By Keirissa Lawson
We all know that the sewers of New York City, with their proximity to pizza shops and evil villains, provide a thriving habitat for teenage mutant ninja turtles.
But how much do we know about the habitat and movement of real turtles?
Scientists from CSIRO and the WA Department of Environment and Conservation, led by CSIRO’s Dr Mat Vanderklift, are capturing and tagging green sea turtles in the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area off Western Australia, to gain a better understanding of sea turtle ecology.
“This is the first time turtle tagging studies of this kind have been conducted in the Ningaloo area,” said Dr Vanderklift. “Understanding where the turtles forage for food and how far they roam will provide invaluable information for ongoing management of these iconic animals in this World Heritage Area.”
Since February this year, Dr Vanderklift and his team have fitted 17 green sea turtles with acoustic tags which track the movement of the turtles as they pass by specialised listening stations in Mangrove Bay. Another two turtles from the same area have been fitted with satellite tags. Each time the aerial on the tag breaks the sea surface a signal is sent to a satellite and used to pinpoint the turtle’s position.
The tags, attached to the turtle’s carapace (shell), will give scientists an insight into the range and foraging patterns of these threatened marine reptiles. In addition, scientists are using remote underwater video to observe turtle behaviour up close.
“So far we have looked at more than 140 hours of video and have found that turtles tend to spend quite a lot of time in seaweed patches in the lagoon during the day,” said Dr Vanderklift.
Local students from Exmouth Primary School are getting behind the turtle tagging study and will name the two satellite-tagged turtles.
You too can follow the turtles’ tracks in near-real time.
This project is a partnership between CSIRO, the Western Australian Departments of Environment and Conservation (DEC) and Fisheries (DoF) and the Cape Conservation Group. The research is supported by funding from the Commonwealth Government through the Caring for our Country initiative.
Yesterday we reported a case of a missing robot. The autonomous underwater submarine, also known as Starbug, didn’t arrive back at its expected location after mapping seagrass in Moreton Bay off Brisbane, Queensland.
It may sound like an escape, an Apple Maps fail or a timely publicity stunt on the day of Ringo Starr’s Brisbane show. But seriously, we were missing a little yellow submarine.
We are delighted to report that Starbug was found today on Gonzales Beach, Moreton Island. Starbug will be transported back to the mainland tomorrow and reunited with its creator, robotics researcher Matt Dunbabin. Matt is a happy man!
Many thanks to the friendly rangers of Queensland Parks and Wildlife who found Starbug on the beach and initiated its safe return. If Starbug’s stolen your heart, read a little more about our Autonomous Underwater Vehicle research.
By Craig Macaulay
When you rely on shipping in the polar regions as a platform to conduct scientific research the extent of sea ice is very much a consideration in planning.
Sea ice has been a big issue this season for the French Antarctic re-supply vessel, the 65-metre L’Astrolabe, and it has been well and truly on the radar of CSIRO project leaders who have collaborative research programs on the ship with their French colleagues. Because the vessel operates along the same route between Hobart and the French Antarctic base of Dumont D’Urville, L’Astrolabe is attractive as a platform for science during its four return voyages each season.
The voyages allow French and Australian researchers to make clear comparisons on water properties through the spring-summer supply months during what has been a very successful and long-running collaborative program, supported in recent years through Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System.
The journey from Hobart to Dumont D’Urville takes six days, presuming there is little sea ice along the route. The challenge for the ship’s Master is always to find a lead through the sea ice circling the continent, to reach the base.
Throughout this season the ship has encountered heavy ice in East Antarctica, and on January 23 the decision was made to halt science programs because of the ongoing disruption to the ship’s schedule.
Similar conditions will face the larger New Zealand vessel Tangaroa, which leaves Wellington on February 2 carrying three deep ocean moorings intended for deployment in the Mertz Polynya region.
Built by engineering staff at CSIRO’s Hobart Marine Laboratories in 2012, the moorings were shipped to New Zealand before Christmas for loading on the Tangaroa, in voyage, that will be carrying 22 Australian, New Zealand and French on a 42-day voyage to the Mertz Polynya region, one of a few places in the world where the densest ocean waters form.
Among staff from CSIRO will be Beatriz Pena-Molino, Peter Hughes, Kate Berry , Sue Reynolds and CSIRO-Utas student, Eva Cougnon. Elizabeth Shadwick and Mark Rosenberg from the Antarctic Climate & Ecosystem CRC also will support the voyage science.
A polynya is an area of open water surrounded by sea ice. Polynyas are kept free of sea ice by the wind, which constantly blows away any ice that tries to form. The formation of sea ice creates heavier saltier water, which then sinks and spreads to fill the bottom of the global ocean. This means it has a significant influence on global ocean circulation.
In 2010, the tongue of Antarctica’s Mertz Glacier was rammed by a huge iceberg, causing much of the tongue to break away. Scientists want to study the impact of this massive change to the Mertz Glacier on the surrounding environment.
This region is one of three unique places around Antarctica which control the properties of the deep ocean – thus the breaking ice tongue could have wider impacts on global ocean circulation. To study the changes in the ocean, the scientists will use a suite of underwater cameras, moorings and sensors.
Hobart’s Steve Rintoul is the leader of the Australian team on the Tangaroa voyage.
“When we speak of global warming, we really mean ocean warming: more than 90% of the extra heat energy stored by the earth over the last 50 years has gone into warming up the ocean. The Southern Ocean is particularly important because it stores more heat and carbon dioxide released by human activities than any other region, and so helps to slow the rate of climate change.
“Our earlier research in this region has shown that rapid changes are underway in the deep ocean, but we are not yet sure what is driving the changes. The measurements collected on the Tangaroa voyage will be used to test the hypothesis that increased melt of Antarctic ice is driving changes we see in the deep ocean,” Dr Rintoul said.
But first they have to get there.
Aurora Australis has been the platform for much of Australia’s Southern Ocean marine science programs. The Australian Government is taking the first steps towards replacing the ship that has been supporting Antarctic and Southern Ocean programs for 23 years.
In February 2012, Steve Rintoul was interviewed by colleague Nick Roden aboard Aurora Australis and discussed the many and varied aspects of Southern Ocean research:
Scientists believe that fish ear bones and their distinctive growth rings can offer clues to the likely impacts of climate change in aquatic environments.
The earbones, or ‘otoliths’, help fish detect movement and orient themselves in the water. Otoliths set down annual growth rings that can be measured and counted to estimate the age and growth rates of fish.
“Otoliths can form the basis of new techniques for modelling fish growth, productivity and distribution in future environments,” said Dr John Morrongiello of CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans Flagship, lead author of a paper published online in Nature Climate Change.
“They are widely used to support fishery stock assessments, and are beginning to be used to measure and predict ecological responses to ocean warming and climate change.
“Millions of otoliths are archived in research laboratories and museums worldwide, and many fish species live for decades and some, such as orange roughy, live for up to 150 years.
“Their otoliths record variations in growth rates that reflect environmental conditions. Longer-lived fish and older samples take us back as far as the 1800s.”
The paper, co-authored by Dr Ron Thresher and Dr David Smith of CSIRO, builds on earlier research by Dr Thresher that identified the potential of using fish ‘hard parts’ (such as otoliths) and deep ocean corals to understand environmental change. It outlines a framework in which Australian research institutions can analyse hard parts and assess past and future impacts on a range of species.
In the next research phase, scientists at CSIRO, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the University of Adelaide will study selected species of commercial interest, including tiger flathead, black bream, blue gropers, barramundi and tropical snappers.
“We will use otoliths to investigate the environmental drivers of fish growth for many species around Australia,” Dr Morrongiello said.
“This will allow us to generate a continental-scale evaluation of climate change impacts on Australia’s fishes and help to guide the conservation and management of our aquatic environments into the future.”
Dr Thresher said there had already been extensive use of hard part archives from corals to reflect on climate variability, such as El Niño events, and to reconstruct environmental histories.
“Any change identified in growth and age maturity, especially of commercially-important species, clearly has implications for forecasting future stock states and the sustainable management of fisheries,” Dr Thresher said.
“A better ability to predict such change will greatly enhance our ability to forecast, manage and adapt to the impacts of climate change in marine and freshwater systems.”
Media: Bryony Bennett. Phone: +61 3 6232 5261 Alt Phone: +61 3 6232 5222 Email: Bryony.Bennett@csiro.au
CSIRO scientists are heading to the Ombai Strait and Timor Passage to collect data vital to understanding how an ocean current in the region affects Australia’s climate and weather.
Almost two years ago CSIRO oceanographers deployed moorings in one of Australia’s and globally important ocean currents, the Indonesian Throughflow, which connects the Pacific and Indian Oceans through the complex system of islands.
The moorings will be recovered, their data will be uploaded to the ship’s computers and then they will be returned to the water for a further 18 months.
Leading the research team on board Australia’s Marine National Facility research vessel Southern Surveyor, is oceanographer Dr Bernadette Sloyan who is a specialist in ocean circulation with CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans Flagship.
“The heat and fresh water carried by the Indonesian Throughflow are known to affect both the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and so understanding the physical and chemical make-up is important for the future management of natural resource,” Dr Sloyan said.
“The current consists of several different layers that occur at different depths, which weave their way through the complex island network; where there are a variety of seabed landscapes affecting the currents, from broad shallow shelves to deep basins.
“We know very little about how this ocean current changes across the seasons and this will be the first time we look at data from these moorings, which have been in place for two years.”
The moorings consist of sensors recording temperature, salinity, and ocean current, spanning the region from the continental margin to off-shore in water depths of over three kilometres.
These moorings are part of the Australian Government funded Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS). Given the importance of the Indonesian Throughflow to Australia’s climate, IMOS intends to undertake long-term monitoring of the two main passages.
Dr Sloyan said IMOS has provided over $1 million in funding to support this work, which will complement existing IMOS observations being collected from the Northwest shelf, Great Barrier Reef, and the East Australian Current.
The research team will also conduct oceanographic sampling and mapping work to create a three-dimensional image of the sea floor in sections of the Timor Passage and the Ombai Strait in the area of the moorings.
The work is being undertaken with the cooperation of Timor-Leste, who will have two observers on the research voyage.
Australia’s Marine National Facility research vessel, Southern Surveyor, is owned and operated by CSIRO, and is available to all Australian scientists.
Southern Surveyor Open for Free Public Tours 12-14 October 2012
Southern Surveyor will return to Darwin on Wednesday 10 October and will be open for free public tours from 12-14 October at Stokes Hill Wharf in Darwin.
Places for tours are strictly limited. Bookings can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Things you need to know before booking:
- While you’re on the tour you need to wear closed-toed shoes like joggers, so bring them along and pop them on before you come on board. Sorry no thongs or sandals.
- No children 10 years of age or under.
- Children 11-15 years must be accompanied by a supervising adult.
- Stairways and gangways throughout the ship are narrow and steep
- Southern Surveyor is air conditioned
03 6232 5197
0417 028 016
A team of British and Australian scientists has discovered how carbon is drawn down from the surface of the Southern Ocean to the deep waters beneath.
The Southern Ocean is an important carbon sink in the world – around 40 per cent of the annual global CO2 emissions absorbed by the world’s oceans enter through this region.
Reporting this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the CSIRO, reveal that rather than carbon being absorbed uniformly into the deep ocean in vast areas, it is drawn down and locked away from the atmosphere by plunging currents a thousand kilometres wide.
Winds, currents and massive whirlpools that carry warm and cold water around the ocean – known as eddies – create localised pathways or funnels for carbon to be stored.
Lead author, Dr Jean-Baptiste Sallée from British Antarctic Survey says, “The Southern Ocean is a large window by which the atmosphere connects to the interior of the ocean below. Until now we didn’t know exactly the physical processes of how carbon ends up being stored deep in the ocean. It’s the combination of winds, currents and eddies that create these carbon-capturing pathways drawing waters down into the deep ocean from the ocean surface.”
“Now that we have an improved understanding of the mechanisms for carbon draw-down we are better placed to understand the effects of changing climate and future carbon absorption by the ocean.”
CSIRO co-author, Dr Richard Matear says the rate-limiting step in the anthropogenic carbon uptake by the ocean is the physical transport from the surface into the ocean interior.
“Our study identifies these pathways for the first time and this matches well with observationally–derived estimates of carbon storage in the ocean interior,” Dr Matear says.
Due to the size and remote location of the Southern Ocean, scientists have only recently been able to explore the workings of the ocean with the help of small robotic probes – known as Argo floats. In 2002, 80 floats were deployed in the Southern Ocean to collect information on the temperature and salinity. This unique set of observations spanning 10 years has enabled scientists to investigate this remote region of the world for the first time.
The floats are just over a metre in length and dive to depths of 2km. Today, there are over 3000 floats in the oceans worldwide providing detailed information used in oceanic climate models.
The team also analysed temperature, salinity and pressure data collected from ship-based observations since the 1990s. The instrument used for this is called a CTD profiler which is a cluster of sensors taking measurements as it’s lowered deep down into the ocean to depths of more than 7km.
The work was supported through the Wealth from Oceans and Australian Climate Change Science Programs, and the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centre program.
More at CSIRO Media HERE
Australia’s Marine National Facility research vessel, Southern Surveyor, returns to the Southern Ocean this week in a pilot project to measure the air-sea exchange of heat, moisture, carbon dioxide and oxygen in the sub-Antarctic ocean, and at the same time to test the continuing ability of moored instruments to withstand the roughest ocean conditions anywhere.
Managed by CSIRO, Southern Surveyor will deploy three moored measuring systems to be anchored at a depth of nearly five kilometres, or four times the height of Hobart’s Mt Wellington, about 580km south-west of Tasmania.
The moorings form part of the Australian Government funded Integrated Marine Observing System, providing enhanced monitoring in the Southern Ocean.
The moored instruments include a $1m weather station (managed by the Bureau of Meteorology), a specialist biogeochemical sensor and sampler mooring developed by CSIRO, and a deep sea sinking particle flux mooring provided by the Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre.
The voyage’s Chief Scientist, Professor Tom Trull, from CSIRO, the Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre and the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania , said the project was the only one of its type in the Southern Ocean.
“While the Southern Ocean plays a significant role in the global climate system, there is a paucity of sustained observations in this harsh and remote region. These high quality observations are a valuable contribution to understanding ocean processes that contribute to climate variability.
“The ability of the ocean to soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and remove it to ocean depths is a natural process but the rate of that exchange and its influence on other chemical and biological properties in the ocean is now a central climate science question.
“We know the sub-Antarctic ocean is a hotspot for uptake of carbon dioxide and deployment of these mooring systems over the next 18 months will give us an insight into changes occurring from day-to-day and season-to-season in the upper ocean and at the sea surface.
“The results we obtain will be of interest around the world to climate and carbon cycle scientists,” Professor Trull said. Professor Trull will be available for interviews and pictures with the moorings on Wednesday, July 11 at 10am.
For more information and to arrange interviews:
Miranda Harman, ACE CRC Communications and Media Manager +61 3 6226-2265 +419 507 268
The ability of oceanographers to study how the Indian Ocean shapes Australian and global climate was helped this week by the arrival in Hobart of a 20-metre South African yacht to take on board a new suite of Argo ocean measuring floats for deployment in the next three months.
The Lady Amber, skippered by Captain Peter Flanagan, has been under charter to CSIRO to seed the Indian Ocean with Argo profilers, in a region east and south of territory where there is known pirate activity. The yacht will take on around 5 to 10 profilers in Hobart for deployment on her return journey to South Africa.
Nearly 3200 Argo profilers report every 10 days on ocean conditions, providing a global map of temperature and salinity for the upper two kilometres of ocean. Australia is the second largest contributor to the international Argo program, behind the United States, with nearly 400 active floats operating in the Indian Ocean and Southern Oceans and Tasman Sea.
The profilers also give observations critical to Australia’s ocean forecast system, operated by the Bureau of Meteorology.
Last year US and Australian naval vessels deployed instruments nearer the Horn of Africa where gaps existed in the global fleet as a result of pirates operating in the region.
According to Dr Susan Wijffels, co-Chair of the international Argo project, distribution of the profiling instruments is a real challenge for oceanographers.
“With shipping companies consolidating their routes and our need to have instruments operating roughly every 300 kms, the charter of the Lady Amber has been critical for us to fill fleet gaps in the Indian Ocean,” Dr Wijffels said.
“The oceans are the fly wheel of our climate system and the international Argo program now provides 3,000 ocean watch towers from which to observe how the ocean is changing year-to-year and decade-to-decade.”
She said the latest published results showing the ocean warming trend extended back 100 years helps vindicates the investment of more than 30 countries in this volunteer observing program. The warming has been detected, grading from .59-degree Celsius at the surface to .12-degree Celsius at 900m depth.
The program is coordinated through the UNESCO and the World Meteorological Organisation’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Joint Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology. Australia’s contribution is through the CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Research Flagship and Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System. The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission has a regional office in Perth, funded jointly through the Federal and West Australian governments.
French scientist, who coordinates Argo support, said that after a decade of implementation using mainly research vessels and merchants ships, global observing programmes are now investigating green, flexible, free or non-profit based, and dedicated deployment platforms. Lady Amber may take on more Argo profilers in Indian. Plans for operations in the South Atlantic Ocean are already under study.
Media: Craig Macaulay. Ph: 03 6232 5219. E: email@example.com Mb: 0419 966 465
Work on Australia’s new $120 million Marine National Facility research vessel, Investigator, moved from the drafting table to the shipyard today.
Cutting the steel for the vessel started in Singapore, heralding a new era in marine and atmospheric research for scientists.
Australia’s ocean territory is the third largest in the world and includes unique biodiversity and valuable resources and marine science is critical for the sustainable management of our ocean assets.The Executive Director of the Future Research Vessel Project at CSIRO, Toni Moate, who is attending the steel cutting ceremony in Singapore, said the 93.6 metre research vessel will be capable of conducting marine research from our coastal waters, to the Antarctic ice edge and to the tropical waters to the north.
The contract to design, build and commission the vessel was awarded to Teekay Holdings Australia, which partnered with the Sembawang Shipyard in Singapore because of its track record and strong commitment to new technologies and innovation.
“The equipment on board our new world-class vessel will for the first time allow Australian scientists to carry out advanced atmospheric research on board the Marine National Facility,” Ms Moate said.
“It will also be capable of mapping the seafloor six kilometres below the surface, conducting deep water coring to 24 metres and it will have the latest satellite communications technology.”
Investigator will be operated by CSIRO and will be available to all Australian marine scientists. It replaces the existing Marine National Facility ship, Southern Surveyor, which is 40 years old.
In 2009 the Australian Government committed AU$120 million to the purchase of a new research vessel for the Marine National Facility. The project is an initiative of the Australian Government being conducted as part of the Super Science Initiative and financed from the Education Investment Fund.
Media: Sarah Schofield. Ph: +61 3 6232 5197. Mb: 0417 028 016. E: firstname.lastname@example.org
A 20-metre South African yacht chartered by CSIRO has completed an epic voyage around the Indian Ocean deploying 55 ocean profiling robots to gather ocean and climate data.
The Lady Amber reached Fremantle last week ending a six-month voyage during which she deployed the profiling Argo robotic sensors that will communicate as mid-ocean climate sentinels for at least the next 5-7 years.
Additional sensors have also been deployed during this period by the Royal Australian Navy and US Navy east of the Horn of Africa in a region of the Indian Ocean frequented by pirates. Story HERE.
Although the Argo project offers significant shipping and defence benefits, its primary objective is to monitor ocean heat and salinity patterns that drive the climate and monsoonal systems which bring rain to Australia. The Indian Ocean is a critical source of rainfall for southern and western Australia, and CSIRO has responsibility for deployment of the robotic instruments in much of the Indian Ocean.
Over 30 nations contribute to the multimillion dollar Argo project, in which over 3000 robotic instruments provide near real-time observations of conditions such as heat and salinity in the top 2000 metres of the ocean.
At nearly two metres in length the drifting profilers, or ‘floats’, are programmed to drift at 1000m for 10 days, then descend to 2000m and then sample as they ascend to the surface to upload their data to satellites.
The program is managed through the UNESCO and the World Meteorological Organisation – Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Joint Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology. CSIRO’s contribution is through the Wealth from Oceans Research Flagship.
The Perth-based head of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission office in Australia, Dr Nick D’Adamo said Lady Amber’s contribution to scientific understanding of ocean and climate processes cannot be overstated.
“These Indian Ocean observations also dovetail with Australia’s own Integrated Marine Observing System and play a vital role in supporting State-based marine scientific programs critical for Western Australia, across both public and private industry imperatives.
“Australia is the second largest national contributor to the global Argo program deploying more than 490 sensors in the Indian and Southern Oceans and Tasman Sea and providing an infrastructure cornerstone for this innovative but critical research program.”
CSIRO’s Dr Ann Thresher, who leads the deployment project, said the program is heavily reliant on commercial shipping and research and chartered vessels to deploy the instruments.
“This project has become a significant source of data recording change in ocean conditions relevant to climate but our biggest challenge is finding the vessels from which we can deploy the instruments in locations where we can fill gaps that open up,” Dr Thresher said.
“In this case, the Lady Amber provides us with a flexible option supplementing the support we receive in the region from commercial, naval and research vessels.”
Captain Flanagan considers the charter voyage as payback for a good life at sea.
“I’ve been on the sea for 48 years and the sea has looked after me,” Captain Flanagan said.
” This is a chance to give something back that will contribute substantially to international science and what we understand of our oceans and how they behave and respond.
“In doing so, we’ve experienced every kind of sea imaginable to fill in the gaps for the Argo program so science can continue receiving real-time ocean information.”
The charter was arranged through French scientist, Mathieu Belbeoch, based in Toulouse, France where he coordinates the global Argo program through JCOMM.
This work is part of the Australian Climate Change Science Program, funded jointly by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO.
Media Requests: Craig Macaulay. Ph: +61 3 6232 5219. Mb: 0419 966 465. E: email@example.com
A team of CSIRO scientists is embarking on a month long research voyage to the Antarctic to investigate the impact of climate change on the Southern Ocean.
CSIRO’s Dr Steve Rintoul will be leading the scientific mission aboard the Aurora Australis and recorded an interview HERE with CSIRO before he left.
There is also an ABC radio interview with Steve about high mercury levels in the Southern Ocean HERE
The Aurora Australis is Australia’s Antarctic Flagship, designed as a multi-purpose research and resupply ship. On New Year’s Eve the Aurora set sail for the Southern Ocean, taking a team of scientists to investigate how the Southern Ocean is changing, and to discover what impact those changes will have on climate, sea level, and marine life.
The month long voyage will see the research team retrieve current monitoring equipment, and deploy deep diving robots, known as Argos, beneath the Antarctic’s Ross Sea winter sea ice.
An earlier post raised the problem of old helium-filled balloons turning up on beaches along the east coast of Australia.
Should they be banned from being released into the environment?
Have your say.
Never let it be said that news@csiro is a party-pooper but maybe it is time for an end to releasing thousands helium-filled balloons at sporting events and other celebrations.
A team of our scientists is making its way along the east coast of Australia at the moment to determine how much rubbish and other marine debris is along the Australian coastline. The work is part of the National Marine Debris project. So far they have gone from Cairns to Melbourne – and balloons with the strings attached are making an unusually high appearance. When you come to think about releasing balloons is like throwing thousands of plastic bags out the car window.
The team are stopping about every 100km along the coast (as you can imagine it was not hard to find people willing to do this trip) and doing a survey of the beaches to see what is being washed up. The information collected will be used to see what risk marine debris poses to wildlife.
One of the team, Genevieve Perkins who is normally based at our Townsville site, said the team has found the odd missing thong, popped balloons, plenty of bottles, plastic bags. The good news is that they have also found the odd debris free beach.
The bar codes on bottles and other packaging will be used to try and trace the origin of some of the debris.
We will keep you posted on how the team is going and what they have found over the coming months. The team are in Melbourne now and will be heading off in February along the Victorian west coast to South Australia and then to WA.