This is the first major marine biodiversity survey of the Singapore Straits, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, and includes many habitats from mangrove swamps to coral reefs. The aim is to document the marine biodiversity of the area and build up a good collection of both ethanol preserved and cryogenically frozen specimens (useful for more specialised molecular techniques).

I spoke with Research Scientist Dr Shane Ahyong about the Museum's involvement in the survey.

Why is this survey important?

An important aspect of Australian Museum scientists studying the fauna here is that many of the species/genera/families also occur in Australia. To solve many of our species-level problems, biogeographic issues and other scientific questions, we need data from this part of the world. So all of this is directly relevant to the research we do at the Museum. Also, Singapore is the base of the Malacca Strait, which is the junction between the northern Indian Ocean and the Australasian archipelago, so all in all it's very important scientifically.

Who’s conducting the survey?

The expedition is driven by the National University of Singapore (and its Tropical Marine Science Institute) with support of the Singapore National Parks Board. Multiple corporate sponsors have funded much of the expedition costs.

The expedition includes a large group of international taxonomic experts. I've been invited to handle my specialty, crustaceans, and Jim Lowry has been invited to handle amphipod crustaceans. In additional to the scientists, there is a large support team comprising staff from the University and the Institute, as well as students and volunteers.

How is the survey performed?

We are doing daily intertidal collecting, diving and trawling in all types of habitat. We bring the freshly collected material back to a central sorting area, where specimens are separated out and examined/identified by the relevant expert back in the lab. We are also photographing all of the species and in many cases taking cryo samples for future DNA or other molecular analysis.

For more, check out Shane's post on the Mega Marine Survey Blog.