The Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS) takes immense pride in celebrating the remarkable achievements of one of our distinguished research community members, Professor Moninya Roughan. An esteemed leader of the Coastal and Regional Oceanography Lab and a vital force in oceanographic research facilitated by SIMS, Prof. Roughan has been honoured with the prestigious Clarke Medal and Lectureship in Earth Sciences by the Royal Society of NSW. Joining a list of famed previous recipients that includes Thomas Huxley, Sir Douglas Mawson, Sir Edgeworth David, Sir John Murray,  Dorothy Hill and Shirley Jeffrey.

This accolade is awarded for distinguished research in the natural sciences, conducted in Australia and its territories, across the disciplines of botany, zoology, and geology. Prof. Roughan, hailing from UNSW Sydney, has made leaps in understanding the dynamics of the East Australian Current, ocean observing and prediction systems, and their impact on continental shelf processes and western boundary current warming.

Her leadership at the Coastal and Regional Oceanography Lab at UNSW has led to critical insights into marine environments through innovative use of technology. Prof. Roughan’s work, internationally recognised and respected, exemplifies a dedication not only to advancing our scientific understanding but also to nurturing the next generation of ocean scientists.

Presented at Parliament House by Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC KC, and Dr Susan Pond President of the Royal Society of New South Wales.
© Salty Dingo 2024
IMOS ocean glider.
Credit: Nick Thake

Upon receiving the Clarke Medal, Prof. Roughan shared, “I am truly humbled and deeply grateful to be the recipient of this prestigious award. This recognition is not just a reflection of my individual efforts but a testament to the collaborative spirit of the scientific community. Every breakthrough stands on the shoulders of those who came before me. I am fortunate to have been guided by mentors, inspired by colleagues, and supported by my dedicated research team at UNSW.”

The Coastal and Regional Oceanography Lab, under Prof. Roughan’s guidance, employs a blend of in-situ and satellite remote sensing observations, leveraging platforms like current meters and temperature moorings, high frequency coastal radar facilities, and autonomous underwater gliders. This multidisciplinary approach facilitates a comprehensive understanding of coastal ocean dynamics and their implications for bio-geo-chemical processes. The lab’s research interests span cross-shelf processes such as nutrient enrichment, ocean warming and marine extremes and the intricacies of marine systems, contributing invaluable knowledge to our understanding of marine environments. Prof Roughan leads the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) mooring facility for NSW, responsible for the long-term maintenance of critical ocean temperature and current records. She is also leading a new initiative to work with the seafood sector to instrument fishing vessels.

Prof. Roughan’s work is ubiquitous in internationally esteemed journals such as the recent publication in Nature Communications that leverages a comprehensive dataset collected from 36 aforementioned autonomous ocean glider missions over a span of 13 years. Co-authored by Neil Malan, Moninya Roughan, Michael Hemming, and Tim Ingleton, this publication presents a pivotal study on the oceanic impacts of extreme rainfall across southeast Australia during 2022, the wettest year on record. This research defined an extreme salinity threshold inshore of the East Australian Current, uncovering that the freshwater plume extended fivefold further than previously believed. Co-author Dr. Tim Ingleton, a Research Scientist at the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) and NSW Node Leader at IMOS, also represents a vital member of SIMS’s research community, exemplifying the powerful partnership between SIMS, IMOS and DCCEEW. This year, Dr. Ingleton was honoured for a decade of exceptional leadership at IMOS, a tenure highlighted by numerous significant research contributions.

In 2023, Prof. Roughan was awarded an ARC grant to fund a 24-day voyage on the RV Investigator, during which she served as the Chief Scientist. The team pursued ocean eddies and storms, collected physical and bio-geochemical samples, and tracked a NASA/CNES satellite. The essential data gathered during their time at sea will enhance our understanding of ocean circulation and productivity. This will also inform our knowledge of the world’s most rapidly warming waters, leading to improved ocean forecasting and climate modelling. Moreover,given the breadth and significance of Prof. Roughan’s work,  it’s no surprise that her research frequently finds its way to mainstream media with regular features in the Conversation that strive to articulate  observed environmental changes to the public.

As SIMS continues to support and celebrate the achievements of our research community, Prof. Moninya Roughan’s receipt of the Clarke Medal stands as a testament to the impactful, collaborative, and forward-thinking spirit that defines our pursuit of ocean science for the benefit of all generations.

Prof. Moninya Roughan aboard CSIRO vessel, the RV Investigator (Oct 2023).