Australian Marine Parks

Thursday 2 March 2023

Collecting water samples for eDNA analysis. Image credit: Minderoo OceanOmics Centre

An exciting new partnership between Parks Australia and the Minderoo Foundation announced today has the potential to transform how we monitor the health of Australian Marine Parks. 

The partnership will develop genomic tools to help improve understanding and management of Australian marine parks by enabling rapid collection and processing of information on marine biodiversity.  

The project builds on Minderoo’s OceanOmics program which investigates the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) as a non-invasive, robust biomonitoring tool for management and conservation of our unique marine ecosystems. 

The Australian Government’s investment of $3.4 million through the Ocean Discovery and Restoration Program will be matched by an $8.4 million co-contribution by Minderoo, enabling a total project value of $11.8 million.  

Employing the most recent developments in eDNA technologies, this partnership will provide improved understanding of ocean biodiversity and the distribution of species within our marine environments.  

This information is important to identify places of high ecological value and to monitor the health of keystone species and vulnerable ecosystems across the 60 Australian Marine Parks managed by Parks Australia. Effective monitoring is a significant challenge across this huge estate, which currently spans over 3.5 million km2 – or some 39 per cent – of Australia’s waters.  

As part of the two-year project, multiple oceanographic expeditions will be conducted along the Western Australia coastline and the Indian Ocean Territories, including four Australian Marine Parks. This is Cocos Keeling Islands Marine Park, Christmas Island Marine Park, Perth Canyon Marine Park and Gascoyne Marine Park. 

These voyages will retrieve DNA from water samples, identify the genetic signatures of key species, and use that data to develop new and efficient methods to monitor the status and trends of those species over time. 

Minderoo’s Pangaea Ocean Explorer vessel will serve as the primary research platform for these expeditions. Additionally, the program will collaborate with the Minderoo-UWA Deep-Sea Research Centre to analyse eDNA samples collected from deep waters. 

The project will commence in March 2023.  

For more information, visit the Ocean Discovery and Restoration web page.