Research on Dampier Peninsula
THE KIMBERLEY MARINE RESEARCH STATION (KMRS) was launched in 2009 by marine biologist and third generation pearl farmer James Brown in collaboration with the WA Marine Science Institution. Located at Cygnet Bay Pearls, 200km by road north of Broome on the tip of the Dampier Peninsula, KMRS
offers a working pearl farm base, infrastructure, vessels, experienced personnel and 65 years of local knowledge to the research community as the first and only fully operational marine research facility in the region.
The aim is to support and encourage broad-scale independent marine research throughout WA’s remarkable Kimberley coastal and marine environments. Through providing the services and expertise to facilitate research in a fully operational marine science centre, KMRS hopes to increase understanding and awareness of the region’s unique marine ecosystems and oceanic processes.
Since 2010, KMRS has hosted 26 research teams from leading state, national and international research organisations, including biodiversity baselines, algal and seagrass primary production, tides and oceanography, coral reef growth & reproductive cycles, GIS, and a range of studies on local fauna including cetaceans, birds, crustaceans and molluscs.
KMRS ADDED A RESIDENT RESEARCH OFFICER, ALI MCCARTHY, to the team in 2011 to coordinate research happenings; two vessels to the fleet including the custom-designed “Atalanta IV”; a new website with the latest news and info; monthly KMRS Newsletters covering the exciting research findings on the local marine environment.
Research underway at the Kimberley Marine Research Station
DR PETER WOODfrom James Cook University in Cairns, QLD, visited KMRS to share his expertise in marine research tourism
and GIS services. Dr Wood specializes in eco- and marine research tourism, research commercialization and geographic analysis with his PhD based on conceptual supply and demand nature of marine research tourism worldwide. During his time at KMRS, Peter explored the feasibility of expanding marine research concepts to include tourism at Cygnet Bay as well as brief discussions on feasibility of habitat mapping profiles for the area.
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Publications: Harwood, S. and Wood, P. (2012) “Shire of Broome: Data Analysis for Community Infrastructure Planning Recommendations for Community Infrastructure Development.” Centre for Tropical Urban and Regional Planning, Cairns
Wood, P. (2009). “Opportunities for marine research tourism in Australia”. Symposium Abstract in A. Hergesell & J. Liburd. (Eds.), Proceedings from the first International Symposium on Volunteering and Tourism. CD-ROM, 14-18 June, James Cook University, Singapore.
Wood, P. & Rumney, J. (2009) “Key stakeholder views of marine research tourism in Australia” in A. Albers & P. Myles (Eds.), Proceedings of CMT2009, the 6th International Congress on Coastal and Marine Tourism (pp.47-60). 23-26 June, Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa.
Wood, P and Zeppel, H. (2009) “The preferences of marine research tourists” Tourism in Marine Environments, submitted in March 2009.
Wood, P. & Zeppel, H. (2008). “The Preferences of Potential Marine Research Tourists for Different Marine Research Tourism Products in Australia” in The Future Success of Tourism: New Directions, Challenges and Opportunities. ISTTE(International Society of Travel & Tourism Educators) Conference, September 30-2October, 2008.Clontarf Castle, Dublin, Ireland AWARD: Best Paper (Full Refereed Paper) at ISTTE Conference 2008.
PhD CANDIDATE SANA DANDAN from the Universityof Western Australia’s School of Earth & Environmental Science and Ocean’s Institute returned to KMRS to continue her studies on local coral reefs entitled “Resilience of coral reef communities and coral metabolism in extreme environmental conditions”. This was Sana’s fourth trip to KMRS as part of her PhD to check and maintain experimental gear and equipment deployed on reefs around Cygnet Bay, which is monitored monthly by KMRS research staff to provide updates on progress. Sana will be returning to the Station later in the year to continue with maintenance and monitoring. Her PhD candidature began in 2010 and planned to finish in 2013.
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Publications: Cooper, T; Ulstrup, K; Dandan, S; Heyward, A; Kuhl, M; Muirhead, A; O’Leary, R; Ziersen, B; Van Oppen, M. (2010) “Niche specialization of reef-building corals in the mesophotic zone: metabolic trade-offs between divergent Symbiodinium types” Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences.
AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF MARINE SCIENCE (AIMS) researcher Dr Andrew Heyward visited KMRS briefly to assess near-shore coral spawning activity in the lead up to predicted autumn coral spawning events for the Kimberley coastline. Dr Heyward visited the Station to generously train KMRS research staff on observation techniques for gamete development in hard corals indicative of upcoming spawning. Thanks to Dr Heyward’s assistance, the staff at KMRS were able to collect, observe and document the March hard coral mass-spawning event at Cygnet Bay, which is significant as it represents the first time coral spawning has been documented for science on the fringing reefs of the mainland Kimberley coastline. A repeat study was conducted around the April spawning period by KMRS staff and revealed a mass-spawning event for soft corals in the area. This work will be repeated over the predicted spawning months in coming years to contribute to an on-going baseline for spawning activity on near-shore Kimberley fringing reefs.
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Publications: over 75 published science & technical papers including
Heyward AJ, Negri AP (2012) “Turbulence, cleavage and the naked embryo: a case for coral clones” Science 335 (6072): 1064
Heyward AJ, Negri AP (2010) “Plasticity of larval pre-competency in response to temperature: observations on multiple broadcast spawning coral species” Coral Reefs 29: 631-636
Brooke B, Nichol S, Hughes M, McArthur M, Anderson TJ, Przeslawski R, Siwabessy J, Heyward AJ, Battershill CN, Colquhoun J, Doherty PJ (2009) “Carnarvon Shelf Survey Post-Survey Report. 12 August – 15 September 2008. Geoscience Australia Record 2009/02” Geoscience Australia 101 p.
Loya Y, Sakai K, Heyward AJ (2009) “Reproductive patterns of fungiid corals in Okinawa, Japan” Galaxea 11: 1-11.
Fry G, Heyward AJ, Wassenberg T, Ellis N, Taranto T, Keesing JK, Irvine T, Stieglitz TC, Colquhoun J (2008) “Benthic habitat surveys of potential LNG hub locations in the Kimberley region. A study commissioned by the Western Australian Marine Science Institution on behalf of the Northern Development Taskforce” Final Report. CSIRO National Research Flagships – Wealth from Oceans and Australian Institute of Marine Science. 131 p.
Guest JR, Baird AH, Clifton KE, Heyward AJ (2008) “From molecules to moonbeams: Spawning synchrony in coral reef organisms” Invertebrate Reproduction and Development 51(3): 145-149.
Smith LD, Gilmour JP, Heyward AJ (2008) “Resilience of coral communities on an isolated system of reefs following catastrophic mass-bleaching” Coral Reefs 27: 197-205.
NATURE PHOTOGRAPHER and film maker Peter Strain also visited KMRS to make the most of the equinox spring tides and capture macro footage of intertidal coral reef species. He also compiled a time-lapse series of still images documenting the huge tidal changes around the Shell Island off Shenton Bluff as well as macro images of gamete development in hard corals whilst researchers were assessing spawning activity.
KMRS VESSEL “ATLANTA IV” TRAVELLED TO CAFFERELLI ISLAND off Yampi Sound (approximately 35nm north-east of Cygnet Bay) to provide logistical assistance in the form of a personnel transfer from another research vessel based further offshore. The vessel was in use for fauna surveys at Adele Island conducted by a combined Monash University & WA Department of Environment & Conservation team. The surveys, focusing on seabird and rat populations on offshore Kimberley islands, were conducted on both Adele & Browse Islands. Once the surveys were completed at Adele Island, the DEC team member was transferred to Cygnet Bay onboard “Atalanta IV” before returning to Broome via road while the rest of the team were able to continue on to Browse Island for further seabird surveys. The “Atalanta IV” is a custom-built research and tours vessel, completed in 2011, utilized regularly for tours and research operations at KMRS. The 70nm return trip took four hours.
PhD CANDIDATE ALEX BROWN from Murdoch University Cetacean Research
Unit, Perth visited KMRS for her first two month field trip for 2012. Alex’s project “Abundance estimation, habitat modelling and genetic connectivity of three tropical delphinid species in the Kimberley region, WA” aim is to collect baseline data on the abundance, residency and genetic connectivity of Australian snubfin (Orcaella heinsohnii) and Indo-Pacific humpback (Sousa chinensis) dolphins in State waters at locations in the Kimberley region. Alex’s team works onboard the 6m MUCRU research vessel, towed from Perth for the project. After the month at Cygnet Bay, the team will travel to Wyndham in the east Kimberley to continue surveys in the Cambridge Gulf. Alex’s photo-ID catalogue will be cross referenced and combined with that of Dr Deb Thiele who is the expert on dolphin populations in Roebuck Bay to track movement along the coast between Roebuck & Cygnet Bays. Alex will return to KMRS & Wyndham for another month in September to continue surveys, which will be repeated in 2013.
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Publications: Bellido, J.M., Brown, A.M., Valavanis, V.D., Giráldez, A, Pierce, G.J., Iglesias, M. & Palialexis, A. 2008 “Identifying essential fish habitat for small pelagic species in Spanish Mediterranean waters” Hydrobiologia 612: 171-184.
Bejder, L., Allen, S., Brown, A., Cagnazzi, D., Hodgson, A., Organ, T. & Parra, G. 2011 “North West Cape, Exmouth: a hotspot for Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) in Western Australia” 48th Australian Marine Sciences Association (AMSA) Conference, July 2011, Fremantle, Western Australia.
Past research at Kimberley Marine Research Station
DR JOHN KEESING FROM CSIRO Division
of Marine & Atmospheric Research returned to KMRS in November with colleagues from the Chinese Academy of Science to undertake sampling as part of the project “Sediment archive as proxies for long term change in coastal ecosystems”. John and the team dived within Cygnet Bay to take core samples from the benthos for their studies.
WAMSI CEO DR STEVE BLAKE & WA Department of Environment & Conservation research scientist Dr Chris Simpson visited KMRS for a feasibility study for research in the area.
DR TERRY HUGHES FROM JCU TOWNSVILLE & ARC CENTRE of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and Prof Brian Walker (board member) visit to explore local coral reef habitats and assess suitability as ICRS 2012 Field Trip.
A TEAM AFFILIATED WITH WA MUSEUM visited KMRS to catalogue bird species as a continuation of surveys commenced in the area in 2010.
UWA PhD CANDIDATE SANA DANDAN returned to Cygnet Bay to check her in-situ experiments and continue her work on the resilience of coral reef communities and coral metabolism in extreme environmental conditions.
PhD STUDENT RHIANNON KUCHEL and Associate Professor David Raftos of Macquarie University, Sydney, expanded their work on immunological and stress reactions to industry-based operations in various species of pearl oysters and will be working through KMRS on Cygnet Bay Pearls’ Pinctada maxima oysters.
PhD STUDENT SIMON ALLEN from the Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit visited KMRS briefly during a weather-induced lull in dolphin tagging in Broome to assess the Station and local environment for future dolphin research.
DR JAMIE OLIVER, Research Leader from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) visited KMRS to get a feel for the marine environment at Cygnet Bay and in the nearby Buccaneer Archipelago as well as to gauge the research potential of KMRS.
DR JOHN KEESING, Damian Thomson & Mat Vanderklift from CSIRO Division of Marine & Atmospheric Research visited KMRS
to scope out local marine environments and KMRS facilities. With ongoing interest in the Kimberley, CSIRO will be looking to continue baseline biodiversity surveys conducted along the west coast of the Dampier Peninsula as well as prospects for projects in the Cygnet Bay area and further north east towards Camden Sound.
DR STEVE BLAKE from WAMSI and two whale researchers visited the station briefly as part of a crew change to the research vessel “Walcott” which was undertaking cetacean and zooplankton surveys in the area. Whilst the vessel moored overnight at Cygnet Bay to complete the crew change, Steve and the team managed to conduct Cygnet Bay’s first ever hydrophone recording which features an array of distinctive underwater sounds including calling gropers. The surveys focused on the migrating Humpback whales as they travelled south from their Kimberley calving grounds.
ALAN BYRNE DEC West Kimberley Manager along with DEC Naomi Findlay and Kimberley TAFE Jeffrey Cooper visited KMRS to inspect facilities and gauge research potential.
NATURE PHOTOGRAPHER and film maker Peter Strain visited KMRS to capture footage for a series of mini-docs on local marine environments and fauna as well as the research station facilities and capabilities.
DR MELANIE CROCKFORD from WA Department of Fisheries Fish Health Section visited KMRS to sample pearl oysters as part of a microarray project.
WITH ONGOING PROJECTS FROM 2010-2013, Associate Professor Ryan Lowe, Professor Gary Kendrick & Assistant Professor Jim Falter in April again led a team from the Ocean’s Institute at the University of Western Australia researching primary production under extreme physical forcing focusing on coral, algae and seagrass. The team will be continuing their studies through two PhD research projects based out of KMRS through until 2013. PhD student Sana Dandan is focusing on corals while PhD student Napo Cayabyab is researching seagrass. Both Sana and Napo have regular trips to KMRS scheduled over the course of their PhD studies.
A TEAM OF INDEPENDENT FRENCH SCIENTISTS conducted baseline biodiversity studies within Cygnet Bay to catalogue local marine species richness.
WAMSI, CURTIN UNIVERSITY and Airborne Research Australia (ARA) conducted an airborne hyperspectral mission of the area.
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR RYAN LOWE, Professor Gary Kendrick & Assistant Professor Jim Falter from University of Western Australia’s Ocean Institute led a team researching primary productivity including distribution of marine plants, algae & oceanographic circulation.
DR NICOLE JONES from the University of Western Australia led a team studying local physical oceanographic patterns.
DR STEVE BLAKE led a WAMSI team filming the base and offshore environments for promotional material.
DR LYNNATH BECKLEY from Murdoch University undertook a preliminary feasibility visit to scope a study on human-usage of the Dampier Peninsula.
DR JIM LOWRY from the Australian Museum conducted surveys on the crustacean species found in the vicinity of Cygnet Bay.