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.

Kimberley Indigenous Rangers put up a united voice to manage and protect saltwater country

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.

Kimberley Indigenous rangers and marine scientists met last week (Tuesday 1st – Thursday 3rd December 2020) at the annual Indigenous Saltwater Advisory Group (ISWAG) forum in Broome.

ISWAG is an Indigenous-led and facilitated saltwater forum for the Kimberley. It includes members from nine saltwater Prescribed Native Title Body Corporates (PBC’s); Balanggarra, Wunambal Gaambera, Dambimangari, Mayala, Bardi Jawi, Nyul Nyul, Yawuru, Karajarri and Nyangumarta, which represents traditional owner groups across 90% of the Kimberley coastline. ISWAG was created to support Kimberley saltwater managers to implement their Healthy Country Plans through collaborative research, policy and management.

Throughout the three-day forum, the group shared Indigenous knowledge and pair it with cutting edge science to enable best practice saltwater management to ensure the long-term sustainability of marine species in the Kimberley. The forum is recognised by scientists from state and federal agencies and institutions as a key advisory body about saltwater knowledge and management issues across the Kimberley.

A key outcome from the 2020 forum, was the tabling of an Indigenous led 10-year turtle and dugong management plan for the entire Kimberley region. The plan, funded by Parks Australia and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA), lays out the framework for an integrated western and traditional research approach to all aspects of turtle and dugong management and conservation in the region. It builds on decades of foundational work done by Indigenous and non-Indigenous marine scientists and managers towards the long-term sustainability of dugong and turtle populations in north west Australia.

At the forum, western science partners from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), DBCA, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) specialising in turtle, dugong, fish and saltwater habitats, co-presented the results of recent marine science projects.

The Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) also presented preliminary findings from a review of the processes and protocols for scientists working on saltwater country developed with ISWAG.

__________________________________________________________

 

Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation (WGAC)

Desmond Williams, Uunguu Ranger, (WGAC), explains what they are doing on Wunambal Gaambera saltwater country to protect and monitor marine species.

We went out on our wundaagu (saltwater) in a small plane to look at the turtle tracks from flatback turtles and hawksbill turtles, and we share the results with this ISWAG group to get a better understanding of what turtles are doing across the whole Kimberley.”

We also did a survey of the marine threats such as fishing line debris, ghost nets and also look at where they are laying eggs and some of the threats, we have like dingoes eating the eggs on some of our islands.”

This group is really helpful. We need to build our skills to manage our wundaagu. We get to learn a lot from the other ranger groups and scientists. It is really good for us Wunambal Gaambera people to be sharing our knowledge on the same level as the other ranger groups in the Kimberley.”

For Wunambal Gaambera people, mangguru (marine turtles) and balguja (dugong) are important cultural foods especially for cultural gatherings.

We have hunted mangguru and balguja for generations and they are part of some people’s dreaming.

We know when a turtle is healthy by the shoulder fat. Our old people used to travel a long way by raft or canoe to outer islands to collect Amiya (turtle eggs) and survived on Amiya when they had no water.”

 

Nyamba Buru Yawuru (NBY)

Dean Mathews, Senior Project Officer, NBY, talks passionately about managing turtles and dugong on Yawuru Nagulagun Buru (Yawuru Sea Country) and why it is important to protect turtles on Yawuru country.

“If we are talking about the well-being of Roebuck Bay, protecting turtles and dugongs is very high on the priority for Yawuru people because of what those resources have provided for us for thousands of generations and we want to ensure the next generation have that to enjoy. It is a fundamental part of who we are,” explained Dean.

A lot of our turtles for example the green turtle, do not have nesting sites here.

Our rookeries (or nesting sites) are under a lot of pressure due to climate change, fishing, sea nets, plastics and hunting and so, as country managers we have to look at how the rookeries are sustaining them and what we need to do to look at the hunting aspects and frequency of take to protect our rookeries for future generations to enjoy.”

Working collaboratively, we are all accountable and we, the Traditional Owners who have lived on and interacted with turtles and dugongs for many generations, want to be a part of the higher-level conversation and policy at the Commonwealth level in regard to planning and managing these species. ISWAG provides this opportunity for a united voice from Kimberley Ranger groups.”

 

Bardi and Jawi Niimidiman Aboriginal Corporation

Kevin George, Senior Cultural Advisor, Bardi Jawi Rangers spoke about the value of coming together.

“We have a duty of care and obligations and one of the major reasons we come together is to protect cultural customs, traditions, livelihoods, the whole works.”

 

DBCA

Dr Scott Whiting, Principal Research Scientist, DBCA said:

“Collaborative work is extremely important for long term conservation, especially for long lived animals with complex life cycles like turtles and dugongs.

Each group of Traditional Owners, managers, scientists and policy makers bring different skills, knowledge and impact to conservation outcomes. Collaboration is the only way for long-term management.”

 

Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI)

Dr Kelly Waples, Kimberley Marine Research Program Science Coordinator, (WAMSI), presented preliminary findings from a review of the process and protocols for scientists working on saltwater country developed with ISWAG.

The review is based on surveys with researchers, Healthy Country managers, Indigenous organisational staff, Traditional Owners and government staff who have worked through the steps outlined in the Collaborative research on Kimberley Saltwater Country – Guide for Researchers.

“The Kimberley is leading the way in encouraging western scientists to consider how they can collaborate with Indigenous rangers to address important outcomes for Healthy Country Plans,” Dr Waples said.

“This review will give ISWAG a better idea of how the process is working for the saltwater groups, researchers and government agencies so that ISWAG can consider any improvements that could lead to better results for the Kimberley.”

 

Acknowledgements

The forum was made possible through the contributions of all ISWAG parent PBCs and funding from the Kimberley Land Council, AIMS, Nyangumarta Warrarn Aboriginal Corporation, WAMSI, the National Environmental Science Program’s Marine Biodiversity Hub, DPIRD and DBCA.

 

Category:

Kimberley Marine Research Program

Gaarragoon Guardians – Bardi Jawi Sea Country

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.

This short documentary film 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 Western Australian Marine Science Institution’s (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 for the Bardi Jawi/ Bardi Jawi Oorany 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.

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

Filmed and edited by Sam Frederick

Category:

Kimberley Marine Research Program

Warming and Higher Rainfall Could Be a Recipe for Phytoplankton Success

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.

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.

Links

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.

 

Nike Air Max

Category:

Kimberley Marine Research Program

Encrusting sponge found in Kimberley coral reefs

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.

The coral-killing sponge Terpios hoshinota has been detected in the Kimberley for the first time by scientists from the Western Australian Museum.

Terpios hoshinota is commonly referred to as ‘black disease’ because of its colour and because it overgrows both live and dead coral. It has been reported in many areas of the Indo-Pacific, including the Great Barrier Reef, but has not previously been found in Western Australian waters.

The sponge was detected during fieldwork in 2016 by the WA Museum’s Dr Jane Fromont, Dr Zoe Richards and Dr Nerida Wilson, with assistance from the Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation and the Uunguu Rangers. Their research has now been published on open access scientific journal platform MDPI.

Dr Fromont said the Kimberley region of the State has some of the least impacted coral reefs globally.

“We report for the first time the presence of Terpios hoshinota in the eastern Indian Ocean on Kimberley inshore coral reefs,” Dr Fromont said.

“It is important to note that while there has been no outbreak event by Terpios hoshinota in the Kimberley, our observations of its presence suggest monitoring may be required to reduce the possibility of it spreading undetected. Terpios hoshinota is visually striking, and we encourage regional management authorities to include it in their reef health surveys.”

Dr Fromont said while the causes of Terpios hoshinota overgrowing corals remain unclear, the ability of the species to spread over coral reefs and cause coral death is concerning.

Where possible, small fragments of gray-black coral-encrusting sponge should be collected for expert identification at the WA Museum.

A copy of the research paper can be found at https://www.mdpi.com/1424-2818/11/10/184

Photo courtesy Dr Zoe Richards.

AMSA Indigenous Workshop Outcomes

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.

Promoting collaborative and respectful partnerships for Sea Country research in WA

Some 60 Indigenous and marine science participants at the Australian Marine Sciences Association (AMSA) Indigenous Workshop held in Fremantle in July this year identified the Kimberley saltwater science guidelines as a potential blueprint for regionalising processes and protocols for research.

The fourth annual Indigenous workshop convened under a partnership between the NESP Marine Biodiversity Hub and the AMSA brought together a representative group to discuss a way forward on developing better ways of working together on sea country.

The WAMSI Kimberley Indigenous Saltwater Science Project (KISSP), which subsequently led to the development of the Indigenous Saltwater Advisory Group (ISWAG), has been recognised for its success in establishing a pathway for right-way research.

CEO Luke Twomey said the WAMSI science partnership was happy to support the rollout of the KISSP process and is already working with regions where WAMSI is developing science plans.

“We have just completed a three-day workshop with the Malgana people in Gathaagudu (Shark Bay) where the key objective was to understand the science priorities for the Malgana people so their voices could be incorporated into the Shark Bay Science Plan process,” Dr Twomey said. “Part of that process is providing the Traditional Owners with an understanding of what science has already been done on Country, who the science  organisations are and what guidelines have been developed elsewhere. From there the Aboriginal Corporations can develop their own processes and protocols for working with scientists on Country.”

The 2019 AMSA Indigenous Workshop Summary Report is available here.

Mysteries of pristine Kimberley wilderness are being unravelled at last

The natural mysteries of the Kimberley, one of Australia’s last pristine habitats, have been documented like never before thanks to a multi-million-dollar project.

Full story on ABC News by Matt Bamford

New report reveals extent of unique marine ecosystem in the Kimberley

Feature image: (L-R) Yawuru marine ranger Anthony Richardson, Minister for Science Hon. Dave Kelly MLA and DBCA Marine Park Coordinator Chris Nutt release the WAMSI Kimberley Marine Research Program Report in Broome

A new report into Australia’s remote Kimberley region could hold the key to answering global questions about how some ecosystems survive under extreme environmental conditions.

The report, “Strategic Integrated Marine Science for the Kimberley Region”, released today by the Minister for Science Hon. Dave Kelly MLA, is the culmination of five years of research by 200 scientists from 25 organisations working on 23 projects to understand the marine biodiversity and ecology at regional and local scales.

The information has been produced for the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) to support decision making and operational activities for the region and the Greater Kimberly Marine Park network managed by DBCA jointly with Traditional Owners.

The program, managed by the Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) collaboration of scientists from state, federal, industry and academic institutions, is one of the most comprehensive assessments of Australia’s North West.

WAMSI Science Program Leader Dr Kelly Waples (DBCA) said the report provides valuable information that can be used to predict and manage the likely changes in the future.

“How the Kimberley environment changes over time will be determined by the interaction of economic, ecological and social processes, climate change, human population dynamics and industry,” Dr Waples said. “By understanding how the environment has changed and the ecosystem has adapted over the past 100 years to what it is today, we can better predict the likely response to current and future pressures and how we might mitigate any impacts.”

This physically complex inshore environment supports a diverse range of habitats that include seagrasses and coral reefs, extensive intertidal mudflats and sponge-dominated filter-feeding communities with high levels of biological diversity. The region also supports large and iconic marine fauna including whales, dolphins, dugongs, turtles and estuarine crocodiles.

While aboriginal people have lived in the Kimberley for millennia and retain strong cultural connections to their saltwater country, this coastal and marine environment increasingly supports other activities such as tourism, commercial and recreational fishing, pearling, aquaculture and major port facilities associated with resource industries.

Despite the growth in activity, the research found that anthropogenic impacts remain low compared with other parts of the Western Australian coast and disturbance to much of the Kimberley marine environment is considered to be minor.

However, the study highlights the region is likely to be increasingly affected by a number of pressures including: climate change-related impacts such as coral bleaching; regional development and growth; and increased human access and use.

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.

Link to Minister for Science Hon. Dave Kelly MLA media statement

Lesson plans put WAMSI data in schools

Lesson plans taking data from real research projects are now online to provide students with the opportunity to develop their data science skills based on crocodile and whale surveys.

An initiative by Western Australian Marine Science Institution Data Manager Luke Edwards working with Kimberley Marine Research Program project leader Kelly Waples, Education Services Australia’s Richard Martin and Australian Data Science Education Institute’s Dr Linda McIver has produced a series of online educational resources on Western Australia’s Kimberley region.

It provides a resource for teachers to assist them to develop data science skills using engaging real-life datasets.  It also helps teachers deliver the new Digital Technologies curriculum and contributes to the Digital Technologies Hub resources.

“Having data resources available to teachers based on actual research results from the Western Australian marine environment is very rare,” Luke Edwards said. “Using real data provides students with much more motivation to learn data science skills and solve real life problems.”

“We’re also producing some career profiles on our WA scientists to show students the background some of our scientists are from and the pathways they have taken to enter their profession.”

The resource was launched during Data Science Week and is available to primary and secondary teachers to use in their classrooms.

Lesson plans for years 5-6 and 7-8 using datasets on whales and crocodiles are now available to teachers online at Education Australia’s Digital Technologies Hub with lesson plans on dugongs and turtles soon to me made available.

The education resources have some great ideas for assessment in Digital Technologies. Each topic shows a sequence of learning with a summary, brief description, suggested learning activities, supporting resources and assessment ideas.

Data Science Week aims to bring together a community of data scientists across Australia to network and discuss trending topics and ideas across domains. This year’s events showcased a range of organisations including the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre and WA Data Science Innovation Hub with a focus on women in data science.

The online education resources are based on data produced for four of the 23 projects conducted as part of WAMSI’s Kimberley Marine Research Program.