Warrnambool university's voyage to map sea floor

World-first sonar equipment and an international expert are strengthening Deakin University’s capabilities to explore underwater environments and update 200-year-old mapping data.

Dr Alexandre Schimel has joined the university as post-doctoral fellow to assist marine ecologists to better understand ocean life as well as undertaking sea floor and habitat mapping projects.

He will be in charge of a new Norwegian-built multi-beam sonar recently fitted to the university’s new marine research vessel Yolla.

The sonar equipment is the first of its kind in the world and will allow for large sections of the sea floor to be mapped at a level of detail never before possible.

Dr Schimel has worked with the world’s best underwater acoustics specialists during a Master of Engineering at ENSTA Bretagne in his native France and has also worked in the US.

For the past six years he has been researching the potential of multi-beam sonar systems for seafloor habitat mapping for his PhD at the University of Waikato in New Zealand while working as an oceanographer.

“I’m excited to see what new information we can get from it,” he said. 

“The Deakin University Warrnambool campus now has one of the most advanced mapping sonar system in the world, which provides enormous opportunity to push the frontiers of marine habitat mapping.”

Senior lecturer in the school of life and environmental sciences Dr Daniel Ierodiaconou said the equipment would help researchers gather information on marine habitats and fill knowledge gaps along our coast.

“For a large majority of our coast waters the best information we have is the information Matthew Flinders collected when he circumnavigated Australia in the early 1800s,” he said.

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