Shaping a new standard for Australian marine research

Developed by Geoscience Australia (GA) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in partnership with leading marine science experts, Australia’s Field Manuals for Marine Sampling to Monitor Australian Waters provide guidance for research and monitoring programs across the nation.

With work beginning on a second edition for this important technical guide, RPS marine scientist and benthic ecology specialist, Garnet Hooper PhD, was invited to co-author chapters on marine survey design, and the use of grabs and box corer tools to understand the nature and biodiversity of the ocean floor.

With the manual’s second version now complete and available online, we asked Garnet for a rundown of his work on the new edition, and what this guidance means for Australia’s understanding of marine ecosystems.

Firstly, tell us a little about your work as a marine scientist. What types of projects are you typically involved in?

I’m involved in a range of projects for industries as diverse as oil and gas, renewable energy, ports, aquaculture, infrastructure and dredging.

My input includes benthic habitat mapping and sea bed sampling, marine growth studies on subsea infrastructure, to oil spill operational and scientific monitoring and impact assessments. I’m also known for my ability to develop innovative processes to address complex problems – making complex easy!

 

 

Benthic sediment_Marine Research

Benthic sediment collected on-site.

The Field Manual for Marine Sampling has been a collaboration between representatives from industry, government and academia – why was the manual created and what kind of changes are included in the latest edition? 

I feel very privileged to have been asked to contribute to the revision of the manual, with such a range of nationally- and internationally-recognised technical leaders in their fields.

The manual was originally created to standardise the marine sampling processes used by a range of organisations in the monitoring or Australian Marine Parks. Standardisation is important to ensure that all of the data generated from surveys is directly comparable, and allows assessment at a range of spatial and temporal scales.

The new version both addresses lessons learned from the implementation of version 1, includes some new chapters and incorporates input/viewpoints from additional co-authors.

In contributing to the field manual project you worked with a number of academics and researchers from across the country. What was the collaboration process like?

The process was coordinated by a theme author, and so most of my communications/suggested revisions went through them. This made the process much more efficient and effective. I did have the opportunity to engage with some of the other co-authors to discuss technical points, which was a really positive aspect to the process.

Grabs and box corers are special tools used to take samples from benthic environments. How does this equipment help with fieldwork and what do researchers need to consider when using them?

Grabs and box corers are a remote sampling tool – which means you can’t see the sea bed you’re sampling. Having said that, they are a very effective tool in sampling sediments and animals/plants living on and in those sediments.

The samples collected using these techniques are used to determine the physico-chemical and biological characteristics of sediments. This means that the sizes of the particles can be measured to determine the type of sediment you have, the chemical environment within the sediments (including contaminants), and the fauna and flora that live there.

As sediments generally comprise up to >70% of the sea bed, this allows us to understand sea bed habitats and potential risks and impacts from human development.

Benthic_Marine Research

A benthic grab is used to take samples from benthic environments.

In addition to your work as an environmental consultant here at RPS, you’ve also done a PhD thesis focused on marine ecology. Where did your passion for marine science start and what do you enjoy most about your job?

I’ve been interested in marine biology since I was young, when I used to go rock pooling on the rocky shores of Lulworth Cove on the south coast of the UK.

What I enjoy most is the variety of the work, the challenges, the opportunity to continue to test myself and develop my core skillset, and to be able to contribute to research and national/international best practice methods. And of course, I enjoy working with my team – it’s fantastic to be able to come to work with such a range of skilled and experienced technical experts, who are also such great people. No matter what stage of your career, there’s always something new to learn!

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