Searching for a new end to the Reef
James Cook University’s Robin Beaman will lead a joint JCU / University of Sydney research voyage to test whether long-term climate change could see the Great Barrier Reef head south.
Dr Beaman’s team will use multibeam mapping and rock dredging equipment onboard the Marine National Facility vessel RV Southern Surveyor, to investigate Gardner Bank near Fraser Island, to determine whether it could become an extension of the Great Barrier Reef.
A marine geologist at JCU’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Dr Beaman said Gardner Bank was in a tropical/temperate transition zone ideal for a possible shift from a cooler-water, algal-dominated environment, to a warmer-water, coral-dominated environment.
“A detailed study of the sediments and marine life there will provide the baseline data to compare against changes in the future,” he said.
The researchers will also map previously unsurveyed volcanic seamounts off the Queensland coast – some as high as 3,000 metres – and giant coral atolls near New Caledonia.
Owned and operated by CSIRO, the Marine National Facility is available to all Australian scientists. Opportunities are given to early career researchers and students to carry out research during transit voyages.
Dr Beaman is the Chief Scientist on the 'Next Wave' transit voyage between Brisbane and Fiji, which departs on 2 May.
“This transit provides a wonderful opportunity for our students to participate in ocean-going research and to collaborate with other marine scientists,” he said.
Other projects occurring onboard the 'Next Wave' transit voyage are: deep crustal volcanic studies by the University of Queensland; measurements of greenhouse gases by the University of Wollongong; and a study of the distribution and fate of marine debris by CSIRO and the University of Western Australia.
In 2013 RV Southern Surveyor will be replaced by RV Investigator, heralding a new era in Australian marine and atmospheric research.
Issued April 27, 2012
JCU Media: Jim O’Brien – 07 4781 4822