Murdoch Uni to lead major Indian Ocean expedition

January 18, 2018

Historic expedition: Professor Lynnath Beckley's journey will unravel secrets of Indian Ocean.

Marine scientists will retrace an iconic expedition to explore the effects of climate change in the Indian Ocean.

Professor Lynnath Beckley from Murdoch University will lead an international research team following the course of the International Indian Ocean Expedition (IIOE) undertaken more than 50 years ago.

“IIOE was the first large collaborative research program undertaken on a grand basin-wide scale in the Indian Ocean,” Professor Beckley said.

“The baseline scientific information gathered under IIOE is still of significant societal and environmental relevance today, and new technology will give us an entirely different perspective on ocean ecosystems.”

The team will spend 32 days at sea on the specialised CSIRO vessel RV Investigator, travelling approximately 300 kilometres offshore along the length of the Western Australian coast.

“This expedition will provide some of the first data about the oceanic ecosystem in a few of Australia’s recently established marine parks, which extend out to the edge of Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone,” Professor Beckley said.

““We are interested in understanding the whole integrated oceanic ecosystem including physical processes, nitrogen sources, microbes, primary production and food webs.

“We will focus on how nutrients get into the ecosystem, and for the first time, the biogeography and functional gene diversity of microbes will be examined along with food webs of larger plankton.

“We will also use satellite remote sensing to assess chlorophyll levels in the water column, which will tell us more about primary production and carbon sequestering on an ocean basin scale.”

“The surface ocean temperature off WA has risen nearly a degree since the original study and this expedition will assess the effects of climate change against the benchmark data gathered in the 1960s.”

A team of internationally recognised scientists and postgraduate students from several institutions including the CSIRO, five Australian universities, University of Auckland, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and University of Maryland will accompany Professor Beckley on the 2019 expedition.

The voyage will form a major part of Australia’s contribution to the UNESCO-led IIOE-2 mission and will be funded primarily by Australia’s Marine National Facility.

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