Sensors to protect marine and freshwater ecosystems

Monday, 12 October, 2009
Dan Gaffney

An ambitious initiative designed to track the health of Australia's marine and freshwater ecosystems was launched today by the NSW Chief Scientist, Professor Mary O'Kane. The $9.6 million multi-facility research collaboration will develop sensing technologies that will have significant economic and environmental implications for our marine and freshwater resources.

The project is supported by CSIRO's Flagship Collaboration Fund and brings together CSIRO's Future Manufacturing Flagship, UNSW, Griffith University, Curtin University, Monash University, Flinders University and La Trobe University.

The partnership is led by UNSW Professor Justin Gooding, who says the initiative could prove vital for the wellbeing of Australia's aquatic environment. "We can't manage our precious water assets without understanding their chemical and biological composition," he says. "Our aim is to develop an array of new field-deployable sensors that detect critical water-quality parameters, as well as harmful pollutants and pathogens that affect the health of our precious and unique marine and aquatic environments."

The sensors will monitor phosphate and nitrate nutrients, pesticides and pathogens and are designed to be used in both fresh and marine waters. "Australia's marine and fresh water ecosystems are some of the most prized aquatic environments in the world," says Professor Gooding. "Understanding those environments, and the variability in their chemical and biological constituents, is the key to preserving them. Sensors play a pivotal role in achieving this understanding and protecting our valuable water bodies."

CSIRO's Future Manufacturing Flagship Director Mr Clive Davenport says the collaboration will drive a new sensor manufacturing industry for Australia: "The cluster collaboration addresses a fundamental need to understand, monitor and protect our aquatic environments while opening up new opportunities for enhancing Australia's manufacturing capability for local and global export markets."

Professor O'Kane says sensing technologies will improve our understanding of aquatic ecosystems and assist in conservation and resource management: "They provide valuable inputs into global weather and climate models to develop further our understanding of climate change processes and possible adaptation responses."

CSIRO initiated the  National Research Flagships  to provide science-based solutions in response to Australia's major research challenges and opportunities. The 10 Flagships form multidisciplinary teams with industry and the research community to deliver impact and benefits for Australia.

Media contacts

Justin Gooding, UNSW, 02-9385 5384

Dan Gaffney, UNSW media, 0411 15 60 15

Tracey Nicholls, CSIRO Future Manufacturing, 0417 551 970