Investigating the IOT

Biodiversity assessment of Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories (IOT).
Voyage No


30 Jun, 2021


29 Jul, 2021




Chief Scientist

Dr Tim O'Hara


Museums Victoria

CSIRO has taken the difficult decision to suspend the current voyage of research vessel (RV) Investigator. Please refer to the following statement:

Statement about RV Investigator Indian Ocean voyage [Issued 20 July 2021]

Research voyage from Darwin to Fremantle, traveling via Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands to undertake a marine biodiversity survey of the Indian Ocean Territories (IOT) that belong to Australia.

We know almost nothing about the biodiversity values of Australia’s IOT around the remote Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands. This project will undertake a world-first investigation of the marine biodiversity of the massive underwater mountains (seamounts) that make up these islands. These seamounts are mostly of late Cretaceous age (65-80 million years ago) and may harbour ancient endemic communities. Marine habitats on seamounts are also easily damaged by human activities and this voyage will gather important data for their conservation and management. The Australian Government has recently announced a process to create new marine parks in these regions. An experienced team of scientists will describe the marine life from these remote seamounts, use advanced DNA techniques to study their origin, and evaluate the conservation significance of these unexplored habitats.

The voyage will be led by Dr Tim O'Hara from Museums Victoria and is being conducted in partnership with Parks Australia , as well as leading Australian museums and research collections including the Australian National Fish Collection.

There will be two other projects included on this voyage:

  • Exploring the genomics of convergent snout elongations in deep-sea fishes (Dr Will White, CSIRO - not on voyage)
  • Bush Blitz outreach program (Dr Kate Grarock, Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment)

The science team on this voyage includes 33 participants from eight institutions, including three Australian museums and three Australian universities.

Map showing voyage track (red) and existing Australian Marine Parks (green).

COVID-19 Protocols

To safeguard the health and well-being of participants, strict COVID-19 protocols will apply to all activities on this voyage, including testing of all participants for COVID-19 prior to departure.

For further information about the MNF COVID-19 Protocols, visit Restart of at-sea operations following COVID-19 shutdown

Voyage outcomes

Summary of voyage outcomes will be published approximately 3-6 months after the completion of the voyage.