Researchers share notes on Ningaloo
BHP Billiton and the CSIRO are one year into their partnership for the Ningaloo Outlook research project, which aims to better understand the area’s ecosystems.
The program has been given $5 million to conduct research over the course of five years.
CSIRO senior research scientist Mat Vanderklift said the partnership had common aspirations.
“We realised that we have some joint interests in sustainability and increasing the community’s understanding of the values of the Ningaloo and what science can contribute, so we developed a plan together,” he said.
BHP Billiton environmental supervisor Tim Cooper said the project would be divided into three themes — deep reef, shallow reef and tagging turtles and sharks.
The deep reef research will look into understanding impacts, patterns and processes of the deep-water coral reefs, which are inaccessible to divers. The second theme will assess the relationship between habitat communities — such as corals, sea grasses and algae — and fish in shallow reefs.
Dr Vanderklift will lead the tagging of turtles and sharks.
“We’ve got different types of tags … so there’s satellite tags, and there’s acoustic tags and we use those to identify where the animals are spending their time so that we can identify what are the really important habitats,” he said.
Ningaloo Outlook has a number of expected outcomes by the end of the five years. “Engaging the local community is one of them,” Dr Vanderklift said.
“More broadly is improving our understanding of the ecology of the Ningaloo … the final outcome will be providing knowledge and transferring knowledge to provide or enhance conservation and management outcomes for the marine park managers themselves.”
A symposium was held last Friday, where researchers presented their findings to date.
CSIRO’s Mat Vanderklift.