Tag Archives: oceans

Making waves in a wind tunnel

We know the Southern Ocean plays a big role in our climate, but there’s much to learn about how and where clouds form over the sea, how they influence global temperatures, and how the wind affects cloud formation and how much carbon dioxide our oceans can absorb.

A wave pool in a wind tunnel: Professor Jason Monty’s work on air-sea interaction will inform climate models and more. Credit: Joe Vittorio
A wave pool in a wind tunnel: Professor Jason Monty’s work on air-sea interaction will inform climate models and more.
Credit: Joe Vittorio

Now a 60m ‘wave pool in a wind tunnel’ built by Associate Professor Jason Monty is allowing researchers from The University of Melbourne, Swinburne, and Monash University to find out.

“We know that small eddies at the surface of the ocean affect how evaporation occurs and gasses are exchanged, but this turbulence is not included in climate models, as no one has been able to measure it,” Jason says.

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Exploring the mystery of the oceans

Australia and Japan are both island nations with vast maritime reserves and responsibilities. Together we’re developing the science needed to understand, use, enjoy and protect our unique marine ecosystems. And we’re collaborating to solve some of the mysteries of the ocean systems that drive the world’s climate.

Attack of the giant starfish

The waters off Japan’s tropical Okinawa Islands are home to hundreds of species of coral. The reefs attract a rich diversity of life: fish, turtles, whale sharks, and… the crown-of-thorns starfish.

Five thousand kilometres to the south is the Great Barrier Reef—the world’s largest reef system and one of the richest and most diverse natural ecosystems on Earth. The Australian Government is committed to protecting the Reef and has developed a plan to 2050 to ensure the sustainability of the Reef. But the Reef has lost half its coral cover in the past 30 years and periodic plagues of crown-of-thorns are responsible for more than forty per cent of the coral loss. Continue reading Exploring the mystery of the oceans

Australian Academy of Science Early-career Awards

Julie Arblaster’s climate research is helping to explain the climate of the Australian region, particularly the ozone hole, El Niño, the monsoon, and Australian rainfall variability.

David Warton is driving data analysis in ecology, making it a more predictive science. His tools are influencing statistics across science and industry.

Christian Turney has pioneered new ways of combining climate models with records of past climate change spanning from hundreds to thousands of years.

Maria Seton has redefined the way we reconstruct the movement of continental plates and contributed to studies on the effect ocean basin changes have had on global long-term sea level and ocean chemistry. Continue reading Australian Academy of Science Early-career Awards

Regular source of ocean data now underway

More than 50 different environmental measures routinely collected by Australia’s national ocean research vessels—including sea surface temperature, dissolved oxygen concentration, and salinity—can now be accessed online almost as they are recorded.

The Marine National Facility vessel Southern Surveyor, one of Australia’s scientific research ships. Credit: CSIRO
The data is incorporated, often automatically, into predictive meteorological and ocean models, improving their accuracy.  “So we end up with an improved representation not only of the weather but of processes like large scale ocean circulation or the state of the seas during tropical cyclones,” says Dr Roger Proctor, director of the e-Marine Information Infrastructure Facility of Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System.

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The complex life of coral

Dr Tracy Ainsworth’s research is changing our understanding of the tiny coral animals that built Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef. Tracy and her colleagues at James Cook University in Townsville have found that the process of coral bleaching is a far more complex than previously thought, and begins at temperatures lower than previously considered. And she’s done so by applying skills in modern cell biology which she picked up working in neuroscience laboratories.

Tracy Ainsworth, James Cook University. Credit: L’Oréal Australia/sdpmedia.com.au
Tracy Ainsworth, James Cook University. Credit: L’Oréal Australia/sdpmedia.com.au

Her achievements won her a $20,000 L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowship in 2011, which she is using to study the low light, deep water reefs that underlie tropical surface reefs at depths of 100 metres or more.
Continue reading The complex life of coral

Plastic not fantastic for seabirds

Seabirds on one of Australia’s remotest islands have plastic in their stomachs.

Plastic not fantastic for seabirds
A flesh-footed shearwater surveys the contents of its stomach Credit: Ian Hutton

A recent survey found more than 95 per cent of the migratory flesh-footed shearwaters nesting on Lord Howe Island, between Australia and the northern tip of New Zealand, had swallowed plastic garbage.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, plastic has been shown to bind poisonous pollutants. As a result, some shearwaters were found with concentrations of mercury more than 7,000 times the level considered toxic.

Only six of more than 200 nests visited contained chicks. The overall population is plummeting.
Continue reading Plastic not fantastic for seabirds

Ocean acidification threatens marine ecosystems

Ocean acidification, caused by increasing amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide dissolving in the ocean, poses a serious threat to marine ecosystems.

Increasing acidity affects the ability of some planktonic organisms to form shells, and is expected to change the species composition of plankton, with flow-on effects to higher levels of the food web.

Continue reading Ocean acidification threatens marine ecosystems