Great Barrier Reef water quality monitoring gets a funding boost

University of Queensland

University of Queensland researchers have received $3.6 million from the Federal and Queensland governments to improve water quality monitoring in Great Barrier Reef catchments.

The funding supports the Great Barrier Reef Catchment Loads Monitoring Program, jointly delivered by UQ, James Cook University and the Queensland Department of Environment, Science and Innovation, which has been tracking the quality of water entering the Great Barrier Reef lagoon since 2006.

Dr Ryan Turner, Science Leader of the Reef Catchments Science Partnership, said the agreement will enhance Australia’s most successful water monitoring program through access to more scientists, the latest technology and cutting-edge research.

“Improving water quality is critical for healthy and thriving freshwater, estuarine and marine ecosystems associated with the reef, so effective water monitoring and research is essential,” Dr Turner said.

“There are 430,000 square kilometres of catchments that discharge water and elevated concentrations of fine sediment, nutrients, pesticides and other pollutants into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.

“This can affect the reproduction and growth of organisms, reduce diversity and make aquatic organisms more prone to disease and other stressors.

“The funding will dramatically increase the use of the program’s scientific monitoring data, and help us reach our Great Barrier Reef pollution reduction targets.”

The collaboration funds the work of 10 up-and-coming reef scientists, as well as the installation of the latest water monitoring technologies.

Samples from more than 100 sites along the Queensland coastline will be analysed, while satellite imagery will assist in real-time reporting of more than 50 sites.

The program collaborates with traditional owner groups, NGOs, universities, private citizens, scientists, natural resource management groups and government agencies to collect water quality samples.

Dr Turner said the collaboration will give UQ Bachelor of Environmental Science students unique opportunities.

“We’ll be able to use the data and skills of the monitoring team in student classes and Honours, Masters and PhD research projects,” he said.

“There are also potential opportunities for UQ students to undertake industry placements within the Queensland Department of Environment, Science and Innovation.

“We’re excited to be jointly delivering this world-leading monitoring program which will contribute to a healthier Great Barrier Reef and a new generation of UQ reef science leaders.”

Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef, Senator Nita Green, said the funding would support collaboration and the use of the latest science to enhance our monitoring activities.

“Improving water quality is vital for the health of the Great Barrier Reef,” Senator Green said.

“This is an important program that will continue to help us better manage the health of our iconic Reef and protect the 64,000 jobs it supports.”

The funding will be delivered over the next two years and is part of an ongoing commitment for water quality monitoring by the Queensland Department of Environment, Science and Innovation and the Australian Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water.

The University of Queensland would like to acknowledge the enormous contribution of the late Associate Professor Michael Warne to the formation of this partnership.

Media contacts

Dr Ryan Turner

[email protected]

+61 417 077 810

UQ Faculty of Science Media

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