decades.

Setting a new industry gold standard

Proponents of future infrastructure projects involving large-scale dredging will be encouraged to comply with new scientific guidelines in order to carry out their activities.

The Environmental Protection Authority’s Technical Guidance for the Environmental Impact Assessment of Marine Dredging Proposals has been revised and updated to include key scientific findings from WAMSI’s Dredging Science Node (DSN).

The revised technical guidance will improve the ability for industry to predict and manage the impacts of large-scale dredging on projects in Western Australia.

Dredging is a critical component of WA’s infrastructure and essential to the export of commodities, however until recently, there had been considerable uncertainty about the scale and intensity of potential impacts on the state’s marine environment.

This uncertainty has often meant lengthy delays in the approval and regulatory processes, amounting to significant costs for the proponents and the state, as well as costly monitoring and management regimes.

The guidance describes a framework that recognises this uncertainty and provides for the clear and consistent presentation of predicted dredging effects on benthic habitats caused by removal, light reduction or burial at the sites of dredging and disposal.

Science Lead Dr Ross Jones from AIMS, said the research outputs from the DSN represented a monumental change in the available information for dredging across the state and would greatly improve consideration of environmental impacts.

“The DSN significantly increased understanding of dredging pressures on marine benthic communities and the key findings, relating to tolerance thresholds of benthic organisms to dredging pressures and critical life cycle windows where organisms are likely to be more sensitive to those pressures, have been incorporated,” Dr Jones said.

Environmental Protection Authority Chairman Professor Matthew Tonts, said the DSN was an example of a demand-driven, science-regulator-industry collaborative approach to research that has been directly applied to improve the social, environmental and financial outcomes of major marine dredging activities.

“The revised Technical Guidance will be a valuable tool in the assessment and management of dredging programs in WA,” Professor Tonts said.

The Technical Guidance is complemented by the Guidelines on dredge plume modelling for environmental impact assessment, published by WAMSI.

It’s expected that the delivery of outcomes from the DSN, could be repeated in other important and emerging issues in marine science in WA, such as the fate of hydrocarbons in oil spills, aquaculture and sustainable fisheries management.

Scientists Examine Ways to Return Knowledge to Country

Returning science knowledge to Traditional Owners on Country has been identified as an important consideration for researchers working in all regions of Australia.

In a recent review of the Western Australian Marine Science Institution’s Kimberley Indigenous Saltwater Science Project processes and protocols for working on Country, WAMSI Science Coordinator Dr Kelly Waples from the Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) found improving communication was a strong theme raised by the Indigenous saltwater groups, Healthy Country Managers and scientists, particularly during the initial introduction, project proposal and the return of information to the community stages.

“Much of the feedback from our survey interviews revolved around developing some communication tools and examples of good communication to assist researchers in not only delivering their results back to the community, but also to include Indigenous perspectives and cultural insights to make them more relevant to the Traditional Owners,” Dr Waples said.

In 2019 WAMSI Research Director Dr Jenny Shaw began the process of developing a science plan for Gathaagudu (Shark Bay), the traditional country of three Aboriginal language groups: Malgana, Nhanda and Yingkarta.

It quickly became apparent that the traditional custodians of Gathaagudu had little knowledge of the large amount of science that had been conducted in the region since 1954, and it was something they wanted to understand.

“Generations of Malgana people attended a three-day workshop where we presented them with large-scale maps, graphs and illustrations that represented the work from more than 700 publications,” Dr Shaw said. “It was quite an emotional realisation I think, that so much research had been done without their knowledge.”

Researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), led by Dr Katherine Cure, have also sought to address a call from senior Indigenous leaders and rangers to communicate the findings from their sea country monitoring program in a way that is accessible to all generations and diverse levels of numeracy and literacy.

In 2020/2021 the AIMS scientists visited the Bardi Jawi community at One Arm Point in the state’s North West, where they have established a long-term monitoring program with the Bardi Jawi Rangers. Using results from the monitoring program, the researchers trialled six different communication products during a-week-long workshop in various settings and with several audiences including school students, Elders and the wider community.

The pros and cons for Story Maps (ArcGIS), report cards, PowerPoint presentations, videos, posters and an environmental science art workshop with AIMS Artist-in-Residence Angela Rossen were all discussed.

Dr Cure says, among the lessons learned, large printed maps with graphical representations of research results presented to small groups for focused interactions worked well. Also, while online ArcGIS Story Maps were more dynamic and visually attractive than PowerPoint presentations, they rely on internet connection; since download speeds in most remote communities is an issue, this needs to be considered.

“We managed to share results of three years of monitoring in several formats with school children, rangers and Elders, and gained some valuable insights,” Dr. Cure said. “We found that while the Rangers can deal with more complex science outputs than Elders or children, it is important to know your audience and discuss reporting outputs and formats with partners in advance. Also, we found that a diverse range of communication materials are needed, including printed maps, graphs, infographics and videos.”

Identifying and referring to species in local language and relating results back to Healthy Country Management plans where possible has also been identified as an important consideration for scientists.

The full summary of the AIMS investigation into sharing monitoring results across generations of Traditional Owners on Sea country can be found here:  

CLOSING THE CIRCLE Sharing monitoring results across generations of Traditional Owners in Sea Country_ Graphical Summary_ Cure et al. AIMS





Above: WAMSI Recruitment and Herbivory infographic of findings for juvenille fish RUV: Different types of fish live in different habitats during different seasons. (Cure et. al.)



Jigeedany (dolphin) survey DBCA_Dambimangari_Booklet




Data Science STEM resources in collaboration with Education Services Australia



The Blueprint for Marine Science – how far have we come in five years?

In 2015 an ambitious plan to drive the priorities for marine research in Western Australia led by industry and government heavyweights delivered the Blueprint for Marine Science to 2050 strategy. Five years into the journey a member of the then Premier’s roundtable for Marine Science and Austral Fisheries CEO David Carter says in some areas the pace is picking up with lightening speed.

The comprehensive industry, government and community consultation process culminating in the Blueprint for Marine Science 2050 Report identified the areas where knowledge gaps will undermine effective management, streamlined regulation and development of marine industries.

One of Australia’s largest integrated commercial fishing companies, Austral Fisheries, operates in an environment which is seeing the effects of climate change first hand and is committed to sustainability based on science.

“The 2016 marine heatwave event wiped out 7000 hectares of seagrass in the Gulf of Carpentaria, it also raised concerns about toothfish catch rates and stock assessment and saw us look at a  multidisciplinary approach to determine the Patagonian toothfish response to environmental variables by bringing together a range of expertise, data and historical evidence to find out what was going on,” David Carter said. “It’s been an interesting and useful project that speaks to the sort of changes we are facing and focuses our need to respond.”

It’s estimated the world will need to feed nine billion people by 2050. David Carter says there are going to be some choices and trade-offs to make and the solutions lie around getting the science right for that but also communicating with those communities that are going to be impacted.

“Just being able to focus on the way we are heading really puts into perspective the challenges ahead,” David said. “Not just locally but globally, as the demands on our marine environment become greater we come to realise the shear enormity of the challenge. It’s therefore critically important that we harness the best and brightest minds to come up with answers to questions that haven’t even been asked yet, and as part of that it’s critical that we bring communities and all stakeholders along.”

One of the strong recommendations to come out of the Blueprint report was the need to improve access to existing data and in 2020 the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) and WAMSI, launched the Index of Marine Surveys for Assessments (IMSA) for the systematic capture and sharing of marine data created as part of an environmental impact assessment (EIA).

Each year IMSA is estimated to capture and consolidate more than $50 million worth of industry data collected to support assessments under the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (the EP Act).

According to David Carter it’s a shift in attitude that needed to happen.

“It’s terrific to learn now there is an onus on the need to share data,” he said. “Oil and gas are starting to provide these baseline environmental assessments. I think it’s got to count as one of the major leaps forward.”

The ocean industries are immensley valuable and if as a society and as an economy we want to continue to grow David Carter believes the Western Australian Marine Science Institution has helped to crystalise the focus on the foundation of a long-term collaboration between all sectors operating in the marine environment.

“I believe we are heading in the right direction,” David Carter said. “Greater connections have been made across science and industry as a result of the work of WAMSI and its partners. Talks have been generated around oil platform decommissioning and you can see the pace of discussion around ocean energy transformation is accelerating at light speed. We are talking to Austal Ships and engineers about future fuels to see if we can run a ship on renewable energy but we have still got a way to go.

“We have all the ingredients in this state to become a global powerhouse, to show what’s possible and we have endless renewable energy potential. We have these engineers in oil and gas ready to be rechallenged in renewable fuels – so they know about oil and gas and they are interested, committed and passionate about what’s possible.

“As we reflect with gratitude on the contribution that fossil fuels have made to our standard of living, we also understand that this chapter is closed and that we have a new chapter to write that is equally exciting and challenging and filled with opportunity.”

The Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) became custodians of the Blueprint in 2018 to continue to action the strategic science priorities, align the research sectors’ response and establish a foundation of willingness across multiple sectors to find ways to be more strategic and more collaborative in marine science.

The WAMSI Partnership:

WAMSI Partners

WAMSI Science Leads to Jobs Growth

Perth-based environmental and oceanographic consultancy, O2 Marine attributes Western Australian Marine Science Institution dredging science as a key factor that contributed to its rapid organic growth and business success.

When O2 Marine began in 2014 with just two scientists and some big ideas to fill a gap in the niche areas of marine environmental monitoring and assessment advice, the timing couldn’t have been better.

By 2017 the results from the Western Australian Marine Science Institution’s (WAMSI’s) five-years of research into environmental pressures, response and ecological sensitivity from dredging operations off the Pilbara coast, including ground-breaking experiments in the lab, had begun to hit the desk of the State’s environmental regulators.

The new understanding of environmental effects and windows of opportunity provided a significant improvement in the certainty around environmental management of dredging operations in Western Australia.

At the time, O2 Marine was working with Onslow Marine Support Base Pty. Ltd. on a ~1M cubic metre dredging proposal to allow offshore vessels to access the newly constructed Beadon Creek Maritime Facility.

O2 Marine Managing Director, Chris Lane says the WAMSI research was directly applicable to some of the benthic communities and habitats the project could potentially impact.

“The Environmental Protection Authority encouraged us to incorporate the WAMSI dredging science into the assessment,” Chris Lane said. “In doing so, we were able to use real data from Chevron’s Wheatstone project to predict the impacts and experimental laboratory data to define an appropriate monitoring and management approach. As a result, the Onslow Marine Support Base received the fastest regulatory approval for a dredging project of that size ever achieved in W.A.. We effectively halved the assessment approval timeframe from 12-18 months down to six months.”

Chris Lane attributes the opportunity to leverage the WAMSI research as a significant catalyst which effectively put O2 Marine on the map.

“Being able to leverage that science made clients sit up and take notice of what could be achieved by a West Australian small business,” Chris said. “Off the back of this client recognition and with a lot of hard work, O2 Marine has created nearly 40 new jobs, expanded our service offering to include metocean and hydrographic services and achieved annual revenue growth of over 90% per annum. Having that science readily available made it a lot easier to assist our clients in fast-tracking environmental approvals. It was the trigger for us to grow and get that market share.”

In February of 2018 the EPA confirmed that the Onslow Marine Support Base had been recommended for approval. In a statement issued by the EPA, Deputy Chariman Robert Harvey said:

“The proponent incorporated contemporary and locally relevant dredging science from the Western Australian Marine Science Institution into its predictions and proposed management of the project’s impacts. This means we had a high level of confidence during the assessment.

“The use of the latest dredging science, as well as the conditions identified by the EPA, including the implementation of a Dredging and Spoil Disposal Management Plan, means the proposal can be managed in an environmentally acceptable way,” the statement read.

The WAMSI Dredging Science Node was made possible through $9.5 million invested by Woodside, Chevron and BHP as environmental offsets. A further $9.5 million was co-invested by the WAMSI Joint Venture partners. The Node was also supported through critical data provided by Chevron, Woodside and Rio Tinto Iron Ore.

Gaarragoon Guardians- A Bardi Jawi Rangers’ Story Wins a Best Film Award at the 2021 Mud and Saltwater Film Fest

The Western Australian Marine Science Institution is proud to announce that its film collaboration with the Bardi Jawi Rangers and the Australian Institute of Marine Science has won a best film award at the 2021 Mud and Saltwater Short Film Fest.

The annual short film festival, held in Broome and Cygnet Bay, aims to inspire film makers to explore, respect, enjoy and protect remarkable Roebuck Bay and the Kimberley region. The festival showcases the best short films made by professional and amateur filmmakers about this truly remarkable part of the world.

Bardi Jawi Senior Cultural Ranger Kevin George holds the award for best film in the Kimberley Calling category at the Mud and Saltwater Short Film Fest with (Back Row L-R) Tamara Moore, Henarlia Rex, Phillip McCarthy, Mathilda Lipscombe (Front Row L-R) Natasha George, Kevin George, Johalia Davey.

Our short documentary film Gaarragoon Guardians: A Bardi Jawi Rangers’ Story, tells the story of two-way learning between scientists and the Bardi Jawi Rangers who have been monitoring the fish and coral reef to manage the health of sea country on the Dampier Peninsula.

This two-way learning started 10 years ago with the WAMSI Kimberley Marine Research Program (2012-2018) to develop an understanding of how fish, coral and seagrasses sustain the health of the Kimberley marine ecosystem.

When researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science returned to Country with some of the results, they found the rangers had a few questions of their own that they wanted answered.

A monitoring program was developed and what we have filmed is a field trip with the Bardi Jawi Rangers and the Australian Institute of Marine Science monitoring partnership in August 2020.

The rangers tell their story of working with scientists to monitor the health of their sea country.


Watch: Bardi Jawi Healthy Country Coordinator Daniel Oades and Bardi Jawi Ranger Azton Howard introduce the Gaarragoon Guardians video


Watch: Gaarragoon Guardians: A Bardi Jawi Rangers’ story

This is a Western Australian Marine Science Institution and Australian Institute of Marine Science production in collaboration with the Bardi Jawi Rangers and the Kimberley Land Council.

Filmed and edited by Sam Frederick

Student and Early Career Researcher support for Biodiversity Conference

The Western Australian Marine Science Institution is offering a number of registrations and awards for marine science students and Early Career Researchers at The Biodiversity Conference 2021 in Perth.

This conference is bringing together researchers and practitioners across academia, government, industry and community to share scientific knowledge, biodiversity informatics and best practice in biodiversity conservation.

WAMSI Grants

The Western Australian Marine Science Institution is offering grants for a limited number of students and Early Career Researchers to cover the registration costs of this Conference. Your poster or presentation must be accepted to be eligible for this grant. Marine Science research submissions are welcome for poster, five-minute speed talk or 15-minute presentations and must be relevant to one of the six themes.

Theme 1: Indigenous Stewardship

Theme 2: Our Biodiversity Assets

Theme 3: Trends and Conditions

Theme 4: Threats and Their Impact

Theme 5: Restoration and Conservation

Theme 6: Technology and Innovation

WAMSI Awards

WAMSI is also offering cash awards for Students and Early Career Researchers for the best poster, five-minute speed talk or 15-minute presentation.

WAMSI CEO Dr Luke Twomey said WAMSI was interested in attracting emerging marine science leaders to join the collective Western Australian based expertise to benefit the forward thinking around biodiversity conservation across the state.

“With such an amazing pool of emerging talent in marine science in Western Australia, we would like to encourage students and Early Career Researchers to register to share your knowledge for the benefit of best practice in biodiversity conservation,” Dr Twomey said.

The conference is jointly supported and run by all five WA Universities, the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, The Western Australian Biodiversity Science Institute and eLife.

For more information head to the Conference website at:


Libby Howitt Appointed to WAMSI Board

The Western Australian Marine Science Institution has welcomed Principal Environment Advisor – Offshore at Santos Energy Ltd. Ms Libby Howitt to its board.

Ms Howitt brings skills in science and evidence-based decision making in environmental impact assessment and management, as applied to a range of marine activities including exploration, development and decommissioning activities of the oil and gas industry.

Ms Howitt has a research background in marine ecology and a working history of applying marine science to the assessment of human activities in the marine environment. She has dealt extensively with the challenges of exploring, developing, operating and decommissioning offshore petroleum facilities in proximity to environmentally sensitive areas whilst engaging with a broad range of stakeholders and regulatory authorities.

Libby has previously held positions with the University of Sydney, the Australian Museum and The Ecology Lab. She sits on the National Decommissioning Research Initiative, APPEA Marine Environment Science Working Groups, APPEA Seismic Working Group and NESP Marine Biodiversity Hub.

“On behalf of the partnership, I’d like to welcome Libby to the WAMSI board and look forward to her contribution in support of its vision to be the trusted independent facilitator, broker and advocate for marine science research that builds environmental, social and economic value for Western Australians,” WAMSI Chair Dr Paul Vogel AM said.