New manufacturing opportunities - sensors to protect marine and freshwater ecosystems

Tuesday, 13 October, 2009

An ambitious new research collaboration designed to track the health of Australia’s marine and freshwater ecosystems was launched yesterday.

Researchers will develop sensing technologies which will have significant economic and environmental implications for our marine and freshwater resources.

CSIRO’s Future Manufacturing Flagship Director, Clive Davenport, said the collaboration will also drive a new sensor manufacturing industry for Australia.

“The cluster collaboration addresses a fundamental need to understand, monitor and protect our aquatic environments, while at the same time opening up new opportunities for enhancing Australia’s manufacturing capability for local and global export markets,” Davenport said.

NSW Chief Scientist and Scientific Engineer Professor Mary O’Kane launched the $9.6 million multi-facility research collaboration cluster Sensor Systems for Analysis of Aquatic Environments.

Professor O’Kane said sensing technologies will improve our understanding of aquatic ecosystems and assist in conservation and resource management.

“They also provide valuable inputs into global weather and climate models, to develop further our understanding of climate-change processes and possible adaptation responses,” Professor O’Kane said.

Cluster leader Professor Justin Gooding said the initiative comprises five research and development projects, which could prove vital for the wellbeing of Australia’s aquatic environment.

“We can’t manage our precious water assets without understanding their chemical and biological composition,” Professor Gooding said.

“Our aim is to develop an array of new field-deployable sensors that detect critical water-quality parameters and harmful pollutants and pathogens that affect the health of our precious and unique marine and aquatic environments.”

The sensors will monitor phosphate and nitrate nutrients, pesticides and pathogens and are designed to be used in both fresh and marine waters.

“Australia’s marine and freshwater ecosystems are some of the most prized aquatic environments in the world,” Professor Gooding said.

“Understanding those environments, and the variability in their chemical and biological constituents, is the key to preserving them.

“Sensors play a pivotal role in achieving this understanding and protecting our valuable water bodies.”

The project is supported through CSIRO’s Flagship Collaboration Fund and brings together CSIRO’s National Research Flagship Program, the University of New South Wales, Griffith University, Curtin University, Monash University, Flinders University and La Trobe University.

CSIRO initiated the National Research Flagships to provide science-based solutions in response to Australia’s major research challenges and opportunities. The 10 flagships form multidisciplinary teams with industry and the research community to deliver impact and benefits for Australia.

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