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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

  • Mating Giant Australian Cuttlefish


    Giant Australian cuttlefish, Sepia apama, form the only known mass cuttlefish breeding aggregation from May to August each year in South Australia. Thousands of mature individuals converge on a highly localised area of shallow sub-tidal rocky reef at Point Lowly, northern Spencer Gulf to breed.

    The population has an extreme male biased sex ratio of 5:1 during the breeding season, reaching up to 11:1 at the beginning of the season. The intense competition between males has led to the development of impressive and complex mating strategies and displays, characterised with respect to the size and status of individuals.Whyalla-Cuttlefish-Mating5.jpg

  • "Tweating" seals collecting data


    Diving marine animals are proving to be an essential way of collecting oceanographic and ecological data, especially from hard to reach areas such as the ice-bound Polar Regions. Scientists from the SIMS-operated Animal Tracking and Monitoring System, a facility of IMOS, tag seals in the Southern Ocean with animal CTD profilers which are programmed to collect ocean profiles in parallel to biological information when animals dive for food.

    The growing time series of Southern Ocean observations collected by IMOS is already available via the IMOS data portalhttps://imos.aodn.org.au/imos123/.

    IMOS media release_2June2015

    IMG_2558_elephant seal_credit Clive McMahon_SIMS.jpg

  • Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry


    24th June, 12.00pm at SIMS, Dr. Rong Liu


    The Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry is one of the most powerful characterization techniques for materials, chemistry, physics, and biology because of its unique capabilities to provide trace sensitivity and excellent depth and lateral resolution. In particular, it has become an indispensable characterization technique in the fields of material, marine and biological science which require analytical techniques capable of probing small areas and detecting impurities at low concentrations. A succinct review on the basic principles will be given.

    For full abstract see below link.  Please RSVP to sims@sims.org.au

    Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry



  • Pearls in Peril - Climate Change


    Rising acidity of our oceans may affect the process of pearl formation.  We know already that environmental stress can supresses the immune system of oysters, but potentially it might also reduce the amount of crystalline calcium carbonate which the pearl oyster can secrete.  As the acidity of oceans increases as a result of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, pearl oysters may be unable to create pearls.  Fewer layers of crystalline calcium carbonate mean less pearl lustre, vital for production of pearls of high quality.

    Click on the link to read the fascinating research from the University of Western Sydney. Current Research.pearl

  • RV Investigator arrives


    Sydney welcomes the RV Investigator research vessel. 

    Investigator is a 93.9 metre purpose-built research vessel, capable of travelling 60,000 nautical miles in a single voyage, carrying up to 40 scientists and support staff, from the equator to the Antarctic ice-edge. The $120 million ship  will support atmospheric, oceanographic, biological and geoscience research.

    RV investigator P1010138.jpg

  • Sydney Reef Life Survey


    There are more types of fish living in Sydney Harbour than the entire United Kingdom coastline.

    In fact, there are twice as many, so the job of recording every shark, octopus, abalone and penguin in this year’s Reef Life Survey has been a monumental task.

    Sydney Reef Life Survey Co-ordinator John Turnbull said there was a lot more below the surface than abandoned trolleys.

    Read the full article from The Daily Telegraph here


  • IMOS Marine Matters



    Click on the link to read the latest news from IMOS Marine Matters 

    Marine Matters


  • Boat moorings & marine life


    Sydney Harbour boat moorings are impacting seafloor marine life, ABC News Article

    Video survey within a seagrass bed

    Sydney Harbour is home to about 17,000 recreational boat users, amounting to 8 per cent of registered vessels across the state.

    The NSW Government is looking at how to improve boat storage without hurting the environment.

    Researchers from UNSW Researchers from the UNSW and the SIMS have begun intensive surveys of the sea floor at six sites from Manly in Sydney's north, to Watson's Bay in the east. The project is expected to last three years.

    Read the full article 



  • Concrete Coastlines: Time to tackle marine urban spawn


     Urban sprawl has spread to the sea, as more and more man-made structures are being built along the world's coastlines. Just as we do on land, we need to think about how to build sustainably at sea.

    the conversation marine urban sprawl

    Read the full Conversation article, authored by SIMS/UNSW scientists Dr. Kathryn Dafforn, Professor Emma Johnston, Dr. Mariana Mayer-Pinto, and Dr. Joanne Banks from SIMS  here.


  • Great reading in December newsletter


    Take a look at what's happening at SIMS in the latest Foundation Newsletter.

    It's a great way to stay in touch with your Institute.

    SIMS Foundation Newsletter December 2014

    baby seahorses 

  • Marine sites to be studied


    A year-long study to begin early in 2015 into new conservation areas for the Sydney region could lead to the creation of marine protection parks in an area stretching from Newcastle to Wollongong.

    The 11 sites in the Hawkesbury Shelf bioregion to be monitored in the study announced by the Baird government, include parts of Sydney Harbour, Broken Bay, Botany Bay and Port Hacking. 

    marine sites to be studied

    Environment Minister Rob Stokes said the research at these priority sites would "inform decision making about the creation of an integrated marine protected area along the metro coast by 2016".

    Read the full SMH article 

  • AdaptNSW


    Take some time to explore the new OEH, Adapt NSW website : Understanding and adapting to climate change impacts in New South Wales.

    There are some excellent resources, including some insightful videos. Learn what you can expect for NSW, and your local region using the NSW Climate Change Projections modelling available at:




  • Work Experience 2014


    The SIMS / University of Sydney Institute of Marine Science (USIMS) work experience program saw fourteen enthusiastic (and exhausted) year 10 students leaving the program armed with a suite of new skills and a re-ignited passion for the marine world.

    During this week, students participated in a series of field and lab based activities related to research themes and disciplines spanning the marine sciences spectrum, from intertidal ecology to marine robotics, and everything in between. Most importantly, the program provided opportunities for students to connect with scientists and experience real-world marine science research and careers. 

    A big thanks to the students for their hard work and commitment during the week, and to the scientists at SIMS, USIMS and NSW DPI (Fisheries) for sharing their knowledge. 

  • SIMS onboard maiden voyage of RV Investigator


    Investigator is the new Marine National Facility flagship research vessel. Members of the UNSW Fisheries and Marine Environmental Research Facility (FAMER) were recently invited aboard the Investigator for its first ever-scientific voyage. During this voyage, the vessel’s state of the art equipment was used to explore the physical and biological oceanographic features of the shelf break off Maria Island, Tasmania. UNSW's Professor Iain Suthers was the chief investigator for this voyage. 


  • Unilever says it will ban face scrub product polluting harbour in two months


    A global consumer company says in two months it will start phasing out a facial scrub ingredient polluting Sydney Harbour.

    The push back against tiny microscopic plastic beads used in scrubs and exfoliants, along with other plastic fragments is to be stepped up, with scientists about to start examining if they are accumulating in fish regularly consumed by humans.

    Consumers can also vote as they shop by downloading a phone app to scan barcodes on scrubs and exfoliating creams to check whether they contain the harmful polyethylene microbeads.

    The plastics, smaller than half a millimetre, have been found in sediment in the harbour and can be ingested by worms which are in turn consumed by fish. At Middle Harbour scientists found 60-100 particles of plastic micro debris in 100 ml of sediment – among the highest levels recorded in the world.

    Read more here.

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. Project Partners : Abu Dhabi, Australia, Brazil, Greece, Grenada, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Italy, New Zealand, Qingdao, Shanghai, Singapore, Spain, USA


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.