Marine Processes

University of the Sea

Core inspection

The University of the Sea (UOS) is a unique ship-based training and research program for students, initiated by the University of Sydney. It brings together students from across the Asia-Pacific region to participate in hands-on marine science instruction. The University of the Sea provides an opportunity for students to work with a range of research leaders on marine science issues of direct importance to the Asia-Pacific region. The program aims to give local students and those from developing countries in the region, the opportunity to gain the skills and knowledge required for participation in the global debate on the use of the ocean. Students experience first hand the methodologies and techniques of scientific research and are involved in authentic exercises that relate to the University of Sydney Institute of Marine Science teaching program. By the end of the program they have completed a series of advanced marine science topics, operated complex scientific instruments, collected, analysed and interpreted data and presented results in a way that integrates the theory and practice of marine science research.

The 2005 UOS joined French, Taiwanese and Japanese scientists under the IMAGES program and US scientists under a NSF funded MARGINS Source-to-Sink program on a research cruise in the Gulf of Papua. The 2006 UOS was undertaken with Geoscience Australia and French scientists from IFREMER and IRD Nouméa. The 2007 UOS will run in October –November. Students will join scientists from Geoscience Australia and NIVA onboard the RV Tangaroa. The research program will focus on habitat mapping on the Lord Howe Rise. For more information contact Dr Elaine Baker.

The UNEP Shelf programme

The UNEP Shelf Programme is a partnership of international organizations with expertise in marine geoscience and maritime law, established to assist developing States and small island developing States in defining the outer limits of their continental shelf and preparing their submissions for assessment by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. The programme has its headquarters at GRID Arendal in Norway. The UNEP Shelf Programme at the University of Sydney works with the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) and Geoscience Australia to support states in the region. These include Papua New Guinea, Fiji, the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Tonga, Kiribati, the Cook Islands, the Solomon Islands and the Marshall Islands. The UNEP Shelf Programme has developed a One Stop Data Shop (OSDS) for use by coastal states preparing submissions. A data inventory map can be viewed here. For more information contact Dr Elaine Baker.


The University of Sydney undertakes a wide variety of marine related research and identifying and pulling together the datasets collected in respect to this research presents a challenge. With sophisticated high volume collection techniques emerging the traditional data management methods need to be modernised to take advantage of emerging technologies. The BlueNet project is building a national network in which the marine data collected by the University sector can be discovered and made available to the wider research community. Systems are being developed within the university to manage their very large data repositories and theses are being configured to feed into the national grid. Putting into place systems to manage the large streams of data being collected will greatly facilitate access by researchers and students to the diversity of marine data in the future. For further details contact Edwina Tanner.

Modelling major Cenozoic warming events

Prediction of future global warming is limited by our ability to model and quantify past global warming events. Forecasts for increases in global mean temperature by the end of the 21st century range from 1.1°C to 6.4°C, the latter being warmer than any time since 35 Ma warranting an examination of climatic change in the deep geological past. The Eocene Climatic Optimum (ECO) and Miocene Climatic Optimum (MCO) represent two well-documented hothouse climates, both with distinct modes of warming. Previous model simulations of the ECO have been unable to replicate reconstructed temperature profiles, particularly the observed low equator-pole temperature gradient and only one such study has been conducted for the MCO. Using a fully coupled climate model we propose to 1) provide the first comprehensive quantification of processes contributing to MCO warming as well as evaluate the sensitivity of such a climate to further external forcing, and 2) with a thorough consideration of boundary conditions better replicate reconstructed equator-pole temperature gradients of the ECO.

Energy balance in the ocean

An understanding of the energy balance of the ocean can provide insights into the driving forces of past, present and future climate change. This project aims to understand the role the oceans play in influencing our climate by modelling the current energy balance of the ocean and by developing a dynamic model for direct calculation of the energy source and transformation of meso-scale mixing processes. This work will also include comparisons with past and future climate scenarios. Meso-scale processes and mixing in the ocean have a significant influence on climate, hence their inclusion in coupled global ocean/atmosphere climate models is extremely important. With better parameterisation, it is hoped that the predictive capability of climate models can be improved. For further details contact Judy Tong.