2014 Canberra

As Australia’s peak professional body for marine scientists from all disciplines and for over 60 years has promoted all aspects of marine science in Australia. AMSA operates with a membership network of individuals and corporate affiliates as a not-for-profit organisation.

AMSA2014 Canberra

AMSA2014 – Canberra, National Convention Centre: 6-10 July 2014 


AMSA2014 Conference was held at the National Convention Centre, ACT from 6-10 July 2014. The conference theme was Investigating our Marine Nation. 


Program Handbook (pdf download, mb)
Abstracts (pdf download, mb)
List of Posters as displayed (pdf download, kb)


Conference Report 


“Dissolving prawns, captive currents and underwater robots: cutting edge marine science in Canberra”. According to delegate feedback, the 51st annual conference of the Australian Marine Sciences Association (AMSA), held in early July in Canberra, was a resounding success. Over 330 delegates attended from around Australia, representing a range of academic, government and private sector organisations.


On the first morning, after a fitting ‘Welcome to Country’ by Ngunnawal elder, Judy Barlow preceded by some stirring didgeridoo playing by Andrew Horne, we heard from inaugural AMSA Patron, Professor Joe Baker. Joe welcomed delegates to the conference and to Canberra and reminded us that it had been some 35 years since the society had met in the nation’s capital. Importantly, this represented a unique opportunity to engage with Government and consider big-picture, national aspects of Australia’s marine sciences and associated capabilities, as well as future directions. The conference was formally opened by a representative of the Chief Scientist of Australia, Jo Banks, who kindly delivered Professor Chub’s speech.


The venue for the conference was the well-appointed National Convention Centre in Canberra’s CBD. The spacious plenary and break-out rooms were supported by an extremely spacious exhibition hall. The hall served as the hub of the conference, where delicious morning and afternoon teas and lunches were partaken and the chance to chat and network with friends and colleagues was facilitated. A range of exciting exhibitors supported this year’s conference in addition to some cultural attractions, including Sirene Sea Pearls who kindly donated prizes for this year’s photo competition. With the theme ‘Investigating our Marine Nation’, AMSA2014 explored the latest discoveries, knowledge and research technologies in marine science across a range of disciplines. We were privileged to hear and see over 280 talks and posters in a very exciting and topical program put together by Dr Rachel Przeslawski and her team. There were seven conference Themes and an amazing 16 Symposia on offer: Some conference highlights included:

  • Overview of the Bureau’s marine services,spanning the deep ocean, the continental shelf and the coastal zone, Dr Rob Vertessy, Bureau of Meteorology.
  • Sea floor mapping for managing the global oceans, Dr Peter Harris, United Nations World Oceans Assessment
  • Using satellites and bio-optics to monitor water quality in coastal waters and the Great Barrier Reef, Dr Vittorio Brando, Dr Arnold Dekker and Dr Nagur Cherukuru, CSIRO Land and Water.
  • Marine urbanisation: the latest in ecological engineering for offshore platforms, marinas and artificial reefs Dr Katherine Dafforn, University of New South Wales
  • How new, consistent national approaches to measuring fish stocks beyond jurisdictions can achieve a sustainable fisheries harvest, Dr Patrick Hone, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation
  • Using underwater robots, cameras and computers to assess the health of underwater ecosystems, Dr Renata Ferrari Legorreta, University of Sydney
  • Climate change impacts and how increasing ocean acidification will damage the brains and dissolve the shells and skeletons of marine creatures Dr Sue-Ann-Watson, James Cook University; Dr Elvira Poloczanska, CSIRO/IPCC Lead Author
  • Why storing ‘blue’ carbon in coastal saltmarsh, seagrass and mangroves can make a huge difference to global warming and help stop coastal erosion, Dr Trisha Atwood, University of Queensland
  • New research into marine megafauna, including whale sharks, whales, dolphins, sharks, etc., Dr Michelle Blewitt, Cardno; Dr Mark Meekan, Australian Institute of Marine Science.
  • Citizen Science – democratising data collection for Australia’s marine environments, Dr Steffan Howe, Parks Victoria.


In addition to an exciting range of plenary speakers and a video conference call from this year’s Silver Jubilee winner, Professor Geoff Jones, this year’s Conference Organising Committee took the opportunity to host an inaugural ‘Plenary Panel Discussion Session’ to stimulate thinking on Australia’s current and future marine science capability. Facilitated by ABC Radio’s Louise Maher, delegates heard from six high-level experts on their thoughts regarding Australia’s marine science strengths and knowledge gaps, and what the priorities and future directions should be. This was followed by some lively discussion from the floor. The session was extremely interesting and thought provoking and drew much positive feedback.


To complement the top-notch scientific program, the conference also delivered an enjoyable range of social events. The Welcome or Ice-breaker function for this year’s conference was held on the Sunday evening at the Australian War Memorial’s Anzac Hall. Surrounded by giant war planes and submarines, the venue offered a surreal ambiance to the event which also proffered some excellent Canberran cuisine and wine to delegates. It was a great way to catch up with marine colleagues and an excellent entre to the conference. The Poster-Cocktail event on the Monday evening provided delegates with the chance to peruse the array of excellent poster material on display, as well as further opportunities for networking and collaboration. Tuesday’s Student Night was a lively affair at King O’Malley’s Irish Pub, attended by the 90 odd student delegates and a bit more than a sprinkling of professionals. The highlight of the evening was the ‘speed mentoring’ which was remarkably fluid!


Of course the pièce de résistance was the Conference Gala Dinner, held on the last evening (Thursday) at the iconic Old Parliament House. Seated amongst a vast array of giant, metallic, marine-critter balloons – the night was a buzz from the get-go. What followed was a delightful evening MC’d by a very entertaining Dutchman (Dr Arnold Dekker) and which included: excellent food, wonderful company, joyous and heartfelt student awards (thanks to Dr Andrew Carroll, student judging co-ordinator) and photo-competition (thanks to Floyd Howard, co-ordinator) prize giving ceremonies, an amazing and vibrant band (Heuristic – led by singer Mitch Canas), hours of unbelievable dancing prowess from delegates (the Nutbush was my particular favourite), and just a little serious discussion. The winner of this year’s prestigious Sherwood Award for most outstanding dancing by a matureage delegate was won by the exceptionally fit Assoc. Prof. Ross Coleman, with the equally as fit Dr Hugh Kirkman a close runner-up.


As a premiere marine science event, AMSA2014 Canberra provided and excellent and unique opportunity for networking and exchange between the marine science community and related professionals, with just a little fun on the side. We had feedback that strong collaborations were forged and innovative opportunities identified. In particular, our post-grad student delegates gathered much experience, advice and even mentors for their various future career paths.


AMSA2014 Canberra was generously supported by a range of sponsors including CSIRO, Geoscience Australia, the Australian National University, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, the NERP Marine Biodiversity Hub, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the Bureau of Meteorology, UNSW/ ADFA Canberra, The Australian Academy of Science and Lerida Estate. Details of these and other sponsors and supporters are listed on the website and in the handbook.


The conference would not have been possible or successful without these generous supporting organisations, as well as the hard work of PCO Narelle Hall and the Conference Organising Committee and Scientific Program Committee. We are all thrilled that delegates enjoyed the conference, were treated to a high-calibre scientific program of the latest Australian marine science, and got a good taster of our wonderful city here in Canberra. Perhaps we’ll see AMSA again in the Nation’s Capital in another few decades, but for now we hope to catch up with our marine science buddies next year in Geelong.


Dr Gina Newton, Conference Convenor (and ‘Gina with a G’) on behalf on the Conference Organising Committee.