Aug. 13 - Scientists trying to ensure the long-term survival of Australia's Great Barrier Reef have a new tool at their disposal - a multi-million dollar reef simulator that will allow them recreate reef conditions in a controlled setting. Rob Muir reports.
The National Sea Simulator is designed to replicate ocean conditions with a particular focus on those that effect the Great Barrier Reef. Australian Institute of Marine Science CEO John Gunn says the facility will be an important tool for marine science. SOUNDBITE (English) JOHN GUNN - CEO, AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF MARINE SCIENCE, SAYING: "It allows groups of scientists from AIMS, from universities such as James Cook and all around the world to come together to study some of the big questions." Questions that focus on the long-term health of the reef and the impact of climate change and ocean acidification. Each tank within the facility can be automatically controlled to simulate the variable chemical and temperature conditions of the ocean, according to Research Director Jamie Oliver. SOUNDBITE (English) JAMIE OLIVER - RESEARCH DIRECTOR, AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF MARINE SCIENCE, SAYING: "Here we can keep corals alive and healthy for years. That allows us to look at the long-term effects of a number of stressers on the reef in an experimental setting." One of those stressers is the Crown-of-Thorns starfish, which in large numbers, can decimate coral reefs. The simulator will allow scientists to test long held theories about controlling the animals. SOUNDBITE (English) JAMIE OLIVER - RESEARCH DIRECTOR, AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF MARINE SCIENCE, SAYING: "We could do that through, for instance, seeing whether there are special chemicals called pheromones, which may atrtract Crown of Thorn starfish together. If we can attract them together we may be able to use that as a way of putting out baited traps." The facility has cost more than 30 million dollars, but marine scioentists say it's a small price to pay if it helps protect the world's oceans and preserve the Great Barrier Reef.