Multi-year water research expedition hits Australia’s shores

Posted 31 March 2017

Water researchAn epic quest to map the world’s oceans has reached Australian shores, where researchers will start plotting shallow reefs and assess coral health. 

The four-year Swiss expedition was inspired by the voyage of Ferdinand Magellan some 500 years after he traversed the Pacific Ocean. 

“The aim of this venture is to observe, understand, map and report on the state of the oceans in the light of the first circumnavigation,” the Ocean Mapping Expedition said.  

“Its ambition is to contribute to better and wider awareness of the issues being raised by humanity's impact on this environment and to provoke thought about our relationship with the planet’s oceans.”

For its time in Queensland, the 33m yacht Fleur de Passion has welcomed University of Queensland researchers aboard to lead two projects. 

The first will map the habitat of the Great Barrier Reef, focussing on the 200 shallow reefs in the waters around Cairns to Cooktown.

Twenty of the reefs will be surveyed from the Fleur de Passion, said Dr Chris Roelfsema from UQ’s Remote Sensing Research Centre, who will lead that program.

“No comprehensive map of the composition of all the diverse habitats on the whole Great Barrier Reef currently exists,” said Roelfsema. 

“These maps will provide valuable information for monitoring and management to support current bleaching surveys, the crown of thorn starfish eradication program, marine park zone design, and day-to-day management of the Great Barrier Reef.”

The second project will train crew to collect reef data for the CoralWatch citizen science project.

CoralWatch Project Leader UQ's Professor Justin Marshall said the yacht's visit to Australia and the cooperative relationship could have not come at a better time.

“The Great Barrier Reef continues to face a barrage of threats,” he said.

“As a second major coral bleaching event takes hold, now more than ever the reef requires support by international government, industry, science and the community.

“Citizen science is recognised as an effective way to bolster information flow between these sectors.”