Navy teams up with scientists on reef exploration

Lieutenant Cheyne Colley, Petty Officer Hannah Lee and Lieutenant Commander Matthew Hawker on board CSIRO research vessel Investigator.

Navy teams up with scientists on reef exploration


Two Navy hydrographers and a meteorology and oceanography officer joined scientists from around Australia recently on a voyage to understand how and when the Great Barrier Reef formed.

Lieutenant Commander Matthew Hawker, Lieutenant Cheyne Colley and Petty Officer Hannah Lee sailed from Brisbane to Darwin on board CSIRO research vessel Investigator.

During the 11-day passage, they mapped the sea floor along the edge of the reef and collected oceanographic and atmospheric data.

Lieutenant Commander Hawker, a meteorology and oceanography officer, said it was the professional experience of a lifetime that will have positive implications for Navy.

“Being able to engage with researchers and academics from a diverse range of scientific backgrounds who are extremely passionate and knowledgeable about their fields was a fantastic opportunity,” Lieutenant Commander Hawker said.

“We discovered what sort of scientific data researchers collect and how it is being used by Australia’s scientific community, and we are now using that knowledge to improve Navy’s own collection systems and processes.”

Hydrographers and meteorologists play an important role in the Navy, during conflict and peace time.

Lieutenant Commander Hawker said the environmental information they provide to Command can keep a vessel and its crew safe and can be exploited to obtain an advantage over an adversary.

“Ocean and atmospheric data collection is essential to better understand the operational environment and its impact on Navy’s platforms and sensors,” he said.

“Undertaking opportunities such as these, with the best and brightest minds in the civilian and military worlds, ensures the Royal Australian Navy is always operating at the peak of our capabilities.”

Navy has a strong history of working with Australian scientific agencies to better understand the maritime environment.

In 2003, Navy partnered with the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology on the BLUElink project, to deliver an operational forecasting system for the global ocean circulation around Australia.

The CSIRO also benefits from these types of scientific partnerships, according to Barbara Musso, Facilities Program Director of the CSIRO Marine National Facility in the research vessel RV Investigator.

“The collaborative relationship between CSIRO and Navy is part of a holistic government approach to research in Australia’s vast marine estate, and leverages the impressive scientific capabilities of Investigator,” Dr Musso said.

“The benefits of this collaboration go far beyond just the collection of data, with the relationships developed and sharing of knowledge between participants advancing the capability of both organisations.”

Investigator is an advanced ocean research vessel that can accommodate up to 60 scientists and crew on voyages lasting up to 60 days and 10,000 nautical miles (18,520km).

Systems on board can map the sea floor at any depth, measure biomass of marine life in the ocean, record ocean data to depths of 2000m, and collect weather data from up to 20km into the atmosphere in a 150km radius around the ship.

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