The Australian Institute of Marine Science

Today I was fortunate to visit the The Australian Institute of Marine ScienceI was amazed at all the research that is being done on issues pertaining to the Great Barrier Reef, Climate Change, Biodiversity, Ecology, and Monitoring just to name a few. The facility was beautiful and I want to share some highlights from our visit today.

Once a coral is cored it is plugged with concrete to insure that the coral is not harmed.

The location where the research vessels would load to go on diving and research expeditions had a beautiful view to the north and south.







There was a frilled lizard warming itself on the road. I was hoping to snap a picture of him running, or showing off but he was quite a quick bugger.

A giant crayfish that is being cultured in one of the aquaculture pools. Next to the pools there were carapaces from subsequent molting episodes of the adult crayfish. They were HUGE. I have my AP biology students dissect small fresh water crayfish when we are studying arthropods, but these marine crayfish put my previous fear of crayfish to shame. Ever since I was little and my brother and I caught a female crayfish that had a tail full of eggs, my skin crawls every time I see them. Seeing them in this scale actually helped me overcome this phobia.

The Coral nubbins were grown in PVC pipe and the replicates of the experiment were exposed to the same outdoor sea water  aquarium environment. I love that they were called nubbins.


















The coral is cored, and sliced then sent to the local hospital not because it is sick, remember the concrete plugs ensure that the corals aren’t harmed, but so they can be X-rayed and the bands of calcium carbonate can be used to as a proxy driven climate record. After my time in the dendrochronology lab the past two summers I thought this was just amazing!

AIMS has research focused on climate change and one of the ways they study it is through the worlds largest long coral core collection.

Climate Change – AIMS by clicking on the link you can listen to a short clip about the research currently being done.

Here you can see the calcium carbon skeleton left behind from the polyps of coral that once lived here.

The coral cores would show very strong banding under UV light. These bands tell researchers about major floods in the past because of the sediments and fresh water that is sent out to sea during these events.

In the lobby of one of the buildings is a core that is over 6m long. This core dates back older than when captain James Cook landed on the eastern cost of Australia in 1770. I was amazed as I stared at the history recorded in the bands of calcium carbonate deposited year after year by growing coral polyps. The width, composition, and density can tell researchers stories of sea temperature, mineral levels, precipitation, and much more.

Great days in the lab are marked with great lattes. I made this one myself in the kitchen of the lab. I still have yet to master the frothed milk design. I will keep practicing though.

We also visited the Engineering workshop. AIMS Facilities (Engineering workshop Video) My dad would have loved this workshop. They had two Mazak milling machines, and made one of a kind under water data loggers and sensors.









Below is a solar powered weather logging buoy.

I felt like a sponge trying to take in this great experience. What do you think? What are the big questions in marine research that will impact our future?

2 Responses to “The Australian Institute of Marine Science”
  1. emma says:

    I’ve done a bit of dendrochronology work with tree rings and cookies, but have never had the chance to learn about it with coral, or marine science in general (that was the next building over on campus… I obviously never left my own building!).

    This is fascinating. So, dumb question: coral grows that big (>6 m)?

    • Mr. Chopp says:

      Emma, Thanks for your comment. I’ve also done a bit of dendrochronology with tree cores from Guatemala but I was amazed at how big some of the pictures of the coral were! Not a dumb question at all. I was amazed yesterday, and completely unaware that this other world existed. I have spent my life in Michigan and New York.

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