Aquatic Environment



Benthic Ecology

3D bathymetric image of du Couedic canyon (southwest of Kangaroo Island, South Australia) generated from swath soundings collected with EM300 multi-beam during RV Southern Surveyor voyage SS02/2008.The Benthic Ecology subprogram provides scientific and technical advice to State and Commonwealth Governments in relation to the sustainable utilisation of Australia’s temperate marine resources. Click here to download the Benthic Ecology subprogram capability statement (.pdf).

Program Overview

This subprogram focuses on conducting ecological studies on hard and soft substrate communities. In particular, research is conducted on the population and community organisation of bottom dwelling fauna, and on trophic linkages between benthos and demersal fish.

The subprogram undertakes benthic research on coastal, shelf and deep-sea environments throughout southern Australia. A large component of this research is directed towards the selection and ongoing assessment of State and Commonwealth Government marine reserves (including the Great Australian Bight Marine Park).    

The subprogram also collaborates with the Fisheries Program on conducting research and providing scientific advice on the sustainable management of South Australia’s Giant Crab, Blue Crab and Prawn Fisheries. A key focus of this research is on understanding the population dynamics of the fisheries and ways to improve harvesting strategies. The subprogram further undertakes research on the ecological impact of these fisheries.

Subprogram staff have strong associations with leading national and international researchers and have built successful multi-disciplinary proposals to investigate water circulation patterns in the Southern Ocean and their influence on benthic productivity.  These collaborations enhance the delivery of high quality benthic research for the region.

Deployment of a Smith-McIntyre Grab to sample seafloor sediments and infauna at 4,200m depth off the Bonney Coast, South Australia.

Retrieval of water sampling equipment (CTD, ADCP, Niskin Rosette) on the RV Southern Surveyor during voyage SS02/2008.

Member of Southern Surveyor crew holding a rare sponge Echinodictyum mesenterinum (Lamarck, 1814) collected from the head of du Couedic canyon during voyage SS02/2008.

Current Projects

Evaluating the effectiveness of the Great Australian Bight Marine Park in representing regional biodiversity.

Evaluating stocks and sustainable harvesting levels for the South Australian Giant Crab (Pseudocarcinus gigas) fishery.

Developing a by-catch risk assessment model for the Spencer Gulf prawn (Melicertus latisulcatus) fishery.

Assessing diversity and distribution of sponges from Australia’s temperate continental shelf. 

Quantifying the distribution and community structure of benthic invertebrates and fish in deep-sea canyons off the Bonney coast and Kangaroo Island, South Australia.

Biology and distribution of pipefish and seahorses (Sygnathidae) from the Spencer Gulf.

Mapping marine habitats and biodiversity in South Australian State waters to support marine reserve planning.


Dr Jason Tanner, Acting Subprogram Leader

Ms Shirley Sorokin, Research Scientist


Dr Jason Tanner
Acting Subprogram Leader - Benthic Ecology
Tel: 08 8207 5489   Fax: 08 8207 5406