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Deakin University will invest $5million over the next five years in an initiative set to place its Warrnambool Campus in the international spotlight for marine and aquaculture research and teaching.
This major investment will position the University’s Warrnambool Campus as a local, national and international centre for excellence in marine science and aquaculture research, according to Professor Chris Gray, Deakin’s Pro Vice-Chancellor (Science and Technology).
“The University’s fisheries and aquaculture research was judged as ‘above world standard’ by the Australian Research Council’s Excellence in Research for Australia this year. The plan now is to build on the existing strengths to move Deakin’s research to ‘well above world standard’,” Professor Gray said.
“The investment we are making in state-of-the-art facilities will hopefully attract industry investment and research collaborators interested in investigating the unique southern ocean marine ecosystems literally at our doorstep in Warrnambool. It will also elevate the international reputation of Deakin and the Warrnambool Campus and benefit the excellent courses we run, including marine biology, freshwater biology and the new fisheries and aquaculture degree.”
Deakin has a strong background of research and teaching in aquatic science and aquaculture, mostly conducted at its Warrnambool Campus. Current projects include marine habitat mapping, sustainability of coastal and marine ecosystems, fisheries biology, aquaculture production, ecology and management of estuaries, and wildlife ecology, particularly related to seabirds, seals and whales. In 2010, more than 40 students graduated from the marine biology course, including honours.
Over the next five years Deakin will invest in new equipment and the recruitment of additional research and technical staff to support the expansion of its research and teaching activities.
“We will be upgrading our current facilities to include the most up-to-date boat equipped for oceanographic research, such as a multibeam sonar system and animal tracking and other remote sensing equipment,” explained Gerry Quinn, Deakin’s professor of marine biology based in Warrnambool.
“This will allow us to expand our current coastal mapping activities and increase of our focus on ecosystems in Bass Strait and the important Bonney upwelling.
“Our postgraduate and undergraduate students will be among the beneficiaries.”
The University’s aquaculture facility will also be upgraded to include a marine laboratory and enhanced genetic and fish nutrition facilities.
“Upgrading the aquaculture research facility to use seawater, as well as its current freshwater operations, will provide Deakin with some of the best integrated marine science and aquaculture research and teaching infrastructure in the world. This will open us up to a range of research opportunities and attract more industry collaborations,” Professor Quinn said.
Research over the next five years will capitalise on the University’s location in Warrnambool.
A particular focus will be larger-scale ecosystem research, especially understanding how physical changes in ocean systems, such as in Bass Strait, affect marine life and commercial and recreational fisheries.
The University’s aquaculture research will look into two main areas: the nutritional requirements of aquaculture fish, especially how to maintain the productivity and key health-giving benefits of fish without relying on wild-caught fish for aquaculture feed; and how aquaculture can be used to help treat wastewater and produce useful by-products.
Through this investment Deakin is showing its confidence in the contribution regional university campuses can make to research that has local, national and international significance, Professor Gray said.
“The research capacity of regional university campuses can often be overlooked,” he said.
“We are extremely proud of the high quality research and teaching being conducted at our regional campuses in Warrnambool and Geelong. The investment in this research initiative at Warrnambool is an example of our continued commitment to grow the activities on our regionally-based campuses.”
In addition to world class research, in 2012 Deakin has the following courses open for enrolments in Warrnambool: