Innovative marine science center receives $4.5 million in funding

The world’s largest harbor-based marine ecosystem restoration initiative, Seabirds to Seascapes – an initiative led by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment – will receive $6.6 million in funding from the NSW Government as part of new initiatives to fund the NSW Environmental Trust.

Project Restore, which is the largest element of the Seabirds to seascapes initiative and will focus on Sydney Harbour, will receive $4.5 million of the funding. The Restore project is led by the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS), an innovative and collaborative marine science center between UNSW Sydney, UTS, the University of Sydney and Macquarie University. SIMS has more than 100 scientists and students associated with the Institute, representing a wide variety of skills in marine science.

SIMS expects that the project will lead to significant research impact, with its implementation strategy including communicating recovery processes and outcomes to ferries that transit Sydney Harbour; extending ongoing community engagement (both as citizen scientists and volunteers) to other diverse stakeholders; and formal documentation of environmental, economic and social impacts from the outset of the project.

The project will focus on restoring kelp beds and endangered seagrass meadows. Photo: John Turnbull

Martina Doblin, CEO of SIMS, says: “The project will use the existing restoration programs at the Institute of Marine Science Sydney, which have so far worked largely independently of each other, to provide a template for restoring entire seascapes.

“Restoration on such a large scale is rarely done for marine ecosystems and Sydney Harbor is set to become an example of how seascape restoration can be done globally.”


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The project also seeks to strengthen NSW’s natural environment by restoring key ecosystems and habitats in Sydney Harbour. It targets threatened populations of Posidonia australis and the protected and threatened species it provides habitat for, including white seahorses, baby penguins, green turtles, loons and sea dragons.

“Project Restore is quite unique globally as it focuses on repairing and restoring multiple marine habitats simultaneously and at a meaningful scale,” says Professor Adriana Verges from the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES) at UNSW.

A researcher looking at a living wall in Sydney Harbour.

Livings Seawalls is a global project that uses new ecological engineering methods to transform built structures into the natural marine environment they once were. Photo: Aria Lee

“While we will focus on restoring kelp beds and endangered seagrass meadows, we will also work alongside colleagues who focus on restoring artificial habitats using living walls or fish habitats using seahorse hotels . By restoring all these habitats at the same time and in the same places, we hope to see significant synergies and improved recovery.”

Livings Seawalls is a global project that uses new ecological engineering methods to transform built structures into the natural marine environment they once were.


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“The recovery project also includes a major science communication and community engagement component. It includes hands-on opportunities for people to get involved in the restoration, which I think is great because people are so interested in learning more about their local marine environment. We can achieve much more when we work together,” explains Prof. Verges.

Dr Mariana Mayer Pinto, also from BEES, says: “This funding will allow us to take a more holistic approach to restoration, combining key existing projects such as Living Seawalls, and will therefore have a greater impact, leading to more -a healthy harbor for nature and people.”

The project will take place in three phases, starting with seascape restoration suitability modeling to inform site selection, followed by ground work and then assessment of restoration outcomes. The knowledge gained from Project Restore can then be applied to other degraded habitats in NSW and further overseas.

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