Sea bird guides research vessel

THE short-tailed shearwater has been honoured, with Deakin University's new research vessel adopting the bird's Aboriginal name.

The nine-metre vessel has been named Yolla, to pay tribute not only to the bird's importance as a food source for both the early Aboriginal and white inhabitants of the south-west but also for its navigational abilities.

The name was suggested by south-west locals Lou Hollis and Brett Clarke and chosen from more than 70 entries in a public competition for the boat's name.

Short-tailed shearwaters, otherwise known as mutton birds, migrate each year from nesting sites along the Victorian coast and islands of Bass Strait and circumnavigate the Pacific Ocean.

Ms Hollis, a member of the Killarney Coastcare group , said the shearwater had been suggested because of its cultural significance to both indigenous and white people.

She said Aborigines had harvested the shearwaters in a sustainable way and she hoped the marine biology students who sailed on the Yolla would be taught similar sustainable practices.

The boat will be used by marine biology researchers to provide a better understanding of Australia's oceans.

It is part of a $5 million Deakin University Warrnambool marine and aquaculture science research initiative.

Senior lecturer in Deakin's school of life and environmental sciences, Dr Daniel Ierodiaconou, said Yolla had state-of-the-art sonar equipment that provided detailed pictures of the ocean floor.

The research vessel, which also has remote-operated cameras that can travel along the sea floor, will be based in Warrnambool but can be used across Australia to collect information on a level not seen before .

"We can see where the reefs are and how they are connected and where the hot spots of biodiversity are," Dr Ierodia conou said.

As their prize for winning the competition, Ms Hollis and Mr Clarke will get a trip on Yolla to see its capabilities, surveying the wreck of the La Bella, located off Warrnambool breakwater.

ehimmelreich@standard.fairfax.com.au

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