Sea view: designed by AIMS, the WetPC lets divers do computerized surveys underwater. Credit: AIMS

The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), based at Cape Ferguson in northern Queensland, is to be upgraded, following a glowing review of the institute's work by Robin Batterham, Australia's chief scientist.

AIMS had been under threat of effective takeover by the country's largest national research agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The CSIRO had proposed that the funds be put towards a new “Marine Research Centre of Excellence” in Townsville, 50 km away, with AIMS being closed and its research absorbed into the centre.

But Batterham said that AIMS should stay put, and be allowed to spend funds on laboratory expansion and a new research vessel. Nick Minchin, the minister responsible for both agencies, has agreed. Last week he released A$17 million (US$10 million) in funding and commissioned Batterham to undertake a broader review of tropical marine research in Australia.