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Marine Biology

The University of Adelaide Australia

Past PhD Students


Dr Juan Matias Braccini (PhD in 2006)
Now a shark biologist at the Marine and Freshwater Resources Institute (MAFRI) in Queenscliffe in Victoria, Australia. 

My main scientific objective was to gain an understanding of the ecological implications of fishing on top predators such as sharks. My PhD research focused on the study of the reproductive biology, age and growth, feeding ecology and fishing impacts of the broadnose sevengill shark and the piked spurdog. The resulting information will be used to assess the ecological risk of stock depletion of these species of shark, currently fished in the Southern Ocean. I now work as a shark biologist at the Marine and Freshwater Resources Institute (MAFRI) in Queenscliffe in Victoria, Australia. Publications (n = 8)


Dr Travis Elsdon (PhD in 2005)
Currently an environmental consultant at SKM

My PhD focused of fish ecology. I determined how environmental variables (temperature, salinity, ambient concentration) influence otolith chemistry (earstones of fish). This experimental information was used to determine movements of fish between and among habitats. I am currently an Ocean Life Institute Post-doctoral Scholar at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. While at WHOI, I will broaden my research on chemicals in fish otoliths, by investigating novel chemical tracers within otoliths that have remained largely unexamined. I will also investigate the impact of anthropogenic processes on algae habitats, and the effect of habitats on fish communities. Towards the end of 2006 I will complete my work at WHOI and start an Australian Reserch Council Fellowship at the University of Adelaide investigating estuarine fish and nutrient dynamics. Publications (n = 11)


Dr Laura Falkenberg (PhD in 2012)

Human activities are causing the earth’s environment to change at an increasingly rapid rate. In response to this change ecosystems will not gradually alter but abruptly shift to alternative, generally simplified, states. Shifts between states have been observed in numerous ecosystems. My honours project will consider a shift which is occurring in marine ecosystems, that from kelp canopies, and the associated encrusting coralline understorey, to turf-forming algae.

The factors which will facilitate the switch from kelp forests to turf-forming algae remain unclear. Even the most recent studies into human impacts in these systems only consider combinations of local factors such as nutrients and grazers, yet increased carbon dioxide concentrations may alter interactions between the factors. My honours project will work to identify the effect of carbon dioxide on the interaction between nutrients and grazers, enabling better-informed environmental management and possibly the retention of desired ecosystem states on which human societies rely.

  • Falkenberg LJ, Russell BD, Connell SD (2012) Strong species interactions resist the synergistic effects of local and global pollution in kelp forests. PLoS One, 7, e33841.
  • Falkenberg LJ, Burnell OW, Connell SD, Russell BD (2010) Sustainability in Near-shore Marine Systems: Promoting Natural Resilience. Sustainability 2, 2593-2600.
  • Russell BD ... Falkenberg LJ, Connell SD. (2009) Synergistic effects of climate change and local stressors: CO2 and nutrient-driven change in subtidal rocky habitats.  Global Change Biology 15, 2153–2162


Dr Meegan Fowler-Walker (PhD in 2006)
Now a Coastal Ecologist

My work focused on the ecology of kelp forests from local through to regional spatial scales. I investigated patterns in the morphology of kelp and the structure of understorey assemblages, over a hierarchy of spatial scales and environmental conditions. This research will contribute to a broadly based understanding of major ecological patterns within kelp forests over multiple spatial scales. I now work as a Coastal Ecologist for Marine & Estuarine Specialists that design the use and development of coasts in Western Australia. Publications (n = 7)


 Dr Andrew Irving (PhD in 2005)
Now a Post-doctoral Research Associate in the Bertness Lab - Brown University, USA

My PhD research centered on two key issues in ecology: 1) the importance of scale for the detection of pattern, and 2) testing the spatial generality of local patterns and responses to generate predictive power. I assessed spatial heterogeneity in the composition of subtidal algal forests in Australia, New Zealand, and Antarctica, and tested how such heterogeneity can positively and negatively affect understorey communities to create and maintain associations observable across local (kms) to regional scales (1000's kms). For the next two years, I am swapping my wetsuit for waders as I test hypotheses about the recruitment and persistence of intertidal cobble-beach plant communities on the productive shores of New England. Publications (n = 11)


Dr Paris Goodsell (PhD in 2004)
Now a Research Fellow - University of Sydney

Paris' research was about understanding the origin and maintance of diversity of subtidal plants and animals. She tested ecological theories about the response of biodiversity to disturbance using the diverse and unique assemblage of invertebrates (polychaetes, amphipods, echinoderms) that lives in the holdfast of kelp.

At the Centre for Research on Ecological Impacts of Coastal Cities (University of Sydney) Paris found that much of the natural coastline in Sydney Harbour has been lost and fragmented by urban structures (e.g. seawalls), which has substantial effects on intertidal diversity. Whilst there is an appreciation of similar affects in terrestrial landscapes, there is less appreciation of their effects on invasive species (addition) and native species (deletion) in marine systems.  Publications (n = 12)

Paris was tragically taken from us in 2011. She is remembered by those who spent many wonderful years working with her through the Dr Paris Goodsell Marine Ecology Research Grant.


Dr Bethany K. Roberts (PhD in 2008)

Fiord ecologist, National Institute, Water & Atmosphere (New Zealand)  I tested the effects of water pollution (nutrient enrichment) and over-harvesting (loss of grazers) on several measures of algal abundance and diversity.  My thesis highlights the importance of classification (e.g. morphology versus species) and indices (e.g. Shannon index versus ABC curves and phylogenetic diversity) in their potential to predetermine our perception of ecological change and predictions of future environments.  I now work on the ecology and economic development of New Zealands fiords.


 Dr Bayden Russell (PhD in 2005)
Now a Senior Lecturer at the University of Adelaide

My Ph.D. research focused on the role of bottom-up (nutrients in the water) and top-down (grazing of algae by molluscs) processes in structuring algal assemblages on subtidal reefs. I assessed how grazers were able to alter the effects of elevated nutrients, possibly reducing the negative impacts of increasing nutrient levels in our coastal waters. I am currently working as a Post-doctoral Research Associate in the Southern Seas Ecology Laboratories, assessing the effects of Climate Change on temperate reef ecosystems. Publications (n = 31)



Past Masters Students

Dr Maren Wellenreuther (MSc in 2000)
Now a senior scientist at University of Lund (Sweeden)

My project investigated the effects of prey density and patch size on the functional response of a predatory reef fish to their invertebrate prey. For my PhD thesis I studied the ecological factors associated with speciation in the New Zealand triplefin fishes. I now work on the ecological forces responsible for the origin and persistence of species and the evolution of differences between them. Publications (n = 10).



Past Honours Students

Heidi Bartram (Honours in 2006)
Now a marine scientist at Primary Industries SA

I work as a scientist within South Australia's department of Primary Industries.  My role is to facilitate the use of marine resources in environmentally sustainable ways.  Initially, I worked for The Wilderness Society on the protection and restoration of wilderness and natural processes across Australia.   


 Ali Bloomfield (BSc Honours in 2003)
Now a Research Officer for Marine Protected Areas
(Dept of Environment & Heritage)

My honours focused on fish and invertebrates in estuarine habitats (seagrass, mangroves, saltmarsh and nonvegetated) over summer and winter months. Completing honours taught me many things, including how to gather good data, analyse it and present it to my peers. I now work for the State Government on Marine Protected Areas which involves gathering data on the distribution and abundance of marine organisms, both raw (from subtidal surveys) and published data, and using it to guide design and location of marine parks in South Australia. It also involves public consultation and providing scientific support to the Coast and Marine Conservation Branch, of which I am an employee. Publications (n=1)


Owen Burnell (Honours in 2008)

A changing climate within marine ecosystems is inevitable, however the understanding of its effects on individual, local and global scales are still in infancy. Currently I am working to investigate the effect of ocean acidification, in the form of a lowered level of pH, combined with temperature increases predicted over the next century. These two changing oceanic climatic variables are inherently linked to one another through increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide, and are predicted to create a synergistic interaction, where their combined effect may be larger then the individual effects added together.

My study focused on how rapidly carbon dioxide will reduce pH levels in oceans, and how this in conjunction with temperature changes wouldeffect calcium carbonate shell building organisms. Acidification reduces the level of carbonates in seawater. This reduction lowers the availability of carbonates for shell builders, and can also dissolve pre-existing shells. My experimental work will involve the southern Australian species of abalone Haliotis laevigata. This species is of great economic importance and may be at an early risk due to a combination of ecological and environmental factors. However the risks predicted as a result of acidification and temperature are not isolated to this species but extend to multiple calcifying organisms including corals, calcifying algae, molluscs, echinoderms and bryzoans, as well as many planktonic calcifiers. 


Ingrid Bunker

Climate change is a result of human actions which our economy currently depends on, and these changes are predicted to have damaging consequences on our natural systems.

The focus of my project is on the effect of temperature and ocean acidification associated to climate change and how this will affect the ecology of our temperate marine systems. My particular focus will be on the ecology of algae and algal grazers, which play a crucial role on the establishment and persistence of certain habitats, such as kelp forests, which support a large diversity of species. If biodiversity loss due to climate change occurs in these systems there are likely to be economic and social losses, such as a decline in the fishing industry.

To be able to predict the consequences of climate change is important for the adaptation to these changes and also to make us aware of the need for the mitigation of further climatic impacts.


Melita de Vries (BSc Honours in 2003, and Research Officer till 2007)

My research was based upon the chemistry of ololiths and statoliths in fish and cephalopods, respectively.  In my honours year,  I investigated how processes, such as competition and facilitation among multiple elements, influenced otolith chemistry.  This research highlighted the need for experimental tests of the incorporation of multiple elements into otoliths, in environments with varying levels of salinity.  As a Research Officer my collaborators and I applied the science of statolith chemistry to determine the population structure of the giant Australian cuttlefish with the broader aim of predicting their future in the face of climate and human driven changes to their environment. 


Simon Drummond (BSc Honours in 2002)
Now an Aquatic Ecologist - FRC Environmental

My job involves substantial amounts of fieldword (lots of crawling around mangroves, setting nets for fish studies, beam trawling from a dinghy, SCUBA diving on pristine as well as severely degraded reef, quite a bit of intrastate travel and a healthy dose of lateral thinking!). Fairly strong taxonomy skills are also required, and of course a strong background in statistics. I have been involved in a diverse range of marine and freshwater projects from estuary modelling studies, management of algal blooms, coring of harbour sediments, mine site EIS to working as part of a multidisciplinary team in the Torres Strait based around anthropological studies. We also consult in various parts of SE Asia for AUSAID projects. We also require a strong understanding of the legislation governing the use of the marine environment in NSW and QLD. Publications (n = 1)


Kingsley Griffin (BSc Honours in 2012)
Currently employed by 'SKM: Sinclair Knight Merz Consulting' as a Marine Scientist in Adelaide, South Australia

Kingsley works on a wide range of projects concentrating on those with a Marine Ecology focus. Particular tasks include habitat mapping, monitoring and involvement in projects undergoing approval, along with field works across the marine and terrestrial ecology service line. Kingsley's experience during his BSc (Honours) assisted him with a wide range of skills including knowledge of experimental design, statistics, and plenty of experience in a range of underwater environments.


Jodie Haig (BSc Honours in 2004)
Currently doing a PhD at Griffith University, Queesnland

My honours project investigated the reproductive biology and larval development of the tiny, southern Australian feather star Aporometra wilsoni. This unique little creature is extraordinary in two ways; not only is it ovoviviparous (broods its larvae) which is relatively rare for crinoids, it is also semelparous in that it is reproductive over winter and dies once reproduction is complete. A. wilsoni also displays a reduction in larval features required for locomotion and settling, this is thought to have evolved alongside brooding in this species. To the best of my knowledge, my study was the first to investigate the reproductive biology of a brooding crinoid, and also the first to study an entire life cycle for any crinoid. Keep an eye out for these little beasties as I'll be publishing my work on them in the not too distant future. I am currently enrolled in a PhD at Griffith University.


Tanya Joyce (BEnvSc Honours in 2003)

My honours project used otolith chemistry to distinguish between aquaculture and wild yellowtail kingfish. The project was completed as part of my Bachelor of Environmental Science (Honours). I have also studied Japanese to the highest level possible, within a Bachelor of Arts (Asian Studies). After graduating I worked in rural Japan as an International Exchange Teacher. My job involved teaching children, and presenting community speeches and television shows. I have future aspirations to combine my Japanese and Marine Ecology skills and plan on educating children of the need to protect our marine environment. Publications (n = 1)


 Ben Leonello (BEnvSc Honours in 2001)
Now a Scientific Officer for the Coastal Protection Branch (Department of Environment and Heritage)

My honours explored the effects of shade and the presence and absence of grazers on the recruitment of subtidal invertebrates. Completing honours taught me how to collect and analyse data. It also has given me the opportunity to successfully present my findings to my peers, both in writing and through a public presentation. Since leaving the University of Adelaide I have worked for the South Australian Government as a Environmental Policy Officer for three years in the Office of Sustainability where I was involved in the development of a Greenhouse Strategy and coordinated a broad range of environmental policy advice ranging from threatened species to sustainability. I now work as a Scientific Officer for the Coastal Protection Branch and am writing scientific reports on sand levels, coastal erosion and seagrass.


Sam Owen (BSc Honours in 2011)
Currently employed by 'Vision Environment, Queensland' as an Environmental Officer

He monitors water quality, does fieldwork (snorkeling, diving, boating), statistical analysis and writing. Sam says that his BSc (Honours) thesis was useful to acquiring skills for writing, stats, and water sampling. His experience with seagrass is being used to monitor seagrass light requirements for their sustainable future.



Justin Rowntree (BEnvSc Honours in 2004)
Now an Environmental Consultant with Coffey International

My honours project investigated spatial variation of fish assemblages in South Australian estuaries. In addition, three fish species were  analysed to determine whether otolith chemistry can be used to test whether fish movement occurs among estuaries. After honours I  worked for Native Fish South Australia (NFA) and the Adelaide City Council investigating appropriate habitat for native fish in the River Torrens. Over the summer of 2004/2005 I travelled to Antarctica as part of a Flinders University Research Team looking at spatial variation in plankton communities. Currently, my work as a research assistant involves many projects including the giant Australian cuttlefish, restocking of golden perch in native rivers using otolith chemistry and determining hatchery from wild populations of yellowtail kingfish using fluorescent dyes in otoliths.


Jarrod Stehbens (BSc Honours in 2004)

Jarrod's honours project investigated the potential interactive effects of disturbance and productivity on the diversity and structure of a benthic marine community. His study was the Australian contribution to the Global Approach by Modular Experiments (GAME) program. This had Jarrod travel to the Leibniz-Institute for Marine Science in Kiel, Germany, to collaborate with other participants from around the world. Jarrods diving, boating and data collection skills were utilised while a Research Assistant in the Southern Seas Ecology Laboratories. From his honours project the Alfred-Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research on the North Sea island of Helgoland off the German coast offered Jarrod a PhD candidature as part of the EU-wide Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning (MarBEF) program.


Caroline Wilson (BSc Honours in 2004)
Now an Educational Consultant

I didn't do a PhD, but work as an educational consultant to a local council (earning lots $ with a new company car :- all,in the first month of graduating). I did not need to do a PhD to get a career path in a field that I love and enjoy talking about. The communication and marine biology skills I gained during my degree are essiential to my daily work. My BSc (Honours) was about documenting the last remaining population of the world's smallest starfish. This species is only found on a couple of kilometeres of the world's coast!


Past International Student Exchanges

Claire Passarelli
Now a Ph.D. student

Kelp forests are widespread and highly productive ecosystems in temperate and polar oceans, and yet they are in decline. Local modifications of the environment by humans, like increases in nutrient concentrations, reduce their ability to regenerate following disturbance. Global changes probably affect kelp forests as well.
My internship project investigates the combined effects of increases in carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration and ultraviolet (UV) intensity on the ecology of two types of algae. One of them (encrusting coralline algae) facilitates kelp regeneration; the other one (turf-forming algae) hinders it. The experiments will allow predictions on the future of kelp forests under global change, and assess the possibility of depth as a refuge for kelp, as UV radiation does not penetrate very deep in the water.
I published this work with Bayden Russell and Sean Connell in the Journal of Phycology. I am now studying my Ph.D. at Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in France.