SensorNets for the Great Barrier Reef
"instrumenting the Great Barrier Reef"
Understanding the changes being brought about by climate change and
human impact on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is a top priority for
Australia and the state of Queensland in particular. Data acquisition
is essential in order to understand the response of the reef to these
environmental changes and to build and test numerical models.
Data are collected by going in the field on a research vessel but also
remote sensing, oceanographic buoys, weather sation or data loggers.
Some of these measurements are global in scale (eg remote sensing), other are
punctual (measurements at one reef). The integration of these different
data is in itself a challenge. With the advances made in electronics
and communications, it is now possible to deploy a sensor network which
will take specific measurements automatically and send them back to the
The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) operates and
maintains a series of remote data stations situated on the Great
Barrier Reef (GBR) in Queensland and in Western Australia. These
stretch across 3,000km of World heritage marine park. AIMS recently
upgraded its new Automatic Weather Station at Davies Reef, a coral reef
approximately 70 km offshore from Townsville in North Queensland.
Coral reefs all over the world are deteriorating, and in addition to
remote sensing and monitoring, there is a need for installing in-situ
monitoring, to provide long-term datasets and real-time monitoring.
AIMS and James Cook University (JCU) are deploying a trial
sensor-network at Davis Reef. The sensors will measure water
temperature, solar radiation, salinity, pollution levels, etc in order
to understand complex marine biological processes and predict future
coral bleaching events. The major challenges for a sensor network in a
remote area are power and communications: how do you get reliable power
and communications so far out to sea, without the need for expensive
The goal of this pilot project is to assess the feasibility of
deploying a sensor network in the GBR and to integrate streaming data
to existing databases.
Stuart Kinninmonth deploying sensors at AIMS (Photo courtesy of AIMS)