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LIRRF Summer 2020 Update
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Dear <<First Name>>
 
Our nation is extremely conscious of those most affected by this season’s bushfires.  Our own supporters are well aware of the impact our changing climate is having on our coral reef communities.  We sadly acknowledge the tragic loss of human life as well as devastation to towns, landscape, animal life and habitats these fires have brought.  
 
While summer temperatures have struck record highs in parts of Australia, we can report - so far - sea temperature around the Lizard Island Group has been in the “normal” summer range of up to 30C, with only brief periods up to 32C.  This is a relief as extended times at more than the normal maximum can lead to heat stress and thermal bleaching.  For the next two months, the NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) coral bleaching outlook for the Lizard Island area is relatively benign.  That said, the month of March is always a critical period.  
 
December and January have been busy at the Lizard Island Research Station (LIRS).  Various research teams are reporting encouraging reef recovery with coral recruitment from the 2018 spawning much higher than the previous two years.  This summer’s coral spawning was split, spread over several nights after November’s full moon and then again in December.  It is still a little early to assess the extent of the settlement of new recruits and we look forward to keeping you updated.     
 
Supporting scientific research is the primary focus of LIRRF and this year the Foundation hopes to fund up to seven new doctoral and postdoctoral fellowships.  This is in addition to ongoing funding of 6 fellows, all in the second or third award year.  Our 2019 fellows come from far and wide and have links to institutions located in Israel, Exeter (UK), Otago (NZ), California Academy of Sciences (US) as well as James Cook University (JCU, Townsville), Deakin (Melbourne) and the University of Wollongong.   Since the award of its first fellowship in 1984, the Foundation has now supported over 70 doctoral fellowships and a further 57 post-doctoral research grants.  Our support of highly regarded non-Australian scientists is hugely beneficial as they share their knowledge, publish research globally and collaboratively contribute to our understanding and management of the myriad of life-forms on our Great Barrier Reef (GBR). 

We hope you enjoy the posts below, illustrating some of the research supported by the Foundation.  Associate Prof Maria Donelas shares encouraging observations following her November 2019 trip to LIRS.  Maria has been making annual visits since the early 2000s and, with a team of collaborators, has been mapping the changing ecology of reefs.  Catheline Froehlich writes from the Station, relaying her observations about social adaptability of coral-dwelling gobies to habitat change.  Catheline is the first recipient of the Zoltan Florian Marine Biology Fellowship, funded by a bequest from Zoltan Florian.  Zoli, as he was known, was director of the microscope unit at the JCU and for years he volunteered his time to service the Station’s microscopes.  And in a third post, LIRRF Trustee Dr Geoff Shuetrim describes how new targeted techniques of genetic sequencing are accelerating the discovery of peptides found in the venom of cone-snails collected in the Lizard area.  These peptides are potentially valuable for biomedical research and pharmacology.        

Educating our country’s next generation of marine scientists is an important pursuit and in April sixteen high achieving Year 11 biology students and two teachers from NSW Government Schools will take part in a 9-day study tour at LIRS.  Whilst each student is asked to raise a modest contribution, this inaugural study tour has been generously funded by the James N. Kirby Foundation, the Corella Fund and the Coles Danziger Foundation.  Over time we hope to extend this opportunity to other students Australia-wide.  
 
In November our Foundation held its first event in Brisbane, hosted at the Queensland Museum and attended by over 60 guests.  Panellists Dr Anne Hoggett AM (LIRS Co-Director), Prof Justin Marshall (UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute) and Dr Derek Sun (UQ’s School of Biological Sciences) engagingly shared their observations of how climate change is impacting our marine environments.  Earlier that month, our Sydney supporters enjoyed an equally engaging evening with Prof Tim Flannery, Prof Maria Byrne and Martin Hing.   
 
We’re delighted to highlight the news that Dr Rebecca Johnson, director of the Australian Museum’s Research Institute, has been appointed Chief Scientist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.  Rebecca has been a valuable member of our LIRRF Science Committee since 2012, as well as a wonderful supporter of the Station and our Foundation.  We wish her every success as she assumes this highly prestigious role next month.

Continuing this celebratory theme, we extend our warmest 90th birthday wishes to LIRRF Patron, Prof Frank Talbot AM.  Frank is regarded as the founding father of the Station and was responsible in the early 1970s for scouting the northern GBR area for a suitable location for a marine research station.  Frank was the then Director of the Australian Museum, which explains the link between LIRS and the AM.  As Rebecca is about to take up her new post, we are reminded that Frank headed this same venerable US institution from 1989-1994.

Finally, our Foundation’s FY2019 audited accounts can be viewed here.   We are most appreciative of the support from PricewaterhouseCoopers who have once again completed this audit on a pro bono basis.   

This year the Foundation again aims to provide around $500,000 in funding to support science at LIRS.  None of this could happen without your ongoing support, for which we thank you.  Options to donate are here.
 
Best wishes,

Kate Hayward
Chair - LIRRF

Mapping reef recovery at Lizard Island
Coral reefs are built by corals, which shape the environment in which they live through the rocky structures they build. Corals are key examples of how organisms change the environment in ways that favour themselves – a process called niche construction.

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Corals and goby fishes showing signs of recovery at Lizard Island
Corals and goby fishes are slowly recovering, less than 3 years after the devastating climatic events that occurred at Lizard Island. While this is great news for Lizard Island, more recovery time is needed. The last 5 years have been rough for the reef, with two consecutive cyclones and two back-to-back mass bleaching events taking place. 

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Accelerating discovery of the peptides in cone-snail venoms
Cone snails are a hyper-diverse family of carnivorous marine gastropods, with over 700 species known world-wide. They are typically well known to reef visitors because of the strong warnings not to touch them. Cone snails are molluscs that hunt by harpooning prey, injecting them with a highly toxic chemical cocktail of proteins and peptides.

Read more...

Why Donate to support science at the Australian Museum’s Lizard Island Research Station?

  • Because the Great Barrier Reef is hugely important;
  • the science advances knowledge of life and informs reef conservation;
  • the Station is one of the world’s best reef research facilities and advances marine science careers;
  • the science depends on continuing donor support;
  • LIRRF provides a super-efficient funding channel where you will see your funds being put to good use;
  • and because we have a sense of wonder.
Donate Now
Our mailing address is:
Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation
Australian Museum
1 William Street
Sydney, Nsw 2010
Australia

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