Checking out eddies on the East Australian Current in RV Investigator

The scientists, crew and support staff on board RV Investigator are enjoying some beautiful weather off the coast of northern and central New South Wales this past week.

The vessel is out in the middle of one of Australia’s busiest shipping lanes, conducting research into eddies that spiral off the East Australian Current, with Professor Iain Suthers from the University of New South Wales as the Chief Scientist.

Before the ship departed Brisbane, Professor Suthers sent through the image below  of the eddies he was hoping to study. Right now there is a 100 km wide eddy off the coast of Byron Bay and a very productive one only 30 km diameter off the coast of Forster, very similar to the image below. It appears to be an offshore nursery area.

The whales, dolphins and tuna think so too – the officers on the bridge have recorded impressive numbers in the Forster eddy feeding on what appears to be sardine.

Overall, I think we need to focus on the excitement around the new ship, which was built to perform world-leading multi-disciplinary research in the national interest.  Regarding the spare 120 days, we are not ruling anything in or out, rather our focus is to maximise the utilisation of the ship for the purpose for which it was provided.  The national interest test includes whether the research will provide data in priority areas, if the data will be publicly available and if other researchers are able to collaborate (onboard or by sharing samples for example) to add value.

Oceanographers from UNSW led by Prof Moninya Roughan have release satellite drifters into the eddies, revealing the characteristic clockwise spiral of these oases in the ocean.

Here’s a photo from on board with the team about to deploy the lagrangian drifter, which is a piece of equipment that can either float on the surface or at a specific ocean depth, to collect data about an ocean current.

V03 2015 Iain Suthers

Meanwhile scientists from UTS led by Prof Martina Doblin are discovering the basis for this productivity, in the form of single celled algae and photosynthetic bacteria and even viruses.

Around the clock they’ve been deploying equipment and collecting crucial data that will help us better understand how cold eddies play a pivotal role in our fisheries. In the plankton nets we have found over 80 different families of larval fish, including popular species such as larval yellowtail kingfish, dolphinfish, flatfish, and eels. V03 2015 Iain Suthers larval fish

A Queen’s Birthday Honour for Toni Moate!

Toni Moate

We’re pretty chuffed that the Executive Director of the Future Research Vessel Project, Toni Moate has been awarded the Public Service Medal for outstanding public service in Australian marine and atmospheric science, as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours List!

The media release sent out today, Monday 8 June 2015 said…

The Governor-General and Chancellor of the Order of Australia, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), approved the awards that were announced today in The Queen’s Birthday 2015 Honours List. The Queen’s Birthday 2015 Honours List recognises a diverse range of contributions and service across all fields, including professional endeavours, community service, Defence and Emergency Services personnel, and acts of bravery.

“We are fortunate as a community to have so many outstanding people willing to dedicate themselves to the betterment of our nation and it is only fitting that they have today been recognised through the Australian Honours system. Since 1975 these awards have drawn national attention to the personal efforts of individuals, made willingly, without thought of recognition or recompense,” the Governor-General said.

Ms Moate has excelled in leadership of both research and development in the fields of marine and atmospheric science during her career of over 20 years with the CSIRO. She is widely regarded as one of Australia’s leading research managers and, most recently, as one of the world’s top marine infrastructure professionals. She played a pivotal role in an extraordinarily large and complex national project, namely delivering the Marine National Facility’s new research vessel Investigator. Under her direction the vessel was delivered on scope and on budget. Ms Moate led a rigorous multinational procurement and delivery process to design, build and commission the new vessel, which represents a step forward in Australia’s marine science capabilities that will serve our nation with distinction for many decades to come.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Expedition to study ocean eddies

Professor Iain Suthers and Dr Brian Griffiths on board Southern Surveyor


UNSW marine biologist Professor Iain Suthers will lead a scientific expedition aboard the brand new Marine National Facility research vessel Investigator next week to study the secrets of small eddies along the eastern Australian coastline between Port Macquarie and Newcastle.

“We suspect they are important offshore nurseries for larval fish,” says Professor Suthers, who will head a team of 28 researchers, more than half of them from UNSW, for the 16-day voyage between Brisbane and Sydney.

The team includes Associate Professor Moninya Roughan, head of the coastal and regional oceanography group in the UNSW School of Mathematic and Statistics, who will study the behaviour of ocean currents and the physical dynamics of eddy formation.

As the East Australian Current – a wide and deep marine conveyor belt made famous in the movie Finding Nemo – sweeps down the coast, bringing warm tropical water southward, it often forms large eddies that move slowly in an anti-clockwise direction.

“These large, warm eddies are biological deserts, devoid of much life. But sometimes small, cold eddies also break off from the main current and rotate in a clockwise direction. They pull up nutrient–rich water to the surface and are more like biological rainforests, with a wide diversity of species present, including larval fish,” says Professor Suthers, of the UNSW School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences.

“People think of the ocean as well-mixed and the same everywhere, but you can move from a desert area to a rainforest within a few kilometres.”

The team will use high-tech equipment on the $120 million Investigator to measure the temperature, salinity, and type of plankton in the small eddies to determine if they are offshore nursery grounds.

They will also trawl for larval fish and see whether more of them survive in these protective eddies than elsewhere.

“As many as 99.9 per cent of larval fish along the coastline do not survive to adulthood. But because many billions of eggs are laid, just a slight increase in survival rate can translate into a lot more fish,” says Professor Suthers.

“If we find the small eddies are good nurseries for larval fish, it raises the possibility of putting eggs from big fish such as tuna into the eddies so their chances of survival are better. That way we could help repopulate the ocean.”

The research would be relevant to many coastal areas around the globe where these small eddies are also found between the coast and the main current.

Five members of Associate Professor Roughan’s team are already on the vessel participating in an expedition in which an array of six moorings – strings of instruments and sensors – will be deployed off Brisbane in depths of 200 metres to five kilometres, to monitor changes in the East Australian Current.

“The East Australian Current moves enough water to fill 10,000 Olympic swimming pools southward every second. It not only affects fisheries, it has a major impact on weather, the position of marine parks, tourism, severe storm events, coastal erosion and the distribution of marine species,” says Associate-Professor Roughan.

Purpose-built in Singapore, Investigator can accommodate up to 40 scientists and 20 crew and travel from the tropics to the Antarctic ice-edge on voyages up to 60 days in duration. Overseen by an independent Steering Committee, the Marine National Facility is owned and operated by CSIRO on behalf of the nation.

Here are some great photos from previous voyages with Professor Iain Suthers!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


What a great photo of Investigator!

Winter has finally arrived and what better a day to show you this great photo taken last summer with Investigator tied alongside the CSIRO wharf, in Hobart Tasmania.

RV Investigator in Hobart






RV Investigator in Sydney!

The Marine National Facility research vessel Investigator arrived in Sydney earlier this week, which made for some spectacular photos of the ship against grey clouds and a dark harbour!

The 94 metre vessel tied alongside at the Royal Australian Navy’s Fleet Base East, in Woolloomooloo, which is known as Garden Island.

Check out the aerial photos.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Measuring an ocean of change


Researchers head to the seas off the east coast of Australia today on Australia’s new Marine National Facility research vessel, Investigator, to put in place ongoing measurements to track the vast volumes of water that influence our weather and climate.

“The East Australian Current sets the whole structure of the Tasman Sea,” CSIRO scientist and voyage leader Dr Bernadette Sloyan said.

“It influences our climate, the ecosystem, commercial and recreational fishing, much of what we see on the coast.

“If the current wasn’t there, we’d have a very different Tasman Sea.”

Dr Sloyan said the current was also a key component of global ocean circulation, moving heat, freshwater and nutrients around the South Pacific.

It moves massive amounts of water – each second transporting more than 25 million cubic metres of water, or 10,000 Olympic swimming pools, southwards.

“The voyage will deploy six large moorings, from the continental slope to the deep ocean off Brisbane,” Dr Sloyan said.

“This is where the East Australian Current approaches its maximum strength and its flow is relatively uniform so we can measure the current’s average flow and how it varies over time.”

The collaboration between CSIRO, the Marine National Facility and the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) will enable the maintenance of multi-year monitoring of the current.

“The East Australian Current shows variations over a range of timescales from seasonal to decadal,” IMOS Director Tim Moltmann said.

“Much of what we know about the current has come from irregularly distributed observations collected over many decades.

“What is lacking is a sustained time-series of observations of the East Australian Current across its entire extent and of sufficient duration to understand seasonal, interannnual and decadal signals.

“The IMOS observations will provide significant new insights into the variable nature of the East Australian Current.”

Dr Sloyan said the current had important implications for Australia’s weather and climate.

“It is the dominant mechanism for the redistribution of tropical Pacific Ocean heat between the ocean and atmosphere in the Australian region,” she said.The waters in the Tasman Sea have warmed by more than 2oC, faster than other parts of the world’s oceans.

“Western boundary current regions, such as the EAC system, are highly variable and linked to large-scale ocean changes,” Dr Sloyan said.

“Monitoring the EAC therefore, provides information of the large-scale drivers of regional ocean change. These changes may result in subtropical marine species moving into temperate waters, altering the habitat of many species.”

Investigator is a 93.9 metre purpose-built research vessel, capable of travelling 10,000 nm in a single voyage, carrying up to 40 scientists and support staff, from the equator to the Antarctic ice-edge. The Marine National Facility is a blue-water research capability funded by the Australian Government. Under direction of an independent Steering Committee, it is owned and operated by CSIRO on behalf of the nation.

Would you look at that, CSIRO’s on Instagram!


When CSIRO got started way back in 1926, the telegram was one of the primary methods of communication. Almost a century on we’re still ‘graming’ but this time the medium is a little more… visual.

Yep, you guessed it: CSIRO got an Instagram account. If you are part of the Instagram community follow us @CSIROgram for a glimpse into our world of world-leading science.

We’ve already got a few pics up ready for you to like, and we’re even going to run a competition to celebrate (but more on that later).

Why Instagram?

We’re fortunate enough to see the marvels of science on a daily basis, we see the beauty of the Australian landscape – from the desert to the beach, the forest to the bush and all points in between. We see creatures great and infinitesimally small. We see incredible technology come to life, like advanced robotics, energy harvesting technologies and incredible ocean-faring vessels. Now we want to share this visual feast with you.

And to get things started, we’re running a competition.

Well, hello sailor

If you’re in the Sydney area this week, we want to see your best selfies with the Marine National Facility’s RV Investigator as it visits Sydney for the first time.

Which side is her good side? The RV Investigator will be our selfie celeb when the vessel arrives in Sydney

Which side is her good side? The RV Investigator will be our selfie celeb when the vessel arrives in Sydney

It’ll be coming through the Heads around 3pm to berth at Garden Island. Send us your best shots by using #CSIROgram for a chance to win a guided tour of the most impressive marine research vessel we’ve ever seen.

Why would you set yourself up for ridicule, as you whip out the selfie stick and bunch together with friends and family awkwardly in public? Prizes of course.

The selfie we decide is  the most interesting/special/amusing will win a tour on the RV Investigator when it’s back in Sydney on the 19th June, 2015. This is a rare opportunity, the ship isn’t open to the public and you would be one of the few  people (who aren’t marine biologists) to set foot on these hallowed decks.

We also have merchandise galore to giveaway for honorable mentions and runners up – over 100 items in fact.

The crew of the RV Investigator have laid down the challenge. This selfie was taken while en route to Sydney - can you do better? Image: L-R

The crew of the RV Investigator have laid down the challenge. This selfie was taken while off the Victorian coast en route to Sydney. Can you do better? Image: L-R Ben Rae, Tegan Sime and Alan Martin.

How do I win?

Step 1: Follow us on Instagram: @CSIROgram

Step 2: Find the RV Investigator in Sydney

Step 3: Take a picture of the vessel and upload it to Instagram using #CSIROgram. (If you aren’t on Instagram share your image on Facebook and Twitter– with the hashtag)

Step 4: Win prizes. Which prizes? These prizes.


  • Did I Win?: Winners will be chosen by CSIRO based on images uploaded to our social channels (Instagram, Twitter and Facebook) which include the hashtag: #CSIROgram. The image adjudged to be the most interesting, unique or humourous will be declared the winner.
  • When and Where: The RV Investigator makes its way into Sydney passing the heads at approx. 3pm on Wednesday 13th May, 2015. The ship will be at Garden Island till 1800 Friday 15th May. That doesn’t give you a lot of time, but we are confident of some amazing images
  • Be a Follower: You must be following one of our accounts to be considered (whether it be submitted via Instagram, Facebook or Twitter)
  • Selfie sour-puss?: We want to see lots of selfies, but if you don’t feel comfortable being in the shot, we’re accepting any and all images of the Investigator – but you need to make it interesting
  • Not on Instagram?: Shame on you! But we don’t mind, share your pics with us on Facebook and Twitter and we will include those in the competition, if you include #CSIROgram
  • Be safe: The vessel will be docked at Garden Island won’t be accessible to the public. With this in mind we need to state that any image that is clearly taken from an unsafe or illegal location will not be permitted. We reserve the right to disallow any unsafe or dangerous images; be clever not reckless
  • The Tour: The winner of the tour must be available to attend the tour on Friday 19th June, 2015 at 9 AM – you will have to make your own arrangements to get to the ship which will be berthed in Sydney Harbour
    • Max. 4 people allowed to attend. All tour participants must be aged 13 or older
    • Participants must wear closed-toe shoes and trousers are recommended
    • No smoking, eating or drinking on board
    • Tour participants won’t be able to carry anything in their arms – no bags, dogs, walking sticks, etc
    • The tour is not recommended for people who suffer from claustrophobia
    • Tours span 6 of the ship’s 11 levels, and may prove challenging for people with mobility issues. Please consider whether this tour is right for you, before entering the competition
    • The tours are not transferable and must be taken on Friday 19th May, 2015 at 9AM
  • Runner up and honourable mention prizes: There are 100 prizes to be given away –  the exact combination given of prizes sent to the winners, will be determined after the competition has ended.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 742 other followers