Science Under Sail Australia


Science Under Sail Research

SUSA undertakes its own research projects as well as facilitating other researchers by providing a safe, stable liveaboard research platform that can move to the location where the research needs to occur.

Examples of our research projects include:

  • Benthic habitat surveys in Moreton Bay, Hervey Bay and many regions of Great Barrier Reef.
  • Working with researchers from the University of Queensland to conduct research on bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) acoustic communication.
  • Working with researchers from the Queensland University of Technology to train robots to identify Crown of Thorns Starfish (COTS). These robots have been developed to undertake benthic habitat surveys as well as to detect and kill COTS.
  • Ground truthing the remote sensing maps of coral habitat on the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Mapping of seabed bathymetry and identifying paleo channels.
  • Surveys and ecological studies of sea cucumbers in the lagoons of coral reefs.

In 2019 and 2020 SUSA surveyed the benthic habitat at over 3,000 locations within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA). Surveys were conducted from Bundaberg north to Cairns, including coastal, reef lagoon and outer reef locations. All surveys occurred at the end of the dry season between August and October in 2019 and 2020. The survey effort was focused on potential seagrass habitats, ranging in water quality from highly turbid water impacted by coastal run-off to clean reefal sites with over 20m visibility. The survey design focused on subtidal sites, including shallow subtidal (0 – 10m) and deep subtidal (10 – 30m). This data collection aims to contribute to filling a data gap in the spatial distribution of seagrass within the GBRWHA and is complementary data to the temporal seagrass data collection undertaken by GBRMPA/JCU as part of the GBRMPA Marine Monitoring Program. This research is done with the help of the participating students from Queensland and interstate schools. We also engage a large number of local students to introduce them to the benthic habitat research of the Great Barrier Reef.

This work was done with support from the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and Reef Trust Partnership.

Below you can find the maps showing the distribution of survey sites in 2019 and 2020, with links provided to summary videos for each survey.

In 2019 the expedition through the Great Barrier Reef collected 1,371 data points during benthic habitat surveys along the coast of Queensland. You can find the video blog summary of the trip here.
Our 2020 Great Barrier Reef Expedition was not only successful in collecting over 2,000 data points, but also attracted broader public attention through the creation of the video blog of our trip and findings. The summary video for the trip can be viewed here.

At Science Under Sail we encourage data sharing and collaboration. The complete data set from our trip can be accessed through the Australian Data Science Education Institute (ADSEI) here.

Science Under Sail Australia would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the Great Barrier Reef Region and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

We also conducted work with researchers from the University of Queensland to study bottlenose dolphin acoustic communication in Moreton Bay.