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Aquatics Research Recognised

August 12 2009

The SARDI Aquatic Sciences Threatened, Endangered and Protected Species (TEPS) team has won the Unsung Hero of South Australian Science 2009 Award for its world leading research gathering crucial information on marine animals including the Australian sea lion, New Zealand fur seal, little penguin, short tailed shearwater, crested tern, pelagic sharks and blue groper.

This valuable body of knowledge has contributed significantly to the sustainable management of one of Australia's most productive marine systems, the eastern Great Australian Bight, helping to ensure its marine animals live well alongside our valuable fisheries and aquaculture.

The award was presented at the launch of National Science Week on Wednesday, 12 August, by Science and Information Economy Minister, Michael O'Brien and South Australia's Chief Scientist, Dr Ian Chessell, at the South Australian Museum.

Delving into the everyday lives of marine animals by the TEPS researchers has required a creative approach. Satellite trackers and dive recorders have been used to reveal where, when and how they spend their time, where and even what time they go to feed, trip durations, how deep they dive, how far they fly and seasonal and annual variability.

In this way, researchers have been able to identify ‘ecological performance indicators.’ These indicators are based on the health of these animals and can tell us if the ecosystem is healthy or out of balance.

Their work has led to an exciting new project in which Australian sea lions and other marine animals are being used as ‘ocean observers’ to collect data from critical ocean habitats. Because the animals target areas that have high prey availability, they are identifying productive ‘hot spots’ which no human instrumentation has been able to find.

This award is recognition of the hard work of past and present researchers including Simon Goldsworthy, Brad Page, Paul Rogers, Charlie Huveneers, Guido Parra, Kristian Peters, Lachie McLeay, Annelise Wiebkin, Andrew Lowther, Derek Hamer, Peter Shaughnessy, Luke Einoder and Alastair Baylis.

Simon Goldworthy working with seals

Simon Goldsworthy tracking seal pups using satellite tags (Photo courtesy of Malcolm Ludgate Content Mint)

For more information on sharks being tracked by SARDI TEPS scientists, go to www.seaturtle.org and for information on Australian sea lions see www.henrythesealion.com