The Neptune project was conceived to add significant value to existing investments in aquatic animal health by building a platform for capturing and sharing information on aquatic animal pathogens and diseases. The project was initially funded through NCRIS; however, that funding has now expired and additional work is required to ensure Neptune fully addresses the needs that it was intended to address. Those needs include:
1. Ensuring the outputs of Australia’s aquatic animal disease professionals are disseminated to achieve greatest effect.
2. Effectively connecting aquatic animal health professionals from government, universities, museums, diagnostic laboratories and industry.
3. Addressing geographic separation of professionals by enabling remote collaboration within the sector and with other sectors.
4. Enable aquatic animal health biosecurity investments to impact fully by making data and resource outputs more broadly accessible.
5. Improving availability of high quality information and resources for many of Australia’s most important aquatic animal diseases.
6. Providing access to readily available and aggregated distribution data through a platform capable of hosting and displaying such information.
7. Ensuring access to technology that can better capture and share physical specimens such as histological slides. These remain a key tool for aquatic animal pathologists and researchers but are not easily duplicated or shared.
8. There are currently insufficient opportunities for aquatic animal health training in Australia. Neptune will provide synergies for other FRDC training investments such as the Aquatic Animal Health Training Scheme.
9. There are currently no integrated resources to store and provide access to training material for aquatic animal health professionals.
10. Many of Australia’s aquatic animal health pathologists have retired recently or are due to retire in the near future. There is a need to ensure the data and collections of these aquatic animal health professionals are captured and shared more broadly.
Aquatic animal health experts from the Queensland Museum (QM) have been completing work on a parasite and disease database called Neptune. Work on Neptune has taken place at QM in Brisbane since May 2013, resulting in the completion of major improvements to the database. These will allow Neptune to become Australia’s most comprehensive online resource on aquatic animal health. Improvements were carried out in conjunction with IT staff from three different organisations: the Australian Biosecurity Intelligence Network (ABIN), which was based in Canberra until September 2013; Edith Cowan University (ECU), which is based in Perth; and Pixcelldata, which is based in Ireland and runs digital pathology software. The database was hosted by ABIN until September 2013, when ownership passed to ECU. This project was funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) and the Australian Department of Agriculture (DA), with contributions from QM.