Searching for a new end to the Great Barrier Reef
April 26, 2012

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 if 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 lies 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,” Dr Beaman said.

The researchers will also map previously un-surveyed 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 underway or opportunistic science during transit voyages. Dr Beaman is the Chief Scientist on the ‘Next Wave’ transit voyage between Brisbane and Fiji, which departs on 2 May.

“The ‘Next Wave’ transit provides a wonderful opportunity for our students to participate in ocean-going research and to collaborate with other marine scientists,” Dr Beaman said.

Other projects occurring onboard this ‘Next Wave’ transit voyage are:

  • deep crustal volcanic studies by the University of Queensland,
  • measurements of greenhouse gases by the University of Wollongong,
  • and the distribution and fate of marine debris by CSIRO/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: CSIRO MNF blog

Dr Beaman’s research was supported by a $150,000 Queensland Government Smart Futures Fellowship, and matching grants from the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre and James Cook University. The fellowships are part of the Queensland Government’s Smart Futures Funds, designed to bolster Queensland’s knowledge economy by supporting collaborative research projects, skills development and innovative research throughout the State.

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