Research at the NMSC

NMSC aquaculture research on sea urchin farming

Impact locally, regionally and globally

Maintaining healthy marine ecosystems and sustainable marine resources in the face of a rapidly changing environment are among the greatest modern challenges facing humanity. Our research at the National Marine Science Centre (NMSC) addresses critical aspects of these challenges through themed programs across four broad topics: Biodiversity, Ecological Interactions, Aquaculture and Sustainable Fisheries.

Uniquely situated where tropical and temperate marine bioregions overlap, the NMSC is the perfect place to research how a changing climate, and a burgeoning human population, will affect ecosystem health and biodiversity. Our biodiversity research investigates tools for measuring and monitoring marine biodiversity, including genetic barcoding. A key goal of this research is to convert good science into good policy, especially as it relates to marine conservation and marine parks, both nationally and internationally.

We seek to understand the forces that shape species persistence and ecosystem structure. Manipulative laboratory and field experiments are the main experimental tools we use to do this. A major focus of this research is to identify the tipping points in life histories of seaweeds and invertebrates and understand their potential for acclimatisation and evolutionary adaptation in an ocean that is both warming and acidifying.

Securing long-term food supplies for a growing world population is one of the greatest challenges of this century. The lack of new arable land means that, if we are to feed an increasingly affluent world, we must farm the sea. We are researching new ecologically sustainable aquaculture species and seeking ways to improve the productivity and reduce the environmental impact of established aquaculture industries. Our aquaculture research spans all trophic levels from seaweeds, through herbivores such as sea urchins, up to top fish predators such as mulloway.

If fisheries are to survive and flourish into the future, a concerted effort will be required by industry, regulators and scientists. We seek to partner with government and industry to provide innovative research solutions to maintaining sustainable harvests of marine fisheries. A particular focus of this research is the sustainable use of marine resources in the Pacific and South East Asia and maintaining recreational fishing opportunities for future generations.

Dr Steve Purcell - Maximising on the benefits of Trochus

Trochus is one of the largest marine snails. It's actually a herbivore, so it feeds on algae on the reef. About 15-years ago, Australia's foreign aid program introduced Trochus from Fiji and Vanuatu to Samoa to try and develop a fishery for the snail that has been so valuable in so many other countries.

Here at Southern Cross University we have staff and facilities for a wide range of marine science research so the project is funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and it's a partnership between Southern Cross University and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in Samoa to look at how these populations of this snail have been established on reefs and the benefits accrued to people in the villages.

So far in Samoa the people are only benefiting from the sale of the meat and eating it themselves so the shell which traditionally has been the main value of the animal is really underutilised.

So the four components of the project are firstly some ecological studies to look at where populations have been set up on the reefs.

Secondly to train people into how to make jewellery and polished shells from the shells that they're collecting and thirdly to conduct some socio-economic surveys to understand the benefits that people are making from harvesting the shells and lastly to look at the potential to export the shell and what sort of management regulations they might need to sustain the fishery

We have a graduate research student Kate Seinor working on the project and this has provided her with a great opportunity to develop skills in marine science research and also experience in working with partners overseas.

Our research so far has shown that the fishery has been successfully developed in Samoa. Our next stage of research will be looking at the socio-economic impacts to see how are people benefiting from those introductions.