Flourishing Oceans22 Nov 2022

OceanOmics program sets sail to Cocos Islands

Minderoo Foundation’s OceanOmics research program’s 10th expedition is underway to establish a better understanding of the unique biodiversity of the Cocos (Keeling) Island group.

OceanOmics shipboard lab 021122-29
OceanOmics new shipboard lab. Photo Credit: Karina Vakil via Minderoo Foundation.

Using advanced environmental DNA (eDNA) technologies, the scientists will characterise marine wildlife, monitor fishing activity and assess ecosystem health in the region.

The Commonwealth Government recently established new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) at the Christmas and Cocos Islands. However, due to the remoteness of the islands, the current state of marine biodiversity in the area is not yet well understood.

As part of this effort, the Minderoo OceanOmics team will engage with the community and undertake fieldwork to show how eDNA – the floating fragments of genetic material found in seawater – and genomics can become powerful tools for MPA management and fisheries monitoring.

The sampling sites are within the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s (DPIRD) long-term reef monitoring sites so the team will be able to interpret the results within the context of currently available data. It will also enable them to assess how reef composition relates to changes in fish assemblages using eDNA.

The data collected will provide insights to help forecast how fish communities might change as the reef areas evolve under current and future climate change scenarios.

The expedition will also deploy two Argo floats, provided by IMOS, as part of the international program that collects information from inside the ocean using a fleet of robotic instruments that drift with the ocean currents.

Key findings, including information about the state of fish stocks, will be shared with Cocos Marine Care and local advisors to the field program.

Minderoo Foundation
by Minderoo Foundation

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.

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