A state-of-the-art marine research laboratory dedicated to unlocking solutions to the biggest challenges facing the world’s oceans was officially opened in Exmouth, Western Australia on 15 September 2021.
The Minderoo Foundation Exmouth Research Lab is attracting the world’s best marine researchers and scientists to the Ningaloo coast to study and improve ocean health and resilience.
Minderoo Foundation Chairman, Dr Andrew Forrest AO, and Co-Chair, Nicola Forrest AO, officially opened the Exmouth Research Lab alongside Western Australia’s Minister for Regional Development, Hon. Alannah MacTiernan MLC.
The Exmouth Research Lab boasts aquaria technology developed for the Australian Institute of Marine Science’s National Sea Simulator. It is one of the only facilities in the world that achieves the level of sophisticated environment control required to simulate conditions associated with climate change from temperature and acidification.
The lab has been equipped with the latest molecular testing equipment. Combining the aquaria and genetics lab under one roof has already allowed critical research to identify heat-resistant coral that can survive damaging heatwaves, which have the same devastating impact on the marine environment as bushfires have on land.
The molecular laboratory will allow environmental DNA fingerprinting to develop an early detection system for dangerous Irukandji jellyfish off the Exmouth coast. It will also permit researchers to monitor endangered sea snakes and wedgefish, and unlock forensic techniques to reveal the movements and behaviour of whale sharks.
Dr Forrest said the Exmouth Research Lab represented the first time that technology of such sophistication and scale had been brought to the doorstep of Western Australia’s world-renowned Ningaloo coast – and the Indian Ocean more broadly.
“Like everything we do at Minderoo Foundation, the Lab is mission driven,” Dr Forrest said.
“This world-class facility has been built to deliver ground-breaking research that will contribute to the protection of 30 per cent of the world’s ocean by 2030, push toward sustainable fisheries and stop plastic pollution.
“The time is now for a major course correction if we are going to save the ocean. It makes up 99 per cent of the livable space on the planet and our new laboratory gives us the tools to identify heat tolerant species that are more resilient to the impacts of climate change, and will tell us exactly what marine life is present at any time using sophisticated molecular technology.”
As part of the Exmouth Research Lab’s ongoing commitment to the Exmouth community, Minderoo Foundation will fund the expansion of a diversified education program – Shoreline – to local Indigenous students in Year 10, 11 and 12, incorporating secondary and tertiary teaching with industry placements.
Operating with great success for more than 10 years in the Tiwi Islands and North Queensland, Shoreline provides a much-needed alternative career pathway for young Indigenous people to stay in their home community and work on Country with a focus on marine and tourism industry placements.
Minderoo Foundation is already working with Exmouth District High School and the local Central Regional TAFE to identify the first cohort of participants.
“We are thrilled to be able to bring to Exmouth the Shoreline program, which has a strong track record of creating meaningful employment and training opportunities for Indigenous high school students,” Mrs Forrest said. “Across the program, 80 per cent of Shoreline graduates have retained employment for 24 months or longer. This aligns with Minderoo Foundation’s Generation One initiative, which has a mission to get 300,000 Indigenous Australians into work over the next 20 years.”
DLR Building, a locally owned and operated Exmouth company, was awarded the $2.5 million contract to deliver Exmouth’s world-class marine research hub, with up to 30 jobs created during construction.
Shire of Exmouth President Matthew Niikkula said the Exmouth Research Lab would bring year-round economic stimulus to town in the form of visiting academics and researchers.
“This is the signature project and economic diversification the Shire of Exmouth has been working hard to attract for decades,” Cr Niikkula said. “It’s the beginning of a new and exciting chapter for our town and region.”
Established by Andrew and Nicola Forrest in 2001, we are a modern philanthropic organisation seeking to break down barriers, innovate and drive positive, lasting change. Minderoo Foundation is proudly Australian, with key initiatives spanning from ocean research and ending slavery, to collaboration in cancer and community projects.