Siemens technology underpins critical research on Australia’s reef systems


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The Great Barrier reef is a spectacular ecological landscape, and home to thousands of unique marine species, from deep water corals to whales, sharks and sea turtles. The roughly 344,400 square kilometre tropical ecosystem is the largest living structure on the planet, and consists of 3,000 individual reefs, each with their own complex bio-diversity.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) works alongside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to closely study the reef, offering insight on preservation and caretaking of the environment and its inhabitants. With the help of Siemens technology, the National Sea Simulator (SeaSim) allows scientist to carry out short and long-term experiments, with fine control over key environmental variables such as light, temperature, acidity, salinity, sedimentation and contaminants.

To celebrate 150 years transforming the everyday in Australian industries, Siemens has announced a series of monthly travel and technology prizes. This month’s instalment of the  Beyond 150 Competition will take winners to tropical North Queensland, to enjoy an idyllic stay on Magnetic Island and get up close with Siemens’ work at the SeaSim facility.

“We have a variety of infrastructure at The Australian Institute of Marine Science, and SeaSim is possibly the most spectacular of those developments, says Dr David Souter, Research Manager at AIMS. “Siemens technology underpins all of the monitoring systems within SeaSim, allowing us to look at multiple environmental parameters that affect marine organisms.”

A key aspect of the research undergone at SeaSim involves identifying how to protect the reef against the impacts of climate change. By having intricate control over ambient temperatures in simulated reef environments, the scientists at AIMS are able to identify factors such as the natural resilience against bleaching in certain coral species. The equipment at SeaSim is instrumental in generating replicable data on coral biology, and using it to inform reef management programmes across Australia. 

Due to the intricacy of the SeaSim plant, the infrastructure requires automated processes to ensure reliable and high-quality research capabilities. Developed in collaboration with solutions partner SAGE, the advanced control framework is based on the Siemens Simatic PCS 7 package. This offers AIMS a scalable solution, capable of measuring precise factors and creating a data feedback loop to track experiments and compare results.

The Siemens PCS 7 portfolio incorporates multiple units for individual experiments, employing automation from Simatic S7-1200/1500 controllers. Not only does this allow researchers to maintain set conditions for two to three months, it can also closely replicate environmental fluctuations (such as seasons), mimicking reef’s true terrain.

Winners of this month’s Beyond 150 prize will be taken on an all-inclusive trip to the iconic Great Barrier Reef in North Queensland. The package will feature a visit to the SeaSim facility and accommodation on Magnetic Island, complete with a scenic flight over the reef and a lunchtime sail tour. To enter, visit the registration page before 30th June 2022.

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