The early years
Originally known as the Dunwich Laboratory, the station was established in 1949 by the Queensland State government with shared use by the CSIRO Fisheries Division, the Qld Dept of Harbours and Marine (Fisheries), and the University of Queensland. CSIRO staffed and maintained the facility and CSIRO scientist Dr JM Thomson lived on site from 1949-53. His work concentrated principally on oyster and sea mullet fisheries in Moreton Bay. His field assistant was a young Ernie Grant, subsequently of "Grant's Guide to Fishes" fame. In addition to housing these two initial researchers, in these pioneering days of marine research in Queensland the laboratory became an important study and training ground for international and local researchers, many of whom subsequently become leaders in marine teaching and research in Australia.
By the early 1950's it became clear that the site was not suited for the governments' fisheries research and the station was finally abandoned by the CSIRO in 1959. At the same time, the area's significant natural and anthropological diversity made it an ideal location for marine and specialised terrestrial education and research. Prof. W Stephenson, from the then Zoology Department of the University of Queensland, had for years been visiting the station with postgraduate and undergraduate students on informal weekend field trips, and saw the station's potential for the University. He sought and received state government authority for the University to manage a portion of the original fisheries research complex as a study centre.
In 1961, and renamed the Dunwich Marine Station (DMS), this became the first marine station managed by the University of Queensland. The original facilities included a bunk house (now the Dunwich Learning Centre), a two storey laboratory (photo at right), and a large generator engine room which was soon converted to a teaching and kitchen/mess hall. Facilities were basic, horses and cattle were free to roam the streets and foreshore, researchers collected organisms in canvas bags (no plastic buckets yet), and students could row themselves into Rainbow Channel! Despite the conditions, those who used the station in the 1960's and 70's look back on the experience fondly.
By the late 1990s the old buildings of the DMS were decaying and had become inadequate for current teaching and research needs. In 1997, Assoc. Prof. Jack Greenwood (Director) and Dr Ian Tibbetts (Assistant Director) of the School of Marine Science at The University of Queensland, actively sought funding from the University and industry partners to demolish the old buildings and construct a modern, purpose-designed teaching and research facility, to be called the Moreton Bay Research Station and Study Centre (MBRS).
The new 2.6 million dollar station, funded by The University of Queensland with generous support from the Port of Brisbane Corporation, Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron and Consolidated Rutile Limited (now Sibelco), was officially opened on June 23, 2000 by The Honourable Peter Beattie, MLA.
Since the opening of the new Station in 2000, Station facilities have expanded to meet demand and can now accommodate 96 students and researchers. In 2010, a microwave internet link was installed providing high speed internet access, further enhancing the educational and research experience at the Station.
During the early decades of UQ's operation of MBRS, the Station became a vital and integral part of the North Stradbroke Island community, not only as an employer but also as a resource; roles which continue today. Early Station caretakers and skippers were, or became, permanent Island residents. Station facilities have long been used for community meetings and educational activities, staff are called upon to assist with wildlife rescue, researchers present community talks on their work and the Station hosts periodic Open Days which draw enthusiastic local visitors. MBRS staff continue to facilitate, and value, their community connections.