Life on the seafloor in Antarctica

17 January 2011

Dr Jodie Smith on the RSV Aurora Australis, checking equipment prior to deployment

Dr Jodie Smith on the RSV Aurora
Australis, checking equipment prior
to deployment
© Geoscience Australia

Geoscience Australia marine scientist, Dr Jodie Smith is heading to Antarctica to study marine ecosystems in the Mertz Glacier region off the coast of George V Land.

Dr Smith is travelling on the RSV Aurora Australis to the Mertz Glacier region where she will undertake her research as part of an Australian Antarctic Division marine science survey. This survey will study a previously inaccessible area of the seafloor which was exposed after a 78 kilometre long floating section of the Mertz Glacier broke off in early 2010.

Working in collaboration with Australian Antarctic Division scientists and under the direction of survey leader Dr Steve Rintoul, Dr Smith will use underwater cameras to study habitats on the seafloor previously covered by the glacier tongue. Studying these marine ecosystems will help to improve our understanding of how they survive and prosper in such hostile environments.

Images of the seafloor will also be collected along the edge of the Antarctic continental shelf east of the Mertz Glacier, where cold water coral communities have been identified during previous surveys. This latest research into these unique communities, which have been declared Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VME) by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), will reveal more about the distribution and extent of these vulnerable ecosystems. The information collected will be provided to CCAMLR to help improve biodiversity conservation and fisheries management in the Southern Ocean.

Geoscience Australia conducts marine and onshore research in Antarctica to support Australia's Antarctic science objectives and contributes to maintenance of the Antarctic Treaty System, which includes environmental protection. Dr Smith's participation in the survey is just one example of how Geoscience Australia contributes to achieving these objectives in conjunction with the Australian Antarctic Division.

Up-to-date records of survey activities and life aboard the ship can be obtained via the Australian Antarctic Division website.

Topic contact: Last updated: October 4, 2013