WA Marine Scientists Zoom into Schools

Some of the world’s leading marine scientists will share their expertise with WA high school students this term to help Year 12s achieve their best in their final year of study.

Following on from the success of the 2020 Zoom into School series, Western Australian-based researchers from Curtin University, The University of Western Australia (UWA), Murdoch University, Edith Cowan University, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions managing Parks and Wildlife research have offered their expertise to students studying marine and maritime subjects.

Led by WA secondary school marine science teachers in partnership with the Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI), students will have unprecedented access to pitch questions about final year subjects to the top scientists in their field of research.

Coordinator and Sacred Heart College marine science teacher John Ryan described it as: “a terrific opportunity for all Year 12 Marine and Maritime students to learn from the scientists who are at the forefront of research on these subjects.”

Each week, scientists will present on one of the subjects in the high school curriculum followed by a question-and-answer session. The sessions will be recorded and made available online.

Speakers for the 2021 series include:

  1. (7 May) Phytoplankton from Space: Professor David Antoine, Head of the remote sensing and satellite research group (RSSRG) at Curtin University.
  2. (14 May) Ecotourism, reasons for rules and the ethical management of human interactions with whale sharks, dolphins and whales: Gemma Francis, Conservation Operations Officer- Whale Sharks (Exmouth region), Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.
  3. (18 June) Types of Marine Pollutants: Associate Professor Kathryn McMahon, School of Science & Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research, Course Coordinator Marine and Freshwater Biology, Edith Cowan University
  4. (25 June) Artificial Reefs: Dr James Tweedley, Senior lecturer in Animal Biology in the College of Science, Health, Engineering & Education at Murdoch University and Leader of the Fish and Fisheries theme in the Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems in the Harry Butler Institute at Murdoch University.
  5. (30 July) Citizen science. Charlotte Birkmanis, PhD candidate, UWA Marine biologist, Shark scientist.
  6. (9 August) Characteristics of coral communities: Dr Marji Puotinen, Spatial – Ecological Data Scientist, Australian Institute of Marine Science.

Curtin University Head of Remote Sensing and Satellite Research Group, Professor David Antoine said scientists were happy to be able to help final year students to understand how marine science is helping to solve current world challenges.

“I hope we can help to inspire these students to think outside-the-box and consider the possibilities if they pursue a career in marine science,” Professor Antoine said.

All the presentations will be made available on the WAMSI YouTube Channel HERE.

2021 presentations now online:

WA Blueprint Priorities for Marine Research Under Review

Western Australia’s Blueprint for Marine Science is undergoing a five-yearly review by the Western Australian Marine Science Institution to assess and update research priorities that may have changed under current economic and environmental forecasts.

The aim of the Blueprint is to support future decision making by providing evidence-based scientific support that recognises the needs of Western Australia’s marine industries, managers, regulators and the wider community.

First published in 2015, The Blueprint identified more than 100 sector-specific knowledge gaps through a comprehensive program of stakeholder engagement. The initial science priorities were also consistent with the science community led National Marine Science Plan.

CEO Dr Luke Twomey said, as custodians of the Blueprint, The Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) will revisit the Blueprint to maintain an understanding of the ongoing marine research priorities in Western Australia.

“Over the past five years WAMSI and other organisations have made great inroads into meeting priorities listed in the 2015 Blueprint,” Dr Twomey said. “Most notably, Western Australia has come a long way toward developing the future of shared data platforms, including the development of the Index of Marine Surveys for Assessments (IMSA) portal. Now, given major disruptions to regional, national and global socio-political drivers, we expect to observe a shift in the priorities and focus across the different sectors.”

Over the coming weeks WAMSI will revisit stakeholders across the different marine sectors in WA to discuss and document whether the previously identified priorities are still valid or if they have changed.

“What we want to learn from industry, environment managers and regulators is, what has changed for them over the past five years, what marine research areas are important to them now, and how marine research can help improve confidence in the decisions they need to make about the shared marine environment,” Dr Twomey said.

The outcomes are expected to be released in a report by mid-2021.

To Bait or Not to Bait: Remote Underwater Video Surveys of Juvenile Fish

A new study comparing the efficiency of baited and unbaited remote underwater stereo-video to survey juvenile fish populations has found no significant difference between the two methods.

Juvenile fish are a particularly important group to monitor and understand given the high social, economic, and ecological value placed on adult fish populations.

Driven by their need for shelter from predators and environmental stressors, juvenile fish are often found in habitats which are difficult to sample other than by diver surveys. In the Kimberley however, diver surveys are impractical given the dangerous tidal conditions and the presence of crocodiles. Divers surveys have also been linked with a change in fish behaviour.

As part of the Western Australian Marine Science Institution’s (WAMSI) Kimberley Marine Research Program, a team of scientists from The University of Western Australia (UWA), The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and the Kimberley Marine Research Station compared the use of baited and unbaited remote underwater stereo video systems (BRUVS and RUVS). The study took place in the Iwany (Sunday) Islands group with guidance from the Bardi Jawi Rangers and Traditional Owners.

Stereo-RUVS use two cameras on a frame that is lowered onto the seabed to record fish movement. The two cameras enable lengths and distance measurements to be made using specialised software.

Lead author UWA PhD candidate Camilla Piggott said the results, published in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology suggest both methods can effectively produce the same result.

‘’What we found was that there was no difference in the ability of stereo-BRUV or stereo-RUV to quantify the relative total abundance, species richness, or assemblage composition of juvenile fish,” Camilla said.

Sixty Stereo-RUVs and 60 Stereo-BRUVs samples were taken across four shallow-water (1-6 metre) coral, mangrove, macroalgae, and seagrass habitats to contrast the effect of the presence or absence of bait, deployment period, in-water visibility and tidally driven water speed.

“We found that a deployment period of 10 minutes for Stereo-BRUVs and 15 minutes for Stereo-RUVs was optimum for sampling the juvenile fish assemblage across all four contrasting habitats,” Camilla explained. “Since no statistical significance was observed between 10 and 15 minutes, we recommend that Stereo-RUVs deployed for 15 minutes during tidal slack water conditions are an optimum way to provide consistent results for comparisons of juvenile fish assemblages across the habitats studied in this region.”

Dr James Gilmour and Camilla Piggott deploy a Remote Underwater Video System at the Iwany (Sunday) Island group in the western Kimberley

Dr James Gilmour and Camilla Piggott deploy a Remote Underwater Video System at the Iwany (Sunday) Island group in the western Kimberley (Photo: AIMS)


Citation: Piggott CVH, Depczynski M, Gagliano M, Langlois TJ (2020) Remote video methods for studying juvenile fish populations in challenging environments. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, doi.org/10.1016/j.jembe.2020.151454

The $30 million Kimberley Marine Research Program was 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.

Phytoplankton Proves its Carbon Capture Capability in Extreme Environments

A new study has found that phytoplankton, the microalgal powerhouse plants of the sea, are able to change their physiology and continue to uptake and store carbon despite the extreme tidal movement and dynamic light conditions in the Kimberley.

If there’s one thing that the Kimberley marine environment can teach us, it’s the best way to live in an extreme environment, according to CSIRO’s James McLaughlin, lead author of the latest paper on Phytoplankton Light Acclimation to Periodic Turbulent Mixing Along a Tidally Dominated Tropical Coastline published in JGR Oceans.    

The study in King Sound, which is a 100‐kilometre‐long, semi-enclosed embayment opening to the Indian Ocean, was conducted by researchers from CSIRO and The University of Western Australia as part of the Western Australian Marine Science Institution’s (WAMSI) Kimberley Marine Research Program.

It reveals that despite low nutrients and decreased water clarity in areas of the Sound, phytoplankton were able to photosynthesise as if it were in a high light exposure environment. On the adjacent shelf however, the roles reversed, phytoplankton migrate deeper and acclimatise their photosynthetic strategy to a lower light environment, enabling them to reach available nutrients at depth.

“King Sound experiences very large variations in light over short time scales, and we found that the phytoplankton community there was dominated by diatoms, a microalgae that can rapidly adjust pigment within the cell to acclimate to water column light conditions,” James McLaughlin said.

“What this does is allow higher maximum photosynthetic rates to be attained by the phytoplankton which are trying to live in a region with extreme tides, in an environment that is constantly changing from deeper turbid and dark waters to shallow more light exposed ones,” James said.

Tides help to redistribute phytoplankton and nutrients and this in turn influences their population and community structure within marine ecosystems. It is important to better understand the impact of tidal mixing on the ability of phytoplankton to capture and store atmospheric carbon dioxide in these dynamic coastal areas.


The $30 million Kimberley Marine Research Program was 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.

Webinar: The Value Provided to Fisheries by Man-made Aquatic Structures

This article was originally published on an archived WAMSI website. Some media or links may appear missing or broken. You can use the search function to look for these, or contact info@wamsi.org.au for a specific request.

In 2019 the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation funded research which aimed to increase the understanding of the social and economic values of man-made marine structures. In Western Australia we conservatively estimate that there are at least 6000 man-made structures in the marine environment. These include shipwrecks, jetties, marinas, harbours, seawalls, boat ramps, navigation aids and markers, tide stations, artificial reefs, oil and gas platforms, wellheads and oil and gas pipelines.

Man-made marine structures are inhabited by a diverse array of marine life, and are used by recreational and commercial fishers, scuba divers, snorkelers and tourists. As a consequence, these structures have a range of economic and social values reflecting the different user groups.

This webinar provides an overview of identified economic and social values associated with different types of structures and discusses the issues and opportunities associated with people’s values and perceptions. This information will be of use to regulators, proponents and other stakeholders who have an interest in the social and economic values of existing and potential man-made marine structures.

Order of Speakers

Dr. Luke Twomey                            Welcome

Prof. Euan Harvey                           Project overview and introduction

Dr. Johanna Zimmerhackel          Economic value

Dr. Julian Clifton                             Social values of individuals

Prof. Fran Ackermann                   Group social values

Prof. Euan Harvey                          Discussion and implications


More information on the project can be found at: www.frdc.com.au/project/2018-053

Attached files:

 Enhancing the Understanding of the Value Provided to Man-made structures_ WAMSI_FRDC Slides.pdf