Western Australia has 40 per cent of the nation's coastline, two of its biggest ports (Dampier and Port Hedland) and, consequently, suffers the lion's share of Australia's marine and ocean problems and threats.
The newly-formed Oceans Institute (OI), a major interdisciplinary institute fully funded by UWA, is poised to take on all the problems and offer solutions. Bringing together 80 UWA staff and postgraduate students, the Oceans Institute now has a critical mass, representing marine scientists from across the campus.
The faculties of Natural and Agricultural Sciences and Engineering, Computing and Mathematics are joined (to a lesser degree) by Life and Physical Sciences and Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, together with the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) to take on what have been identified as the five most significant broad-scale threats to marine biodiversity.
These are climate change, resource use, land-based impacts, marine biosecurity and marine pollution.
The Institute will be officially opened this week by one of US President Barack Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, Professor S. James Gates.
"This is a major initiative to co-ordinate marine research at UWA for better outcomes for the State and the nation," said Professor Gary Kendrick, Acting Director of Oceans Institute.
"We have brilliant people here at UWA: national leading researchers such as Winthrop Professor Chari Pattiaratchi and Professor Anya Waite, along with Winthrop Professor Greg Ivey, Associate Professor Ryan Lowe and Dr Nicole Jones," he said. "And these, some of the best marine scientists in the country, have recently been joined by two WA Premier's Fellows, Winthrop Professors Shaun Collin, a fish neurobiologist, and Professor Malcolm McCulloch, an expert in coral calcification and ocean acidification."
Professor Kendrick himself has an outstanding international record of research in seagrass and seaweed ecology and benthic marine biology and strong links with industry and community groups.
"Working together we will be more able to address large-scale questions about the functioning of the ceanography and marine biology of the eastern Indian Ocean and to manage our economic growth with other aspirations through ocean engineering, management and conservation," he said.
Marine ecology is emerging as another strength within the Institute, linking industrial developments and resource extraction to broad changes to the distribution and abundance of fish. Professor Jessica Meeuwig, Associate Professors Euan Harvey, Kimberly Van Niel and David Sutton join Professor Kendrick in this area of research.
Ocean Engineering also features prominently with the WA-ERA Facilities Program leader Professor Krish Thiagarajan and the Centre for Offshore Foundation Systems, under the directorship of Winthrop Professor Mark Cassidy, also linking their research expertise with the Institute.
Marine management and conservation is addressed with Assistant Professors Bryan Boruff and Julian Clifton and Professor Jessica Meeuwig interacting with economist Professor Atakelty Hailu to both direct research and to integrate research into management outcomes.
"None of us can do it alone," Professor Kendrick said. "All the different individuals in research centres and schools at UWA combined with AIMS make the Oceans Institute more than a sum of its parts.
"Together we can address the right scale of questions and issues facing the WA community into the future."