Harmful algal blooms and their long-term sediment record

Studying sediment records to understand past harmful algal blooms in east coast Tasmanian waters.
Voyage No


14 May, 2018


21 May, 2018




Chief Scientist

Prof Gustaaf Hallegraeff


Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies

Voyage summary

Transit voyage from Brisbane to Hobart to relocate the vessel in preparation for IN2018_C01. During the transit, a number of research, outreach and training projects will be undertaken, including a project to increase our understanding of the history of harmful algal blooms in Tasmanian waters.

Unprecedented toxic dinoflagellate blooms occurred off east coast Tasmania in 2012 and 2015, 2016 and 2017. It is likely that other toxic algal blooms occurred off Tasmania in the distant past but then disappeared. By examining a broad range of plankton microfossils in seafloor sediments, researchers will seek to examine the long-term record of the algal blooms. By understanding under what conditions the blooms formed and disappeared, researchers will be able to better predict the future.

The voyage will support education and outreach activities under the CSIRO Educator on Board Program, and includes for a journalist from ABC News in Hobart and a documentary film crew. There are two supplementary projects on the voyage:

  1. Spatial and temporal variability in the distribution and abundance of seabirds (Dr Eric Woehler, BirdLife Australia): Project to study the spatial and temporal distribution of seabirds and marine animals in the oceans around Australia (multi-year project).
  2. Sea trials of remote-ROAM ocean modelling package (CMDR Annalise Pearson, Royal Australian Navy): Project to test the Bluelink mobile oceanographic modelling system (referred to as Remote-ROAM) developed by CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology for use by the Royal Australian Navy.

Voyage impact

This voyage has collected sediment samples that will allow for the analysis of diatom and dinoflagellate microfossils, as well as ancient DNA molecular sequences, covering an expected 1000-2000 years record. This will provide a significant increase in our knowledge of Australian plankton, which currently does not go back beyond the 1940s. The results will put the current episode of climate-driven changes to the East Australian Current in a broader context.

Education, outreach and media activities conducted during the voyage reached a wide audience and will help increase awareness and understanding of marine science, as well of promote interest in this field of study.