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Marine and Freshwater Sciences continues to grow as a key research area at Deakin says the University’s Warrnambool-based Chair in Marine Biology, Professor Gerry Quinn.
“We have a long history of aquatic science at Deakin, especially at the Warrnambool Campus,” said Professor Quinn.
“As we saw in the recent ERA outcomes, when Fisheries Sciences received a 4 (above world standard) ranking, the University has been strengthening its research areas in marine and freshwater science and I believe we are now heading towards even more exciting times.
“One of those growing research areas is aquaculture and in particular the work of Dr Giovanni Turchini who is looking at gaining a better understanding of the nutritional requirements of fish in aquaculture.”
Unsustainable fishing practices have led to increased pressure on aquaculture (fish farming) to meet the shortfalls in the supply of fish, which are the main source of many essential omega 3 fatty acids.
However, these fish have special nutritional requirements and need to be fed fish oil so they still contain high levels of omega 3.
“The problem is that current fish oil is derived from the already over-exploited wild fish stock – a situation that is environmentally and economically unsustainable,” Professor Quinn said.
Dr Turchini is looking at innovative natural methods of producing fish still rich in omega 3 fatty acids without using fish oil.
“There is also a project we are doing in conjunction with Wannon Water that has just been funded for another 12 months,” Professor Quinn said.
Dr Paul Jones and Mr Bob Collins are looking at the use of waste water for growing fish in aquaculture, and whether those fish can help treat the water.
Another area where Deakin has been to the forefront in recent times is maritime mapping.
“We’re talking here about the fantastic work that Dr Daniel Ierodiaconou and Associate Professor Laurie Laurenson and their colleagues have been doing,” Professor Quinn said.
“The breadth and depth of this project is extra-ordinary and will have an impact on the way we manage our coastline for many years to come.”
Deakin University is mapping the benthic habitats at 14 sites across Victoria.
The benthic zone is the ecological region at the lowest level of a body of water such as an ocean or a lake, including the sediment surface and some sub-surface layers.
The coastal fringe of Victoria is made up of rich, diverse ecosystems that support a range of human uses including commercial and recreational fisheries, whale watching, navigation, aquaculture and gas development.
The researchers have been using hydro-acoustic sonar technologies, towed video camera and remotely operated vehicles to collect their information.
As part of the project, they provided astonishing photos of the City of Rayville, the American ship sunk by a German mine at the start of World War II just off Apollo Bay.
This loss preceded the Pearl Harbour bombing by the Japanese and led to a radar station being built at the Cape Otway Lightstation, so the sunken wreck has an eminent place in the maritime history of two nations.
Another big area is the work being done by Dr Julie Mondon looking at the effects of waste water from desalination plants, as reported in the February edition of this newsletter.
“There is also the work that Drs Adam Pope and Jan Barton and I are doing, tracking the health of estuaries around Victoria,” Professor Quinn said.
“The Index of Estuary Condition is developing a report card on the environmental condition of estuaries that will, in turn, guide government agencies in prioritising investment for restoration work.”
Deakin University was engaged by the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) to develop the index for evaluating Victorian estuaries.
“Estuaries were only relatively recently included in the Victorian River Health Strategy and considered the bottom reaches of coastal rivers,” said Professor Quinn,
“Previously there was debate about whether they should be part of river or ocean management systems that meant they fell through the jurisdictional cracks. This is a good step forward.
“We have been pushing ahead with our work and in the second part of last year we received another $280,000 in funding.”
Professor Quinn said that the research of Associate Professor John Arnould, who operates from the Burwood Campus, was also key to Deakin’s developing reputation in the marine sciences.
“John won an Australian Research Council grant in the last year,” he said.
“He is working closely with Daniel Ierodiaconou at the Warrnambool campus, looking at both seals and seabirds.”
Other projects involving researchers from the Warrnambool campus include Dr Ty Matthews and others' $100,000 partnership with the Corangamite CMA looking at the health of fish in the Gellibrand River.
“We are also a partner in the CSIRO’s Flagship Coastal Collaboration Cluster.
“When you pull all these projects together, and look at the ERA outcome, it’s not hard to see why there is a lot of optimism about marine science research here at Deakin.”