August 9- AIMS and James Cook University


Our morning started early today! We had to catch a ferry by 8:05 this morning from Magnetic Island back to the mainland.  After leaving the beautiful island the Spartans trekked up to the Castle Hill Road Lookout on Mt. Stuart.  Although the winding road was ‘not suitable for busses’ Paul, our tour guide extraordinaire,  conquered the hill so we could see the fantastic view!

Mt. Stuart

In the afternoon we made our wat to the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).  AIMS was established in 1972 and is considered one of the most productive marine institutes in the world.  AIMS researches the northern Australian waters which is considered the tropical area of Australia.  There are three AIMS locations. The Townsville location is surrounded by a National Park and marine reserve.

AIMS is partly funded by the Australian government.  The rest of their funding comes from consultations.  For example oil companies or developers will ask AIMS to research a specific site that the company is looking to develop.  AIMS then researches the impacts of drilling and extracting the oil on the surrounding environment.  Ultimately the decision still lies with in the government to approve or declined the oil proposal.

AIMS had many different research projects.  Some of the projects involve the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), water quality, climate change, marine microbes, reef health and biodiversity. Our guide, Helen, mostly focused on the GBR research and sustainable aquaculture development.

Kelly holding a piece of cored coral

One way AIMS researches climate change and reef health is to take core samples of the coral in the reef.  Kelly is holding a coral core sample that has nearly 100 years of data.  Helen explained that coral is similar to a tree in the fact that they both have rings that note how old they are and the conditions that happened during their lifetime.  Scientists of AIMS use UV lights and x-rays of the core samples to look at weather conditions, water quality, sediments, and other important factors for the reefs survival.  One of the core samples our group looked at was outside.  The coral was so large it resembled a boulder! Scientists believe this piece of coral is at least 6,000 years old.

6000 year old coral!

Another interesting project that AIMS is working on is the Ocean Simulator.  With the Ocean Simulator AIMS will be able to manipulate individual characteristics of the marine environment allowing for more precise research and data.

The rising demand for seafood is putting stress on our marine ecosystems.  AIMS is working on sustainable aquaculture to meet the demand because the over fishing of our oceans leads to a poor marine environment and can even lead to extinction of species.  AIMS has had success with Barramundi aquaculture but it took 10 years to perfect.  The institute is beginning to develop similar aquaculture technology for the Rock Lobster and the Black Tiger Prawn, however it will be quite sometime untill the technology is perfected. Our group was also able to visit the workshop where 9 employees make specialized equipment for specific AIMS projects.  The AIMS workshop was where the first under water computer was developed. This technology is still used today by the Australian Navy.

Emma lecturing on the connection between human behavior and the environment

Later in the afternoon we met with Emma Gyuris at James Cook University.  Emma lectured on the connection of human behavior and the environment.  Our group filled out a ‘revised new Environmental Paradigm Scale’. This scale is a standard instrument to find attitudes about the environment.  The scores may range between 1 and 5; 1 meaning extremely eco-oriented , 5 meaning believes strongly in the power of technology.  According to Emma, New Zealand freshman range from 2.21 to 2.55, my particular score was 2.13.

I found the lecture extremely interesting because it encapsulated spending trends (what we buy), the morals and values behind what we buy and the type of economy the product is offered in; all three of these interact with one another.  Although Emma did not have enough time to talk much about her research, it seems like a very multifaceted issue.  The main idea that I gathered from the lecture was that our economical model must change from a consumer based economy to an eco-conscious economy. I think Emma made everyone think critically as to why we are studying in Australia and how it can affect our environment and our life.  Lastly Emma left us with a quote that I found very moving and made me think about my consumerism as a tourist and a global citizen.

” We demand a level of convenience that is immodest and at times immoral” Dan Lepard (2010)



4 responses to “August 9- AIMS and James Cook University

  1. I really appreciated Emma’s lecture, and her point that study abroad is only worthwhile if we apply what we have learned and experienced during our time in Australia. It got me thinking about how my habits, beliefs, and life will be different after returning. We have to be ambassadors of sorts, and share what we are privileged to know with people back home and at MSU.

  2. There was an article in a recent Time magazine explaining how successfou a Barramundi farm is working in New England.

  3. I really enjoyed the lecture and tour of AIMS. It was nice to hear what great efforts Australians are making to protect the Great Barrier Reef and keep it sustainable for years to come. Earlier in the program we learned about detrimental effects to the reef, so the contrast was nice. It is an amazing piece of Australian culture and needs to be protected!

  4. This was a very meaningful lecture for me. When thinking about the complexity of issues in sustainable practices, Dr. Gyuris summed it up perfectly. The belief/action gap creates a great opportunity to study people and the way they think about the environment. More studies like this will lead to better ways of teaching people to live sustainably.

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