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Research themes

  • Urbanisation


    Sydney Harbour is Australia's largest, and most iconic, urbanised estuary. This makes SIMS an ideal place from which to understand, and help manage the pressures of urbanisation on the harbour and coastal ecosystems.

  • Biodiversity


    Sydney Harbour is one of the most biologically diverse harbours in the world. SIMS scientists are using both traditional and modern molecular techniques to expand our knowledge of this immense biodiversity.

  • Climate Change

    Climate Change

    The oceanography of the east coast of Australia is dominated by the East Australian Current. This current is increasing in strength making South-East Australia a global hot spot for climate change. SIMS is ideally placed for studying the causes and impacts of climate change in marine systems.

  • Ocean Resources

    Ocean Resources

    The ocean provides a wealth of resources for our use. SIMS scientists' research on the sustainable use of ocean resources is comparably broad, ranging from studies of the molecular mode of action of potential new pharmaceuticals to enhancing fish and prawn stocks along our coast.

  • Marine Management

    Marine Management

    From exploitation of key fisheries to conservation of endangered species, marine management relies on science to inform policy decisions. SIMS research is playing a critical role in managing our marine environment.

Bulletin board

  • Bright clouds could help curb coral bleaching


    The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most spectacular natural wonders of the world, but with two-thirds of the reef already devastated by coral bleaching, scientists fear that the entire system has reached a critical tipping point.

    In an effort to curb further bleaching and protect the delicate coral communities below, Sydney Institute of Marine Science researcher, Dr Daniel Harrison and colleagues from the Ocean Technology Group at the University of Sydney, are investigating whether bleaching can be effectively mitigated by temporarily increasing the amount and ‘brightness’ of cloud cover during times of heat stress to the reef.

    Red more about this exciting project here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-25/cloud-brightening-could-help-cool-great-barrier-reef/8469960


  • Congratulations to Daniel Harrison


    2017 Myer Innovation Fellowship winner


    SIMS is pleased to announce that Daniel Harrison from the USYD has won a Myer Innovation Fellowship for 2017, for his submission “Temporary Cloud Intensification - A method to save the Great Barrier Reef for future generations?”. dan harrison Daniel will be working with the CSIRO & the eReefs biogeochemical model to investigate whether coral bleaching can be mitigated by temporarily increasing the amount & ‘brightness’ of cloud cover during times of heat stress. .

  • 2017 Tony Roach Award


    SIMS and the New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) are pleased to announce the 2017 Tony Roach Prize in Marine Environmental Science.   The prize is in memory of Dr. Tony Roach and his long career and contributions to marine science in New South Wales. 

    The prize will be given to the best paper by a young scientist on any aspect of marine or estuarine environmental science. The winner will be decided by a selection panel of SIMS and OEH scientists, and will receive a cash award of $1500.

    For full details of the application process see below.


  • Our oceanographer seals


    ABC news, 25th February 2017


    The ABC accompanied a team of scientists, including SIMS' Clive McMahon tracking elephant seals as part of the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS). Elephant seals dive almost continuously while at sea, gathering information including temperature and salinity wherever they travel and giving scientists new insights into remote and previously inaccessible locations.SIMS seal dinner

  • Coastal Currents Newsletter


    Excellent reading in this update from the Sydney Coastal Council Group Coastal Currents Summer 2016-17 Final

  • New Director, Sydney Harbour Research Program


    Congratulations to Associate Professor Paul Gribben who is the new Director of the Sydney Harbour Research Program. Paul will be joined in the leadership of the program by two Deputy Directors, Associate Professor Will Figueira and Dr Katherine Dafforn. Paul currently holds a prestigious ARC Future Fellowship at UNSW and has an outstanding record in a diversity of areas of marine research, from aquaculture to the role of facilitation in community structure. Paul takes over the leadership from Professor Emma Johnston, the inaugural Director of the program, who has left an impressive legacy and platform.

  • SIMS scientists meet Japanese delegation


    SIMS scientists, Drs. Martina Doblin, Melanie Bishop and Adriana Verges were delighted to meet with Mrs. Akie Abe, wife of the Japanese Prime Minister, and Mrs. Ikuko Kusaka, wife of the Japanese Ambassador to Australia, to discuss key marine conservation issues in Japan.

    meeting with JapaneseIMG_0551.JPG

  • Welcome Justin Seymour, NSW IMOS Node leader


    SIMS and IMOS welcome Justin Seymour, from UTS and SIMS, as the new NSW IMOS Node leader.


    Martina Doblin, from UTS and the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS), has stepped down as leader after several years in the position. IMOS Director, Tim Moltmann, acknowledged the important contribution Dr Doblin has made in her leadership of the NSW-IMOS node. “IMOS has benefited greatly from Martina’s leadership,” said Mr Moltmann. “We thank her for that contribution, and hope to keep her engaged through our work at the nexus of ocean optics, remote sensing and microbial ecology.”

  • Newsletter December 2016


    Here is our latest newsletter. We hope you enjoy the read. Very best wishes for the festive season.

    crayweed_2016_launchTC_ 184

    SIMS Foundation Newsletter December 2016

  • ARC Success




    Associate Professor Thomas Wernberg; Dr Adriana Verges; Professor Peter Steinberg

    This project aims to understand the mechanisms behind climate-mediated declines in kelp. Ocean warming causes the collapse of valuable temperate kelp forests globally and on both sides of Australia, but it is unknown if this is because of direct physiological effects from temperature or the indirect effects of changes in species interactions. This project will compare the direct effects of marine heatwaves to the indirect effects of range-shifting tropical herbivores and pathogens for the kelp forests of the Great Southern Reef, one of Australia’s largest coastal ecosystems. This project will generate knowledge underpinning adaptation strategies for these critical ecosystems, and could enhance the capacity to respond

  • ARC Success - UNSW




    Dr Mark Brown; Dr Justin Seymour; Dr Martin Ostrowski; Professor Jed Fuhrman; Assistant Professor Naomi Levine; Professor Robert Edwards; Dr Levente Bodrossy

    This project aims to unveil the ocean’s hidden sentinels, “keystone microbes” that underpin precious ecosystem services, and which can be used to monitor and model changes in ocean function. Marine microbes account for 90 per cent of oceanic biomass and every litre of seawater contains ~20,000 different species, but it is not known which species control ocean health and productivity. This project intends to provide definitive evidence of these keystones’ cellular level biogeochemical and metabolic capacity. Ultimately, this knowledge is expected to predict the resilience of ocean ecosystems and their response to change. The capacity to predict their dynamics will help provide investment clarity and increase healthy outcomes from activities involving human-ocean interactions such as recreation, food production and tourism.

  • ARC Success - Macquarie University




    Dr Leanne Armand; Professor Simon George; Professor Simon Belt; Dr Philip Heraud; Professor Chris Bowler; Professor John Beardall

    This project aims to understand seasonal Antarctic sea-ice extent using molecular, geochemical, elemental and genomic characteristics of specific marine phytoplankton (diatoms). Little is known of the seasonal sea-ice variation and the position of the summer sea-ice extent a million years before satellite records, but this information is critical to determining air-sea gas exchange and ecosystem food web regulation. This project will unite geochemical and biological approaches to provide the data to improve past Antarctic ecosystem and climate models where sea-ice data is missing. Studying diatom biomarkers in deep sea cores from Australia’s Southern Ocean will redefine knowledge of Antarctic climate and provide data necessary to improve global ecosystem and climate models.

  • Mosman High/Singapore student web chat


    World Harbour Project (WHP) partner, Serena Teo from Singapore, invited the WHP Education Workgroup to run a live webchat between Mosman High students in Sydney and students attending the Sunburst Environment Program (SEP) in Singapore. This program is part of STEP , which brings together 150 young people from Singapore and ASEAN, India, China & Japan. Climate Change is the over-riding "umbrella" theme. This year the theme was Pollution. image mosman high web seminar Students from the Mosman High Enviro Group were able to present their research on protecting Sydney’s unique and endangered penguin colony from pollution and invasive foxes. Both sides had worked on plastic pollution and shared the commonalities and differences of this pervasive pollutant in their local area.

  • Underwater video reveals culprits behind disappearance of NSW kelp forests


    Seaweed-eating fish are becoming increasingly voracious as the ocean warms due to climate change and are responsible for the recent destruction of kelp forests off the NSW north coast near Coffs Harbour, research shows.

    “Kelp forests provide vital habitat for hundreds of marine species, including fish, lobster and abalone” says study first author Dr Adriana Vergés of UNSW and SIMS. “As a result of climate change, warm-water fish species are shifting their range and invading temperate areas. Our results show that overgrazing by these fish can have a profound impact, leading to kelp deforestation and barren reefs.

    Media release re Disappearance of NSW kelp forests Final

  • Shallow Reefs off Singapore survive in the face of adversity


    An analysis of the health of highly impacted coral reefs off Singapore during a 27-year long period has shown they are more resilient to the impacts of human activity and warming than expected. The study by the team, which includes researchers from UNSW and SIMS, the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, and Singapore’s National Parks Board, is published in the journal Scientific Reports. Study senior author Professor Peter Steinberg from UNSW / Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS) adds: “This is by no means a cause for complacency regarding the state of our reefs, but rather highlights that if we can reduce local stressors, reefs are more likely to be able to rebound from the effects of global stressors such as climate change.”


Long Term Projects

World Harbour Project

Initiated by SIMS, the aim of the World Harbour Project is to link, facilitate and enhance programs of research and management across major urban harbours and ports of the world.


SIMS operates the NSW node of the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS). IMOS is a nation-wide collaborative program which uses the latest advances in technology to observe the oceans. The program has strong links with similar international programs and agencies.

Sydney Harbour Research Program

SIMS is conducting a multidisciplinary research project. The objectives are to identify, preserve and enhance the resilience of those species and habitats in Sydney Harbour that have high ecosystem and conservation value, and to enhance the capacity of relevant government departments to make key management decisions regarding the Harbour.

OEH Coastal Processes and Responses Node

The NSW Office Of Environment and Heritage (OEH) has established the NSW Adaptation Hub to generate the key information necessary to manage the consequences of environmental change in NSW. There are three research Nodes within the Hub, and SIMS manages the Coastal Processes and Responses Node.