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Building a bigger picture of the Bight

Media Release: 9 April 2013

Great Australian Bight

The research will increase our knowledge of the region and help inform decision making for marine resource management and sustainable development in the region

A unique collaborative research program to improve understanding of the environmental, economic and social value of the Great Australian Bight was today announced by BP, CSIRO and Marine Innovation Southern Australia (MISA) partners SARDI, the University of Adelaide and Flinders University.

The A$20 million research program aims to obtain information about the unique marine environment and potential marine resources within the Great Australian Bight, and will provide information to decision makers to support sustainable development in the region and monitor possible future impacts.

"The research program will be one of only a few whole-of-ecosystem studies undertaken in Australia," Dr David Smith of CSIRO's Wealth from Oceans Flagship stated. "It will focus on collating information about the marine resources of the Great Australian Bight and providing vital knowledge to inform future decisions for sustainable development in the region."

The research officially started on 4 April 2013, with scientists setting sail for the Great Australian Bight aboard the RV Southern Surveyor to collect water and seafloor sediments from depths three kilometres below the surface. These will be the deepest set of samples ever taken from the Bight and will provide an insight into the distribution, diversity and ecology of the deepwater species of animals, plants and microbes which reside in the central and eastern Great Australian Bight.

BP is already undertaking a range of studies to ensure environmentally responsible operations in the Great Australian Bight. This additional multidisciplinary research program will build on these and other studies to improve the understanding of how the Great Australian Bight ecosystem functions," Phil Home, Managing Director for BP Developments in Australia said. "It provides an opportunity for co-investment by world class research institutions such as CSIRO and the member-institutions of MISA."

The research data obtained will eventually provide a conceptual model of the structure and dynamics of the Great Australian Bight ecosystem.

"The research results will also be made available for the benefit of other stakeholders interested in the region. These include Commonwealth and State regulators and governments, commercial users and a diverse range of research, community and environmental groups through publication in science journals, literature and published reports," said Prof Gavin Begg, SARDI Aquatic Sciences Research Chief and MISA Steering Committee member.

The Great Australian Bight Research Program is a A$20 million investment over four years. It will be advised by an Independent Science Panel comprising internationally recognised experts in key discipline areas.

The Great Australian Bight Program addresses seven closely linked research themes. They comprise a significant body of work designed to address information targeted by BP, CSIRO, SARDI, the University of Adelaide and Flinders University. 

  1. Oceanography
  2. Open-water (pelagic) ecosystem and environmental drivers
  3. Sea floor (benthic) biodiversity
  4. Ecology of iconic species and apex predators
  5. Petroleum geology and geochemistry
  6. Socio-economic analysis
  7. Integration and modelling

Great Australian Bight Research Program Fact Sheet (PDF 727KB)




The Great Australian Bight Research Program is a collaboration between BP, CSIRO, the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), the University of Adelaide, and Flinders University.