What do you value about the Kimberley coast?

Murdoch University is gathering information on what local residents value about the Kimberley coast and waters and what preferences you have for its management. The WAMSI research project aims to assist Government to make informed decisions about coastal management, now and into the future.

We want to hear from as many different people as possible through our online survey. Every voice counts! Just click on the link:


The survey will take around 30 minutes and all information you give will be anonymous. There is also a small thank you gift once you finish the survey but these are limited so get in quick.

Please help us out and have your say about how you would like to see the Kimberley coast managed in the future!

Contact Jennifer Strickland-Munro (J.Strickland-Munro@murdoch.edu.au) if you would like any more information on the study.


Read more:


Kimberley Marine Science Program survey to quiz residents about favourite coastal spots.

What is the Kimberley worth?



Kimberley Marine Research Program

Bardi Jawi Rangers turtle tagging expedition

The Bardi Jawi Rangers have been tagging turtles with satellite transmitters to discover more about their genetics, life cycle, travel and feeding patterns.

During the four-day research expedition, data was collected from more than 30 green turtles within the One Arm Point area on the Dampier Peninsula.

CSIRO scientist Mat Vanderklift prepares to attach a satellite tag to Iwany the green turtle while children from the Bardi Jawi community watch.

Bardi Jawi Indigenous Protected Area coordinator Daniel Oades said the satellite project had been a collaborative effort involving researchers and scientists from CSIRO and DPaW and the Bardi Jawi Rangers.

He said flipper and satellite tags were used as a way to capture various data about the marine species.

Local schoolchildren release a green turtle after it has been weighed and measured by scientists and rangers

“The satellite tags use a saltwater switch, so that when the turtle comes to the surface for air it sends signal fixes to a satellite to record location,’’ Daniel said.

“Another satellite tag focuses on transmitting depth and dive profile data. This is important because we don’t understand what turtles are doing for the majority or their life cycle, where they are going and where they are feeding.

“Bardi Jawi is not a high density nesting area for turtles but more of a foraging ground, so tagging turtles here will provide us with information about what turtles are coming past, what they are using Bardi Jawi country for, where they are coming from, whether it’s from Indonesia or the north-west shelf genetic stock of Australia.’’

The rangers collected the turtles and brought them to the ranger vessel Almban where they were measured and weighed and had their general health recorded. Skin and blood samples were collected for genetic testing and all the turtles were fitted with flipper tags.

“The rangers used their traditional knowledge to find the best place to locate and capture the turtles. Through being involved in satellite tagging, we get to improve on our marine science and research skills and test out our ranger vessel as a working platform,’’ Daniel said.

“We had the Bardi Jawi Oorany (Women) Rangers and about a dozen school children join in. Many of the young kids hadn’t done this sort of thing before, so it was also a good opportunity to teach our young people and show them the different ways of looking after country.’’

You can track the tagged green turtles via their satellite signal web page by clicking on the map:



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. 


Kimberley Marine Research Program

Aerial surveys generate first human activity maps for the Kimberley coast

Professor Lynnath Beckley from Murdoch University has led a team who spent two years using low altitude aerial surveys to monitor along the Kimberley coast and adjacent waters.

“People always talk about the remoteness and the emptiness of the Kimberley but this is the first time anyone has actually quantified human presence along the whole coast,” said Professor Lynnath Beckley.

“We were interested in finding out where people were spending time along the coast, and also what they were doing.”

The survey area ran along Eighty Mile Beach, Roebuck Bay, the Dampier Peninsula, King Sound, Buccaneer Archipelago and Camden Sound.

“This sort of information is vital for environmental managers and the Department of Parks and Wildlife to appropriately plan for biodiversity conservation and tourism, particularly as human activities in the area grow,” Professor Beckley said.

“The coast from Port Hedland to Wyndham has Traditional Owners, towns and communities, commercial endeavours, tourism and recreation activities and several marine parks.

“There are about 40,000 residents in the study area with more than 16,000 people living on the Dampier Peninsula.”

Results of the surveys showed that human use of the region is very seasonal and concentrated in particular areas of the coast with good road access.

As expected, the number of people along the shore and number of boats operating in coastal waters were much higher during the dry season from May to October. Nevertheless, local residents were observed to get out and about during the wet season to participate in various recreational activities.

“On Eighty Mile Beach people were mainly concentrated around the caravan park with anglers and their associated four-wheel drive vehicles clumped into about 30 kilometres of coastline,” she said.

“Camping during the dry season was largely confined to the larger caravan parks at Eighty Mile Beach and Port Smith, but also seen at Barn Hill Station and Cape Keraudren.

“This study has provided a spatially explicit benchmark of human recreational activities at the inception of the newly created Eighty Mile Beach Marine Park,” Professor Beckley said.

The research team also monitored boating in the central Kimberley region, through both aerial surveys and a collation of data about voyages of cruise vessels.

“Cruise vessels operate mainly from April to September between Broome and Wyndham with most of the vessels offering boutique expeditions with less than 20 passengers.

Montgomery Reef was the most popular destination in their itineraries with 275 visits by cruise vessels in 2013.

“Along with Montgomery Reef, the most popular sights for cruise vessels included Horizontal Falls, Raft Point, Prince Regent River and Talbot Bay. Passengers often go ashore in small boats to swim, fish and undertake scenic walks to view waterfalls, rock art and historical sites,” Professor Beckley said.

Read More:

Researchers take a snapshot of how we use the Kimberley coast

Listen to Professor Beckley’s presentation at the WAMSI Research Conference here: Lynnath Beckley, Murdoch University – Patterns of human use


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. 


Kimberley Marine Research Program

Oxygen and temperature levels examined in Kimberley reef

Written by 

MARINE scientists are using results from a recent reef study at Tallon Island, north of Broome, to develop predictive models for use on other reef systems in the Kimberley.

Speaking at the 2015 WAMSI Research Conference, University of Western Australia Associate Professor Ryan Lowe said the interactions occurring in these ‘tidally-forced’ reefs still remain unknown in relation to the widespread literature of wave-dominated reefs worldwide.

“There’s little known about the function and productivity of these reef systems so the goal is to really understand the nutrient dynamics in these types of environments,” he said.

A/Prof Lowe’s field program focused on detailed process-studies of the Tallon Island platform reef to understand the role of extreme environmental variability.

“We wanted to understand how the extreme environmental variability influences the benthic productivity of reef communities,” he says.

Using an array of synchronised current meters, tide gauges and thermistors (measurement and control instrument) A/Prof Lowe and his team researched primary production under extreme physical force by focusing on coral, algae and seagrass.

The results from the intensive field study, conducted three times during the dry and wet seasons, were used to measure the temperature variability across the intertidal reef.

Seagrass feels hot under the collar

A/Prof Lowe said extreme temperature variables were affecting the reef, with spatial patterns causing seagrass warming of up to almost 35 and 40 degrees Celsius.

“One of the striking things is the substantial tidal variations on these reefs,” he said.

“It is good in that it keeps these reefs from drying out during the day but it reduces the exchange of water in the ocean so it allows these extremes in temperatures and biogeochemicals to occur.”

At low tide the scientists were able to track the water mass through drifters and measure the changes in oxygen, nutrients and chlorophyll.

“From this information we can calculate influxes. From oxygen we can estimate rates in production and respiration and from the nutrients and chlorophyll we can estimate the uptake and release,” A/Prof Lowe said.

The scientists noticed extreme variations in oxygen, with primary producers such as seagrasses and algae producing a high amount during the daytime but with a noticeable decrease during the evening.

“However, we are getting twice as much post primary production in the seagrass zone as we are in the algal zone,” he says.


Listen to Ryan Lowe’s presentations at the WAMSI Research Conference 2015:

Ryan Lowe, UWA – Primary production

Ryan Lowe, UWA – Redefining sediment transport models over sensitive benthic habitats


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. 

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.


Kimberley Marine Research Program

What is the Kimberley worth?

With her 11-month old baby in tow, Dr Jennifer Strickland-Munro spent five months camping along the 13,000km stretch that marks the Kimberley coastline to find out exactly how people value the area and what their hopes are for its future.

The 2013 trek with her son, Samson and husband, Beau, from Darwin to Eighty Mile Beach, has culminated in the first report from the Values and aspirations for coastal waters of the Kimberley” research project funded by the Western Australian Government and administered by WAMSI.

In the first study of its kind to document the extent to which the region’s ~35,000 residents and many tourists value the Kimberley coast and marine environment, the results demonstrate that despite how hard it is to access some areas, there is nowhere that is considered without value.

Jennifer interviewing a Kimberley resident

“We interviewed 232 people in total that we met along the way, from a range of stakeholder groups,” Dr Strickland-Munro said. “This included Aboriginal Traditional Owners, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal residents, people from recreational and commercial fishing interests, aquaculture, tourists and tour operators, marine transport, Federal, State and local government, environmental non-government organisations and a range of community groups like sea rescue clubs who are clearly out and about on the coast.”

“Analysis of interview data revealed that social values for the Kimberley coastline and marine environment are largely non-consumptive, direct uses. Values relating to the physical landscape (e.g. aesthetics, coastal geology, unique nature experiences, and the Kimberley’s ‘pristine untouched environment’) were dominant.

“Biodiversity, an indirect use value relating to the presence of key flora and fauna including marine animals, reef biodiversity, migratory shorebirds and mangroves, was also widely and intensely valued,” Dr Strickland-Munro said.

A broad suite of Aboriginal values also emerged, with the clear need to include Aboriginal people in decision making rating highly.

Jennifer and family camping in the Kimberley

The project is now moving into its next phase as it looks to extend and validate what has already been found. An online survey will be launched in early April. The survey uses Public Participation GIS (PPGIS) techniques in which people place markers onto a Google map interface to indicate where and what they value about the Kimberley coast, as well as their management preferences for the future.

For more information about the survey contact Jennifer at j.strickland-munro@murdoch.edu.au.

The results of the three year project will be available by the end of the year when the newly documented information will be able to be put into practice across planning for parks and wildlife, shires and industry to help better understand the suite of values and aspirations for the Kimberley coast.


[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.]


Attached files:

PDF iconvalues_and_aspirations_for_coastal_waters_of_the_Kimberley.pdf


Kimberley Marine Research Program

The Kimberley coastline: what lies beneath?

The ocean bottom supports communities as diverse as those of any habitat on land but learning about what lies beneath the sea off Australia’s remote and hazardous Kimberley coast is presenting many challenges for marine scientists.

One project, which aims to explore and describe the nature of seabed life in the far northwest, is beginning to reveal the diverse nature of life beneath the sometimes swirling, turbid waters.

The results will form the basis for sound decision making to support conservation and sustainable development of marine parks as part of the Western Australian Marine Science Institution’s (WAMSI) Kimberley Marine Research Program.

Project leader, The Australian Institute of Marine Science’s (AIMS) Dr Andrew Heyward explained how the researchers are collecting data where ships carrying scientists and a range of equipment will survey the seabed areas in the southern, central and northern Kimberley.

“This work is the major field activity for the project and consists of five expeditions over the next couple of years. The first, undertaken last November, focussed on mapping the very large area contained within the boundaries of the recently declared Lalang -garram/Camden Sound Marine Park.”

“We mainly used acoustic mapping of depth and seabed shape using multibeam echo sounders combined with direct assessment of habitats on the seabed using towed video cameras,” Dr Heyward said.

Along with researchers from CSIRO and the WA Museum, the scientists will also work with Indigenous groups of the Kimberley coasts, including the sea rangers, who will provide additional information about shallow near shore areas.

“The initial survey has revealed very complex seabed shapes in some places, particularly close to island edges and narrow channels, where the extreme tides caused strong currents,” Dr Heyward said. “In those places the seabed was fairly hard, being either exposed rocky ground or pavement with a veneer of coarse sand.

Those sorts of places often supported low to medium density patches of filter feeding organisms like sponges and sea fans.”

High resolution photos also revealed very diverse life was often present on submerged rocks and ledges, but many of the organisms were small or encrusting. The researchers anticipate that many new species, both large and small, will be discovered once samples are identified back at the WA Museum.

In the northern part of the Lalang -garram/ Camden Sound Marine Park, an archipelago of islands provides a range of different habitats, including fringing reefs where, at low tide, abundant areas of coral can be seen exposed on the edges of the reef flats.

In contrast the deeper and more open bay areas of Camden Sound typically had fewer exposed rocky areas of seabed, but were frequently large areas of sand, including in a few places, large underwater sand dunes formed by the strong tidal currents.

“So the large open part of the Lalang -garram/Camden Sound zoned for whale sanctuary, is kind of like a big sandpit for them to frolic in,” Dr Heyward said.

Mixed brozoans soft corals sponges & seafans on rock

The researchers found that during spring the tidal currents caused increased turbidity, making camera work very challenging. The turbid water also greatly reduced the amount of light reaching the seabed.

“When we measured this it was quite common for little or no light to reach below depths of 10-15m below low tide,” Dr Heyward said. “This observation explains why organisms that rely on light for growth were not found in the broader parts of the bay which were typically 20-40m deep. So things like seaweeds and reef building corals tend to be close to the edges on hard rocky ground that is not too deep.”

A second expedition back to Camden Sound will commence this March. While further mapping of the seabed will continue, that expedition will also allow the scientists from AIMS, CSIRO and WA Museum, to collect samples of the biota. These samples will form the basis of the Kimberley project’s biodiversity reference collection at the WA Museum.


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. 



Kimberley Marine Research Program

Going with the flow in the Kimberley

A Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) project is using genetics to see how ocean currents in the Kimberley transport marine organisms from one reef to another.

Bardi-Jawi rangers, Mayala traditional owners and researchers from four WAMSI partner institutions recently conducted field studies along the remote and rugged coastline, collecting samples on exposed reefs at low tide between the 12 metre tidal surges around the Dampier Peninsular and Buccaneer Archipelago.

“We collected seagrasses, corals, fishes and trochus shells that live in the intertidal zone which is exposed at low tide,” CSIRO’s Dr. Oliver Berry said.

“We selected these species to represent the types of organisms that are common in the Kimberley. Some are also commercially, recreationally or culturally important like the trochus shell and stripey snapper, or form key habitats like seagrass and corals.”

Sites sampled Dampier Peninsular and Buccaneer Archipelago

Sites sampled Dampier Peninsular and Buccaneer Archipelago


The researchers are using scans of the organisms’ genomes to measure the genetic relationships between different reefs and seagrass beds. The more genetically similar the organisms from different reefs are, the more movement occurs between them.

“When you consider managing a marine resource you have to understand what drives population dynamics,” Dr. Berry said. “For some populations whether they are growing or shrinking is driven locally by births and deaths. But, especially in places where there are strong tides and currents, it’s possible that even populations quite distant from each other are strongly interdependent because organisms move between them a lot.”

“A seemingly large area like the Kimberley can be very linked if hydrodynamics (ocean currents) drive those population linkages. So if there was a disaster at one location, if that population was insular, or locally driven, it may take a long time for it to recover. But if the population was linked to other areas then it may recover more rapidly. What we’re trying to do is to better understand these relationships between populations.

“Of course it’s a difficult thing to study because most movement in marine species occurs when they are tiny eggs, seeds, or larvae. Genetics is a way to indirectly measure movement, and it’s becoming increasingly cost-effective and powerful with the development of genome sequencing technologies,” Dr. Berry said.

The research being undertaken by WAMSI with scientists from Edith Cowan University, AIMS, Department of Fisheries, WA and the Western Australian Museum, is expected to uncover a range of different patterns reflecting the exposure to currents of different reefs and the different life histories of the organisms.

“For example, looking at the patterns in the trochus shell, we know it has a short larval stage and that some fishes have longer ones,” Dr Berry said. “We expect this to mean fish get transported further and that these differences will be reflected in the genetic relationships between populations.”

“This is the first time anyone has attempted anything like this in the Kimberley, and anywhere in the world in such a macro-tidal environment,” he said.

“Now that there is increasing interest in developing the region we need to get a baseline understanding of how the ecosystem works, so that it can be managed effectively,” Dr Berry said. “We expect to have some results by the end of this year.”


[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.]





Kimberley Marine Research Program

Secrets of the green sea turtle revealed

It’s turtle nesting season and the Nyul Nyul Rangers have been recording this unique event on the Kimberley coast to learn more about the genetics of the green sea turtle and help ensure its survival.

The rangers joined scientists from CSIRO and the Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) to monitor and record turtle nesting sites across the Lacepede Islands and gather skin samples for genetic research. The field trip was held from December 5-11, 2014.

Nyul Nyul Ranger Ninjana Walsham said green turtles were listed as vulnerable to extinction which was why it was so important to find out more about their genetics. He said the research trip was a success with the group exceeding proposed targets and collecting 48 genetic samples and installing 12 remote sensors.

“We went out at night when they were nesting and there were just heaps of turtles everywhere on the beach. Before the female went to lay her eggs, we took just a little skin sample from the back right flipper,’’ Ninjana said.

“That information will be used to tell us how turtles are related and a bit about their family tree. It’s pretty amazing that from one little bit of tissue you can get all that information.

“We also tagged some of the turtles. They now have their own number so we can keep track of them and record information about them. We’ll use this information for future knowledge and to help us with management plans so we can continue to protect them.’’

Genetic sampling of sea turtles forms part of a two-year project by WAMSI to work out relationships between different turtle nesting groups, identify when and where turtles nest in the region and to assess possible climate change impacts to the species.

What is already known about green turtles is that adults can weigh up to 300kg and live for more than 80 years. Females can lay up to 100 eggs per clutch with nest temperatures determining the sex of the hatchlings. In the wild mostly females are born because incubation temperatures are above 29 degrees.

Ninjana said watching a group of hatchlings being born and make their way into the ocean for the first time was the highlight of the trip.

“There were lots of little hatchlings coming out. We had to help a couple, but it was just pretty amazing and pretty intense,’’ he said.

“It’s good to see that there are heaps of turtles out there nesting and knowing that your country is healthy. Every turtle goes back to the same nest where it was hatched to lay its eggs. We have a lot of turtles which is a really good sign.’’

Click here to listen to Dr Oliver Berry talking on ABC Kimberley


Valuing the Kimberley: social science informs planning for marine parks

Postdoctoral research scientist Dr Jennifer Strickland-Munro of Murdoch University helping re-locate a large crocodile with Nyul Nyul rangers at Beagle Bay landing, West Kimberley, after a participatory mapping exercise (Photo courtesy of Mark Rothery)

Spatial planning in any natural resource context is complicated and requires a lot of different kinds of information, and in the case of marine parks, experience has shown that information about local people’s needs and values is essential for effective planning and management. Understanding how people use the area (particularly in relation to tourism, recreational and commercial fishing) is also a key factor in effective planning. The more information the planners can access, the greater the likelihood that the plan will be successful.

A primary focus for WAMSI’s $30 million Kimberley Marine Research Program is to provide the science needed to inform planning and management of the Western Australian government’s proposed marine parks and reserves at Eighty Mile Beach, Roebuck Bay, Camden Sound and North Kimberley. Prof Susan Moore of Murdoch University is working with colleagues Dr Jennifer Strickland-Munro, Dr Halina Kobryn and Dr David Palmer on a WAMSI research project investigating human values and aspirations for the coastal waters of the Kimberley region. And their results are already being used by officers in the WA Department of Parks and Wildlife as input to their marine parks planning processes.

“The vastness of the Kimberley and its small, dispersed population – 34,795 people in a region twice the size of Victoria – made our sampling design particularly challenging,” reflected Susan. “In the end we completed 167 participatory mapping interviews, involving a total of 232 people, across a very wide range of stakeholder groups. This is a large and diverse sample population compared to similar studies conducted overseas.”

Interviewees included Aboriginal Traditional Owners, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal residents, tourists and representatives from the tourism industry, commercial and recreational fishing, and aquaculture; federal, state and local government; mining, oil, gas and tidal energy interests; marine transport and aviation; and environmental non-government organisations.

“The aggregated mapped results show that while all of the Kimberley coast is valued, particular hotspots occur in Roebuck Bay; the western and northern coastal fringes, and the marine environments of Dampier Peninsula; the Buccaneer Archipelago; Horizontal Falls and Talbot Bay; and Montgomery Reef,” said Susan.

“The most widely-held values were the Kimberley’s biodiversity, its physical landscape, and its Aboriginal culture,” said Susan. “It was also clear that Aboriginal people’s values for the Kimberley coast and marine environments extend well beyond cultural values, and as such Aboriginal people must be included in decision-making associated with all the values of the Kimberley coast.”

As is the case for all WAMSI-managed projects, researchers are expected to actively communicate and engage with end-users, thereby increasing the likelihood of rapid knowledge transfer. As a result, the results from this research project are already in demand by government agencies.

Mark Sheridan from Parks and Wildlife’s Marine Policy and Planning Branch said that they had recently requested and received Susan’s values maps to be used as part of their spatial planning for a number of forthcoming Kimberley marine parks, particularly the proposed North Kimberley Marine Park. “It’s well-known that the greater local support marine parks have, the more successful they are,” said Mark.

“While of course we’ve run targeted key stakeholder engagement processes to find out critical areas of use across the Kimberley,” explained Mark, “this WAMSI project has really extended our reach by targeting the general community from a values perspective – it helps us to understand how people value the Kimberley, as well as how they use it.”

“The researchers have identified an extensive range of values which we probably wouldn’t have understood without this WAMSI research project,” said Mark.

“Thanks in part to these research results we can try to ensure the new marine parks appropriately protect and conserve areas highly-valued by the locals,” explained Mark. “This increases the likelihood of local support, and the likelihood of the Kimberley marine parks planning process being a successful one for the Department, traditional owners and the community in general.”

Susan agrees. “Most importantly, these documented values provide a starting point for ongoing dialogue about what is important to people in the Kimberley,” she said. “They provide an input to policy and planning, but ultimately, such values must be co-produced through meaningful discussions among all those interested in the future of the Kimberley.”

Kimberley Marine and Coastal Science Symposium

The Royal Society of Western Australia (RSWA) and the Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) recently jointly hosted the Kimberley Marine and Coastal Science Symposium.