Help nature fight back!
This project explores how nature stablises herself when disturbed. The premise is "for every action, there is an equal (in size) and opposite (in direction)". You will be working with disturbances, such as ocean acidification, which causes weedy species to displace kelp forests. The opposing force is the effect of herbivores that consume the weedy species at the same speed they expand. This is a new and important theory (compensatory effects) that will provide you with strong skills in science and applied science.
Restoring nature: artifical reefs & oyster reef restoration
This project works with government to identify how and where to restore South Australia's coastal biodiversity using artifical reefs. An interest in field-work and issues facing management and society would be beneficial. Being willing to meet and talk with policy makers, NGOs and the general public woudl be important for some projects.
Adventures: combine field & intellectual adventures into one
Do you want to spend time on the coast or use your snorkelling skills? If so, lets talk about your favourate animals and locations and work up a project around your strengths. About half of my 80+ postgraduate students have graduated to jobs by following their passion for adventure.
Multiple projects and opportunities are available to work on climate change effects on marine ecosystems. While the focus is on fishes, research includes the interactions with other species as well as habitats. Advanced field as well as lab experiments are possible, focussing on a variety of important species (e.g. barramundi, snapper, mulloway). Experiments on community structuring and ecosystem functioning are also possible in our new MESO climate facility at West Beach. The overall focus of my research is to understand and better predict the long-term impacts of global change on population viability of coastal species and functioning of coastal ecosystems.
The majority of marine species have a two-phase life cycle, one of which is an oceanic larval phase. Larvae possess excellent navigational capabilities and can have a large influence on where they end up after settlement. Several projects are available that will investigate adaptive larval behaviour of coastal fish species to olfactory and sound cues from coastal habitats (e.g. rocky reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, kelp). Projects focus on trying to understand how pelagic marine larvae have evolved to respond to conflicting habitat cues or have adopted a hierarchical response to different cues at different threshold levels or concentrations. Projects could also focus on how human deterioration of coastal habitats may affect settlement of marine larvae, e.g. on the effects of anthropogenic sound sources on hearing and on the effects of coastal water quality on essential olfactory cues.
Mangrove and seagrass ecosystems have long been recognized for their nursery role for a variety of coastal fish and crustacean species. Many of these species are of commercial importance or perform important ecological roles (e.g. parrotfish grazing on coral reefs). Projects are available to study the underlying mechanisms of nursery habitat use specifically, or take a broader perspective approach by studying the ecological effects on recipient ecosystems, for example, on how nursery-to-reef subsidies by fish alter food-web dynamics, fisheries production, and resilience of recipient systems.
Local and global pollution, the evil twins
Global environmental change will not occur in isolation, it will be modified by local conditions. While some local conditions may reduce the effects of this change (e.g. cold-water upwelling ameliorating ocean warming) many will exacerbate it. Of particular concern, and the focus of this project, is the interaction between eutrophication and climate change, particularly increasing CO2 and temperature. This project can be done in any ecosystem, but is likely to focus on kelp forests or seagrass meadows.
Ecosystem function into the future
Climate change in the world's oceans is a reality - the effects are already being observed. While there are many predictions of catastrophic ecosystem degradation that will be driven by climate change, it may be possible to identify change before they become catastrophic. This project aims to do just that, measure change before we can see it on the large scale. It draws on techniques such as measuring changes in photosynthesis, oxygen production and consumption, and changes to tissue nutrient content of plants and animals.
Maintaining ecosystem resilience
This project could also have the title "Trophic interactions in a changing ocean" and brings together physiology and ecology. Many human impacts shift the balance that naturally exists between primary productivity and consumption of that productivity. If herbivores are removed by fishing, or primary productivity is increased by nutrient pollution, then ecosystems will shift to domination by weedy species of algae (whether they are tropical coral reefs or temperate kelp forests). Alternately, understanding the forces which alter this balance, and then restoring them, may maintain ecosystem resilience.
Human impacts across a Tropical-Temperate gradient
Many projects in marine ecology focus on a single ecosystem, potentially missing valuable information on the generalities which transcend traditional "boundaries". This project is designed to identify if there are general mechanisms by which human impacts (specifically climate change and nutrients) alter both tropical (coral reefs) and temperate (kelp forests) ecosystems.