Short Talk (7,5 mins) Australian Marine Sciences Association 2022

The Exmouth Research Laboratory: A World-class Facility to Return the Oceans to a Flourishing State by 2030 (#58)

Theo Campbell 1 , Katherine Murphey 1 , Michael Tropiano 1 , Michaela Dommisse 1 , Nikki De Campe 1
  1. Minderoo Foundation Exmouth Research Lab, Exmouth, WESTERN AUSTRALIA, Australia

The oceans are comprised of many complex ecosystems, each of which are facing significant threats from climate change, over-fishing and pollution. The Minderoo Foundation Exmouth Research Laboratory was opened in September 2021 to enable marine scientists to conduct ground-breaking research that addresses climate change, ocean warming, marine pollution, overfishing, and loss of habitat and biodiversity.  The laboratory is located right on the doorstep of the World Heritage listed Ningaloo Reef, providing localised context to global climate change issues. As corals continue to bleach due to marine heatwaves, researchers can conduct controlled heat stress experiments in the highly sophisticated temperature-controlled aquaria, where organisms can be subject to simulated heat stress events. The molecular lab is available for a number of studies including extraction of DNA and amplification of target sequences through PCR to determine mechanisms behind resilience. As water temperatures continue to rise, collaborators from Griffith University and JCU are applying eDNA techniques to new species of Irukandji jellyfish to determine whether this is causing increased movement of these animals further south. As severe weather events increase, large sections of reef have been reduced to rubble; collaborators from UWA Oceans Institute are investigating the effects of hydrodynamic forces on coral canopies of the Ningaloo Reef to determine which structures are best for restoration projects. Researchers from University of Adelaide have located critically-endangered sea snakes in the Exmouth Gulf, and are using the aquaria and molecular labs to take genetic samples from live specimens, that will be used to develop primers so that eDNA can be used to detect these cryptic species for the first time. During this time of unprecedented change in the marine environment, the Exmouth Research Laboratory is a valuable tool available to marine researchers to deliver the science and the solutions that the world needs to return the oceans to flourishing state by 2030.