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.
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.
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.
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 MEDIA RELEASE WAS DISTRIBUTED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES ON WEDNESDAY 27 MAY 2015
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!
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.
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 MEDIA RELEASE WAS DISTRIBUTED BY CSIRO, IMOS AND THE MNF ON FRIDAY 15 MAY 2015.
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.