Coral spawning science being conducted on the Great Barrier Reef.
Coral spawning science being conducted on the Great Barrier Reef.

Marine research centre opens at Gladstone

GLADSTONE’S marine ecosystem is set for a boost with the opening today of CQUniversity’s $6.6 million Coastal Marine Ecosystems Research Centre at the Gladstone Marina Campus.

CQUniversity Chancellor John Abbott and Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Nick Klomp were joined by Gladstone Mayor Matt Burnett to officially open the research facility.

“This facility, which has been in operation for about 12 months now, allows CQUniversity’s CMERC team to undertake proactive and applied research in order to develop practical solutions to the challenges facing coastal marine ecosystems,” Mr Abbott said.

Mr Abbott said today’s official opening marked an important milestone not just for the university, but the Gladstone community as a whole.

“CMERC is the only coastal and marine research facility based in Central Queensland which has a specific focus on the Southern Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

“It features world-class research equipment and laboratories with access to cutting-edge analytical capabilities.

“As a proud Gladstone local it gives me great pleasure to see this facility be officially opened and I look forward to seeing it continue to be utilised to its full capacity by our researchers, industry, community groups and also our students.”

CQUniversity's $6.6 million Coastal Marine Ecosystems Research Centre was officially opened today at the Gladstone Marina Campus.
CQUniversity's $6.6 million Coastal Marine Ecosystems Research Centre was officially opened today at the Gladstone Marina Campus.

Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Nick Klomp said the research centre had already proven to be a great benefit to the local community and its many stakeholders in developing research with real-world impact.

“At CMERC, our researchers are supported by all of the tools of the trade needed to monitor and manage coastal ecosystems, from boats to laboratories fitted with the latest in high-tech analytical equipment, including Queensland’s only seagrass nursery,” Professor Klomp said.

The research centre also supports the education of students in Gladstone who are enrolled in CQUniversity’s Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Environmental Science, which features a research-led teaching model that exposes graduates to the expertise and innovation of CMERC’s world-class scientists.

CMERC Director Associate Professor Emma Jackson explained that 80 per cent of Australia’s population was coastal and 95 per cent of all commercially-important fish species depended on coastal habitats at some point during their life cycle.

“Our marine and coastal ecosystems provide immense value to our coastal communities, they provide seafood, recreation, tourism, filter out pollution, capture and store carbon, and naturally protect our coastlines and infrastructure from storm surges,” Dr Jackson said.

“As our coastlines develop to support our growing coastal economies, the ecosystems and the benefits they provide need to be factored in.

“Seagrass is responsible for about 15 per cent of the total carbon stored in the ocean and CMERC’s unique seagrass nursery facility is driving research into seagrass propagation and cultivation, for restoration of the seagrass meadows which have been in severe decline along our coasts.

Dr Jackson said the research centre had already partnered with a number of industries in a bid to deliver real-world research outcomes.

“By actively engaging industry, community, and researchers locally, nationally and globally, CMERC research supports an economically and environmentally sustainable future to enrich our coastal communities,” Dr Jackson said.

“A research base on the banks of a large multicommodity industrial port within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area offers a unique opportunity to do research where it matters, that can inform best practice nationally and globally.

“I am very excited to be working with a great team of researchers, students and support staff to deliver this research and to partner locally with Gladstone Ports Corporation, Gidarjil Development Corporation, Burnett Mary Regional Group, Fitzroy Basin Association and many others to deliver research solutions for unique coastal systems.”

Cr Burnett praised CQUniversity for its investment in the research centre.

“The centre not only benefits the environment through the great research that is being conducted, particularly in the Coastal Marine Ecosystem space, but this is an investment in the people of Gladstone,” he said.

“As the gateway to the Southern Great Barrier Reef, a region with one of the highest boat ownerships per capita in the country, we have an obligation to ensure our coastal marine systems remain healthy for generations to come so our children and grandchildren can continue to enjoy the benefits of living in this fantastic part of the world.”