Meet the innovation expert behind our RV Investigator

By Cass Erbs

15 November 2019

3 minute read

Toni Moate stands in front of docked research vessel wearing hardhat and safety glasses.

Director of our National Collections and Marine Infrastructure, Toni Moate, in front of the RV Investigator.

This season of Channel 10’s Australia by Design: Innovations has seen game-changing concepts from food storage to healthcare applications. If you’ve tuned in to the series you may have noticed that our very own Toni Moate, Director of our National Collections and Marine Infrastructure, is an expert judge on the show. 

“We saw so much creative energy on the show and so much science and tech applied in new ways. It was incredibly exciting to be there,” Toni said.

Toni’s expertise in innovation hails from leading research activities for some of Australia’s largest natural assets – our oceans and biodiversity. Leading the design, build and operation of Australia’s only blue-water research ship, the $120 million RV Investigator, has been one of her biggest projects so far.   

A bit more about our Toni Moate

RV Investigator sails teams of researchers from the Antarctic to the equator to study oceanography, map the seafloor, sample biodiversity, study weather patterns, analyse large ocean processes and investigate climate change.  

The ship was designed to meet the needs of Australian marine researchers. Due to this, building it was a massive project that took five years, $120 million and three million-man hours.  

“I’m incredibly proud that we didn’t have a single injury in the shipyard during that time,” Toni said.  

When Toni was first offered the opportunity to be in charge of the project, she wondered whether she had the skills to do a successful job. But her confidence paid off. In 2017, she was awarded the Tasmanian Telstra Business Woman of the Year. In recognition of her commitment to the project and her significant achievements.

A shipload of innovation

“I left school at 15 and did a lot of part time study. It still seems incredible to me that I ended up building a research ship. 

“My daughters were 5 and 8 when I started the project. By the time the ship sailed down the Derwent River to our Hobart dock they were 10 and 13. They feel as proud of that ship as I do.

Toni used the opportunity to teach her young daughters some important life lessons.  

“I think they learnt that hard work pays off. I think they learnt you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone. And I think they also realised that women can do a lot more than they think they can!” she said. 

Being a research director

Toni is now one of our senior research leaders and the ship is among her portfolio.  

“When I look outside my office window and I see the Investigator sitting at the dock I feel incredible pride that it was a project I was so heavily involved in.

“It’s incredibly satisfying that we set out to deliver a ship for Australian researchers to solve big questions, and that’s exactly what the ship is doing,” she said.  

Time to tune in

This Sunday, Toni and the panel will decide which innovation will claim the title of Australia’s top innovation of the year.

Tune in to find out who wins on 17 November at 2.30pm on Channel 10 (Network Ten, 10 Bold and tenplay nationally). Or log-in to tenplay now to catch up on the season so far.