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New era of marine research in the Great Australian Bight

Assoc Prof Tim Ward, SARDISARDI scientist, Associate Professor Tim Ward, will lead a major research program on the Great Australian Bight’s ecosystems, marine resources and socio-economic importance.

Associate Professor Tim Ward
Great Australian Bight Collaborative Research Science Program Manager, Associate Professor Tim Ward.

Saturday 17 August 2013

Respected South Australian marine scientist, Associate Professor Tim Ward has been appointed to lead a four-year $20 million research program of the Great Australian Bight’s ecosystems, marine resources and socio-economic importance.

Announcing the appointment today, Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Minister, Gail Gago, said A/Prof Ward, from the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), had contributed significantly to current knowledge of the  Bight’s ecosystems.
“Associate Professor  Ward has extensive experience in researching the sustainable management of the fisheries of southern Australia and has been conducting ecological studies in the Great Australian Bight for more than  15 years,” Ms Gago said.

“The opportunity to undertake a program of this size and complexity before potential decisions about future development are made is a relatively new field of research, and research organisations, industry and governments around the world are observing with interest.”

The marine ecosystems of the Bight support globally important populations of seabirds and marine mammals, unique seafloor communities and valuable fishing, aquaculture and ecotourism industries.

The Great Australian Bight Research Program is a wide-reaching  program being undertaken by BP, CSIRO and MISA partners SARDI, the University of Adelaide and Flinders University.

The State Government has contributed $2.34 million to the project.

Assoicate Professor  Ward said that more than 100 scientists and post-graduate students from CSIRO, SARDI, the University of Adelaide and Flinders University were  aiming to understand the oceanographic processes and linkages between the different components of the Bight ecosystem, and would establish the knowledge and tools needed to support management decisions regarding the future sustainable use of the region.

“This new research program represents the next step in the evolution of our research in the Bight - bringing together Australia’s leading marine scientists we will develop new insights into how the system works,” Associate Professor Ward said.

“This is an extremely important venture because it will ensure that we understand the ecosystem before any potential development. I am particularly excited about the new information we will obtain on the structure and function of the deep water systems off Australia’s southern margin, which have not yet been studied intensively.”

CSIRO’s Dr David Smith, research leader in the Wealth from Oceans Flagship, welcomed the ppointment of A/Prof Ward, saying that under his leadership the research program would ensure that decision makers had the information required to help plan a great future for the Great Australian Bight.

Associate Professor Ward

Associate Professor Ward has extensive experience in conducting research to support the sustainable management of the fisheries of southern Australia and has conducted ecological studies in the eastern Great Australian Bight since arriving in South Australia in 1998. His work has highlighted the importance of the GAB’s upwelling system in enhancing regional productivity.

The Great Australian Bight Research Program partners:


BP is engaged in the exploration, production, refinement, transportation and marketing of oil and gas products. In January 2011, BP was awarded four exploration permits in the Ceduna sub-basin of the GAB approximately 300 km south west of Ceduna.


CSIRO is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world. CSIRO’s marine research – delivered through the Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship – takes a whole-of-system approach to marine science. The Flagship delivers practical science that enables governments, industries and communities to make informed decisions about the sustainable management of marine and coastal resources.

Marine Innovation Southern Australia (MISA)

MISA partners SARDI, the University of Adelaide and Flinders University have joined BP and CSIRO to undertake the Great Australian Bight Research Program.

MISA is a collaboration of South Australia’s marine research institutions, including SARDI, the University of Adelaide, Flinders University and the South Australian Museum. It was established in September 2005 as an initiative of the South Australian Government and has helped to establish South Australia as a national leader in applied marine science.