Temperate Australia includes the Murray River and a diversity of marine environments. With the numerous anthropogenic threats now facing these environments and their biota there a need to better understand the biology and ecology of the systems and the effects that a range of stressors have on them. We work on environmental issues related to freshwater, estuarine and marine ecology with a focus on fish and cephalopods.
Ecological and environmental change
We use the hard calcified structures of aquatic organisms (e.g. ear bones or otoliths, shells, teeth and vertebrae or other bones) as innovative tools to understand past environments and biological processes, such as age, growth and movement patterns. We undertake this research using indigenous midden, historical archived and modern day collections.
Integrated marine management
We are leaders in a major marine initiative, the Spencer Gulf Ecosystem and Development Initiative. Spencer Gulf is one of the most important economic development regions in South Australia. The Initiative sets out to drive sound outcomes for all gulf users and the environment. It is currently supported with nearly 2.5 million dollars of investment from industry. Corporate investment includes BHP Billiton, Santos, Arrium, Alinta, Nyrstar, Centrex, Flinders Ports and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation. Research partners include SARDI and Flinders University.
Population structure and connectivity
Knowledge of how populations are structured is fundamental not only to determining the spatial scale at which stock replenishment occurs, but also for determining the scale of spatial management units. Similarly an understanding of population connectivity underpins population sustainability and resilience. We use a range of approaches (otolith morphology, trace elements and stable isotopes, genomics, acoustic and satellite tagging) to investigate population structure and connectivity at different spatial and temporal scales.
Cephalopod biology, ecology and fisheries
South Australia has the only known breeding aggregation of cuttlefish in the world. This iconic aggregation of giant Australian cuttlefish in upper Spencer Gulf provides an ideal opportunity for study and has been the focus on most of our cephalopod research. We have recently focused on global trends in cephalopods and are investigating environmental and fisheries drivers of these trends.
Coastal carbon opportunities including co-benefits
Coastal carbon ecosystems (seagrass, mangrove and saltmarsh) have carbon sequestration rates and storage periods much greater than many terrestrial ecosystems. Degradation and loss of coastal habitats continues, but opportunities exist to use changes in these habitats associated with water quality improvements or restoration activities for carbon storage gains (additionality) and associated co-benefits. Our research focuses on demonstrating additionality and potential for future offsets from coastal ecosystems in South Australian waters.
Plastics in the environment
Plastics are becoming of increasing concern in the environment. Invented in the early twentieth century, by the 1950s over 1.5 million tonnes of plastic were produced for the 2.5 billion people on earth. Fast forward to 2016 where 320 million tonnes of plastic were produced and the population has reached 7 billion. This tonnage of plastic is set to double again by 2034. Increasingly plastic products are found in the environment including in fish and invertebrates. Our research is focused on documenting the occurrence and effects of microplastics in the marine environment and is also investigating methods for extracting plastic-associated compounds from fish tissues.