Queensland Museum secures majority of new funding for reef project

29 September 2009

Queensland Museum scientists will be surveying and identifying new species of marine life on Australia's reefs for the next three years after securing three out of five new commonwealth research grants.

The announcement was made in Townsville today by federal Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, the Hon Peter Garrett MP.

The CReefs grants to Queensland Museum scientists, worth $750,000 over three years, were awarded to Queensland Museum's Dr John Hooper, a world sponge authority, Dr Niel Bruce, isopod (crustacean) expert, and Dr Robert Adlard, a specialist in parasites.

Queensland Museum Head of Biodiversity Dr John Hooper said the new grants would allow the Museum's scientists to continue the important work of the CReefs project, an international collaboration to systematically survey life on Australian reefs that commenced around 18 months ago.

"The Queensland Museum has already been involved in identifying and photographing hundreds of marine species new to science through CReefs research expeditions to Lizard and Heron Islands on Queensland's Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo Reef off Western Australia," Dr Hooper said.

"Securing this new funding for the next three years will allow the Queensland Museum and the other grant recipients to continue discovering new species on Australia's iconic sea reefs, which are incredibly important as both natural and economic assets for Australia.

"We believe that only around 10 per cent of reef life is currently known to science so the CReefs project will certainly help us to better understand the biodiversity that exists in Australia's reefs," he said.

The CReefs research team will visit Queensland's Heron Island in November this year to continue the scientific research.

For Queensland Museum's parasitologist Dr Robert Adlard the visit will be a first, with funding from the new research grant allowing him to begin work investigating reef fish parasites in the region.

CReefs is an international multi-agency collaboration, led by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), the Smithsonian Institution and the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. CReefs Australia is funded through a deal brokered by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation with BHP Billiton providing $3.4 million to the project over four years.

The new grants, worth collectively $1.2 million over three years, are joined with cash and in-kind contributions from the scientists' host institutions to make a total contribution of $2.7 million to finding new reef life.

The other grant recipients are Dr Carlos Gurgel from the University of Adelaide and Dr Pat Hutchings from the Australian Museum.

Media Contact: Louise Sturgess 07 3842 9388 or 0417 741 710