Data collected by the gliders is sent back to the laboratory via satellite after resurfacing. The gliders can return to the ocean depths and continue their mission for up to one month at a time. Flickr:WBUR
OCEANIC, climate and weather data collection off the Pilbara and Kimberley coast is set to begin as the State Government invests $6 million into an ocean monitoring program over three years. The Western Australian Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) already monitors the area between Perth and Ningaloo Reef with remote-controlled underwater Ocean Gliders. Director of IMOS, Mr Tim Moltmann says Ocean Glider technology can deliver ocean profile data remotely. “When we think of the ocean, we mainly think of the surface. It’s pretty big and dynamic,” he says. “What the glider technology can do is travel through the ocean and continuously observe things like temperature, salinity, biological productivity, and turbidity.”
Data collected by the gliders is sent back to the laboratory via satellite after resurfacing. The gliders can return to the ocean depths and continue their mission for up to one month at a time. The relayed data gives scientists a three-dimensional structure of the ocean, generating new insights and understandings. The gliders are piloted from the Australian National Facility for Ocean Gliders based at the University of Western Australia (UWA).
Mr Moltmann says funding limitations had restricted the program’s geographical reach previously. “What this investment by the West Australian government is allowing us to do is to close that gap off the Pilbara and Kimberley coast,” Mr Moltmann says. The data being gathered will be used as part of future economic development along the coastline in the Pilbara and the Kimberley. “The potential for future oil and gas developments do need precise information about the state of the ocean and biodiversity in them,” Science and Innovation Minister John Day says. “This is also about gathering information and baseline information to ensure what is done in the future is going to be sustainable and is not going to have any detrimental effect.”
Historically, most observations collected from the Western Australian coast have been done as part of projects that have started and stopped. There has been little information gathered over longer periods of times in a continuous manner. IMOS will provide the infrastructure to allow better data collection that can be used to make decisions in the sustainable management of Western Australian waters.
IMOS is a collection of oceanographic moorings, ocean glider technologies, acoustic tracking and measuring devices. UWA, Curtin University and the Australian Institute of Marine Science and seven other organisations around Australia collaborate to form IMOS.