Two James Cook University reef researchers have been awarded Smart Futures Fellowships for research that aims to create a clearer picture of the Great Barrier Reef. Dr Rob Beaman and Dr Nick Graham will each receive $150,000 over the next three years.
The Fellowship will support Dr Beaman’s development of a new 3-D depth model for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and adjoining Coral Sea. Based at JCU in Cairns, he will use advanced seabed mapping technology and data from satellite, aerial and ship surveys to create the 3-D depth model.
Dr Nick Graham
“The 3-D model will allow oceanographers to accurately map currents and biologists to target important sites for studying deep-sea marine life,” he said. “These are the undersea landscape maps that marine park managers and scientists need to manage and protect seabed marine life.
“The deepest part of the Marine Park is more than two kilometres deep, but previously we have not had much understanding of what exists below 200 metres. In this project we will map from the coastline all the way down to the deep abyss.”
Dr Nick Graham, from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Townsville, will use the Fellowship funding to create models to predict the potential of reefs to recover from disturbances.
Dr Graham said coral reefs around the globe were increasingly threatened by climate change and multiple human-made disturbances such as over-fishing and pollution.
“It is clear coral reefs can recover from these disturbances, but not indefinitely,” he said. “Understanding which sections of a reef can bounce back is critical to understanding how whole reef systems can be maintained in the face of climate change.
“There has been a huge amount of work assessing the decline and degradation of coral reefs and which species are likely to be lost. We now need to turn our attention to reversing the decline and promoting rapid recovery. This funding will help us focus on that.”
Dr Graham and Dr Beaman won two of the eight Level Two Smart Futures Fellowships awarded by the State Government, at a total value of $1.2 million.
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