Announcing the appointment today, Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Minister Gail Gago said Associate Professor Ward, from the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), had contributed significantly to current knowledge of the Bight’s ecosystems.
“Associate Professor Ward has extensive experience in researching the sustainable management of the fisheries of southern Australia and has been conducting ecological studies in the Great Australian Bight for more than 15 years,” Ms Gago said.
“The opportunity to undertake a program of this size and complexity before potential decisions about future development are made is a relatively new field of research, and research organisations, industry and governments around the world are observing with interest.”
The marine ecosystems of the Bight support globally important populations of seabirds and marine mammals, unique seafloor communities and valuable fishing, aquaculture and ecotourism industries.
The Great Australian Bight Collaborative Research Science program is a wide-reaching program being undertaken by CSIRO, Marine Innovation Southern Australia (MISA) and BP.
The State Government has contributed A$2.34 million to the project.
Associate Professor Ward said more than 100 scientists and post-graduate students from CSIRO, SARDI, the University of Adelaide and Flinders University were aiming to understand the oceanographic processes and linkages between the different components of the Bight ecosystem, and will establish the knowledge and tools needed to support management decisions regarding the future sustainable use of the region.
“This new collaborative research program represents the next step in the evolution of our research in the Bight - bringing together Australia’s leading marine scientists we will develop new insights into how the system works,” Associate Professor Ward said.
“This is an extremely important venture because it will ensure that we understand the ecosystem before any potential development. I am particularly excited about the new information we will obtain on the structure and function of the deep water systems off Australia’s southern margin, which have not yet been studied intensively.”
CSIRO’s Dr David Smith, research leader in the Wealth from Oceans Flagship, welcomed the appointment of Associate Professor Ward, saying that under his leadership the research program would ensure decision makers had the information required to help plan a great future for the Great Australian Bight.