UWA Oceans Institute 

ISSUE 13. 
March 2017
                                                                                In this issue:
                                                                      Latest News 
                                                                 Member Articles
Member Profile
Upcoming Events
Partnerships in Action
Oceans Outreach
                                                         Video Highlight

Oceans Online delivers a monthly source of the latest marine research news from 
The UWA Oceans Institute.  

The UWA Oceans Institute is advancing multidisciplinary research to support the delivery of solutions for ocean challenges.

 Latest News from the Oceans Institute 

(L-R) Professor Greg Ivey, Ms Anita Dragovic (DFAT), Professor Shaun Collin, His Excellency Mr Peter Doyle, Ambassador to Timor-Leste, Professor Erika Techera, His Excellency Mr Peter Rayner, Ambassador to Portugal and Professor Christophe Gaudin
at the National Geotechnical Centrifuge Facility at IOMRC, Crawley. 

March has been another busy month here at The UWA Oceans Institute!

Professor Erika Techera, Director of the UWA Oceans Institute, attended Zhejiang University earlier this month at the invitation of the ZJU Ocean College. She visited the Zhoushan Island campus and the ZJU Ocean College facilities and met with colleagues from the ZJU Guanghua Law School. Highlights included a high-level meeting with Professor Chen Ying (Dean of the ZJU Ocean College and Assistant President of ZJU) as well as professors from the ZJU Ocean College, including Professors Wu Jiaping and He Zhiguo. Professor Techera discussed arrangements for a forthcoming student study tour to UWA following the success of the 2016 trip and the planning for the 4th UWA Oceans Institute-ZJU Ocean College Workshop, later this year. Much progress was made on expanding joint research activities and PhD supervision given the significant, and complementary, expertise and infrastructure at both UWA and ZJU. UWA Oceans Institute has an MoU with the ZJU Ocean College and this has catalysed a range of joint activities and projects between colleagues in marine science, ocean engineering and social sciences. While on Zhoushan Island, Professor Techera also toured the ocean engineering infrastructure and facilities and gave an address as part of the ZJU Ocean College Grand Ocean Forum Lecture Series, entitled ‘Addressing Ocean Challenges Through Collaboration’.

The Western Australian Institute of Marine Science (WAMSI) moved into IOMRC, Crawley, this month, completing the relocation of all occupants into the new building. We wish all WAMSI staff and their associates a warm welcome to IOMRC.

Two lucky student ambassadors from The Faculty of Engineering and Mathematical Science (EMS) were among 20 finalists who travelled to the the US this month to compete at Geotechnical Frontiers 2017 in Orlando, Florida. Master of Professional Engineering students, Daniel Ingman and Owen Davies, led by their supervisor, UWA Oceans Institute member Dr Ryan Beemer from the School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering, took part in the GeoWall competition, sponsored by the Geo-Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The competition challenges contestants to race the clock to find the best way to build a system to maximise the stability of a small-scale mechanically stabilised earth (MSE) wall made of kraft paper. 

Congratulations to Dr Taryn Foster, UWA Oceans Institute Alumni, who was recently awarded a 2016 Virginia Chadwick Award. Dr Foster's research focuses on how high-latitude corals in WA will respond to climate change stressors such as warmer waters and ocean acidification. These awards recognise five graduate students for the most outstanding publications in peer-reviewed international journals.

His Excellency Mr Peter Doyle, the Australian Ambassador to Timor- Leste, His Excellency Mr Peter Rayner, the Australian Ambassador to Portugal and Ms Anita Dragovic (DFAT) toured IOMRC, Crawley with leadership and research members from The UWA Oceans Institute team. Professor Erika Techera, Professor Shaun Collin, Professor Greg Ivey, Professor Christophe Gaudin and Ms Tracy Parker led the delegation who discussed current marine research and international collaboration. The Ambassadors inspected the centrifuges, part of the National Geotechnical Centrifuge Facility and learnt about the research capabilities. They also visited the Glider Facility, part of the Australian National Facility for Ocean Gliders (ANFOG) and the Australian Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS), as well as touring several marine biology and fluid dynamics labs. In an Australian first, the Ambassadors (along with more than 100 of Australia's other Ambassadors, high commissioners and foreign diplomats) are in Australia for joint meetings to shape Australian foreign policy. As the UWA Oceans Institute continues to build links with overseas institutions and to collaborate on research and teaching, this visit to our premises provided an excellent opportunity to highlight our research, showcase our facilities and broaden our networks.

 Member Articles

Indo-Asia-Pacific Focus
Curtailing Maritime Crime 

Dr Erika Techera & Dr Jade Lindley 

Maritime crimes plague the Indo-Asia- Pacific region and disrupt the global trade that passes within it. These crimes affect not only those nations within the region but also countries that receive goods from it as cargo. Reportedly, maritime criminals operating in this region commit illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing; commit piracy; traffic in drugs; and smuggle people into forced and free labor. These transnational crimes attract criminal syndicates that pursue smaller-scale crimes to fund the clandestine movement of drugs bound for Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the United States.

Authorities intercept countless illicit drugs transiting the Indo-Asia-Pacific region each year. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) estimates that East and Southeast Asia are the largest markets for amphetamine-type stimulants in the world. Trafficking of methamphetamine and heroin in this region alone generates more than U.S.$42 billion annually, according to UNODC data.

Read More

Latest Research

Biodiversity redistribution under climate change: Impacts on ecosystems and human well-being 

Dr Thomas Wernberg & Dr Nicola Mitchell
(et al).

Distributions of Earth's species are changing at accelerating rates, increasingly driven by human mediated climate change. Such changes are already altering the composition of ecological communities, but beyond conservation of natural systems, how and why does this matter? We review evidence that climate-driven species redistribution at regional to global scales affects ecosystem functioning, human well-being and the dynamics of climate change itself. Production of natural resources required for food security, patterns of disease transmission and processes of carbon sequestration are all altered by changes in species distribution. Consideration of these effects of biodiversity redistribution is critical yet lacking in most mitigation and adaption strategies, including the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals.

The history of life on Earth is closely associated with environmental change on multiple spatial and temporal scales. A critical component of this association is the capacity for species to shift their distributions in response to tectonic, oceanographic or climatic events.

Read More

 OI Member Profile

Dr Verena Schoepf 

Dr Verena Schoepf came to UWA 3 years ago to research the impacts of climate change on tropical coral reefs. Despite growing up in the mountains in Austria, Verena has been fascinated by the oceans and coral reefs since childhood. Verena conducted her BSc and MSc studies in biology and zoology at the University of Innsbruck and the University of Vienna in Austria, and then moved to the U.S. to do a PhD at The Ohio State University. Her interest in coral reefs has taken her around the world and she has conducted fieldwork in places such as Egypt, Mexico, the Great Barrier Reef, Ningaloo Reef and the Kimberley region.

Importance of Your Research

Coral reefs are the most diverse marine ecosystems on the planet and are often referred to as the “rainforests of the sea”. As corals grow towards the surface, they build impressive three-dimensional frameworks that provide habitat and food for an enormous diversity of life. However, coral reefs are also important because they provide livelihood and ecosystem services for millions of people worldwide, for example via their role in tourism, fisheries, and protection from storms and coastal erosion. Unfortunately, coral reefs are in worldwide decline due to a number of natural and anthropogenic stressors. “Climate change, in particular, is one of the greatest threats to coral reefs today because corals are highly sensitive to both ocean acidification and warming.”
“The ongoing global coral bleaching event that is currently affecting reefs all around the world, and the Great Barrier Reef in particular, highlights the extreme vulnerability of coral reefs to climate change. I led a Western-Australian-based team at UWA to document the extent of bleaching last year. Unfortunately, we observed significant bleaching in the Kimberley region, which is paradoxically known for its unusual and otherwise highly stress-resistant corals.”

The Kimberley is a fascinating place for coral reef scientists. Due to the largest tropical tides in the world (up to 10 m), Kimberley corals are exposed to extreme swings in temperature and other variables. Also, they often get exposed to air for several hours during low tide but nevertheless thrive under these conditions that most other corals would not be able to tolerate. “The Kimberley is therefore a unique natural laboratory that allows me to study the mechanisms of stress tolerance in corals”, Verena said. “And due to its remote location, Kimberley coral reefs are very much understudied.”

Importance of Collaboration and Communication

Collaborations and interdisciplinary work are critical in any field of science. In some ways, this is particularly true for coral reefs because corals are not just animals – they live in a vital symbiosis with microscopic algae and this symbiosis allows them to grow so fast that they can ultimately build entire reef structures made of calcium carbonate. “Therefore, you have to understand the requirements of both partners in this symbiosis and you also need some geochemical knowledge to understand the process of calcification.”

Aside from collaborations with other scientists, it is also important to share research findings with the general public and any stakeholders. Verena regularly writes articles for The Conversation or Science Network WA and has given numerous media interviews. “For our project in the Kimberley, we always consult and closely collaborate with the Traditional Owners and Indigenous Rangers. We can hugely benefit from their enormous knowledge about these environments and they know best how these places have changed over time”, Verena said. “We regularly meet with them to communicate the findings from our research and to put observations in context.” Verena further hopes that her research will ultimately help to inform management decisions in the Kimberley and to assist in the planning of marine parks in the region.

Most Memorable Experience in the Field

Spending lots of time in the water often leads to amazing encounters with marine wildlife – though they are not always too “excited” about the scientist’s presence as Verena recounts: “When I did the fieldwork for my master’s thesis in Egypt, I spent several hours in the water every day to look at prey preferences of a coral-eating snail. One day, my transect line was right on top of an anemone and the clownfish got really angry at me and started to attack my face! Over and over again he swam towards my mask or fingers and tried to bite me. I couldn’t stop laughing but was also really impressed by the courage of this little fish that tried to fend off an attacker many many times bigger than himself.”

Upcoming Events 

- A.C Grayling: "The Age of Genius- The Seventeenth Century and the Birth of the Modern Mind".
Monday. 03 April, Banquet Hall at The University Club of Western Australia, 7am-9am. Tickets available from UWA Club Reception 08 6488 8770. 
Price $52 (includes a two - course, sit-down breakfast).

- In Conversation with Quarterly Essayist, David Marr: "On Politics and Prejudice". 
Wednesday 12 April, University Club of Western Australia, 6:15-7:30 pm. 
Enquiries:  Boffins Books 9321 5755 or 
Bookings through

- "The Last Ocean"  Screening. A movie night presented by The UWA Oceans Institute and The US Consulate General Perth, Friday 21 April, 6:30pm, Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre Auditorium, University of Western Australia, Cnr Fairway and Fairway Entrance 4, Crawley. RSVP ESSENTIAL BY 14th April to

 Partnerships in Action  

WA: a case study on the effects of dredging on critical ecological processes for marine invertebrates,
seagrasses and macro algae. 

Researchers from The Western Australian Institute of Marine Science (WAMSI), The UWA Oceans Institute, CSIRO, and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) recently published a paper on the effects of dredging on critical ecological processes for marine invertebrates, seagrasses and macro algae. The multidisciplinary team used Western Australia as a case study to examine the effects of dredging and the potential for environmental management. Key findings include that avoiding or reducing dredging during sensitive life history periods may help to minimise dredging impacts and the selection and management of Environmental Windows (EWs) relies on accurate species- and location-specific information. The research has found that large knowledge gaps exist for life histories of benthic marine organisms in WA and the timing of known critical life stages of different species in WA shows large temporal and spatial variation. 

Read more

 Oceans Outreach 

Why do we pollute our waters?

A recent Honours student in Marine Science and Archaeology at the University of Western Australia, Sara Hajbane is investigating the human behaviours and activities that lead to plastic pollution in our waterways. 
Applying oceanographic and archaeological methods and theory, Ms Hajbane is aiming to understand what leads to the act of pollution. In order to help policy makers and educators tackle the problem more effectively, research is needed to help piece together the puzzle of plastics in our water. She has recently published a paper in Frontiers in Marine Science documenting plastic pollution found in Perth metropolitan waters. One of the key findings of her research was the vast majority of plastic polluting Perth metropolitan waters is from local sources with the highest contributor being fishing line. 

Read more:

Video Highlight

Global Warming and recurrent mass bleaching of Corals  
Researchers from UWA are part of an international collaboration examining the impact of bleaching coral reefs over the past 20 years and in particular the most severe global bleaching event ever to be recorded in 2016.Their findings were recently published in the scientific journal, Nature:
Scientists examine widespread impact of bleaching on WA
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