Project leader and Theme leader

Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, Marine Research Laboratories, Nubeena Crescent, Taroona, Tasmania, 7053

0362277210 (w) 0408334569 (m)

Person details


Current activities

My current activities are divided across a range of temperate marine conservation and marine biodiversity related projects. My key focus is on describing ecological processes and patterns of biodiversity on reef systems in temperate australia, understanding and describing the extent of spatial and temporal variability in key elements of those systems, and the factors responsible for this. Such factors include human impacts (fishing, pollution, introduced species etc), climate change (natural or human-induced) and biogeography (isolation by distance, past and present barriers to dispersion, oceanography, wave exposure gradients, thermal gradients, nutrient gradients, species interractions). Marine Protected Areas form a central component of this as they allow natural processes to become established and studied in isloation from effects of fishing, both informing the extent that fishing may have impacted such systems, and appropriate management such that these impacts are understood and both on-reserve and off-reserve biodiversity values are able to be appropriately maintained. This work involves ongoing coastal reef biodiversity survey and MPA monitoring programs with a range of State agencies in WA, SA, NSW and Tasmania, development of offshore shelf reef monitoring approaches, performance indicators and biodiversity inventory for the Commonwealth CMR Network as part of our NERP Hub focus, and habitat mapping via new tools such as multibeam sonar. Additional, and closely related  projects include development of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) as platforms for aquiring high resolution imagery for benthic biodiversity descrition and monitoring in shelf waters, studies into the biology and ecology of rare and threatened species such as the Maugean skate and Spotted handfish, and the population genetics of key macroalgal species in the SE region of Australia, examining past and historical connectivity within the region.


I completed my honours year within the Zoology Department of the University of Tasmania, undertaking the first population genetics study of the blacklip abalone Haliotis rubra to inform fishery and conservation management of approaches to managing a species with limited adult and larval dispersal. My PhD was also undertaken at UTas, examining the biology and ecology of six temperate reef fishes, with the primary aim of informing MPA design through a greatly enhanced understanding of typical reef fish movement patterns and implications for MPA size, zoning and choice of appropriate habitat boundaries within zones. Subsequently I have continued working in the MPA and conservation related space, working on a wide range of MPA related survey and monitoring programs, most notably the long-term monitoring of the Maria Island Marine Reserve in eastern Tasmania, one of the longest programs in the world. This work extended into estuaries, with Graham Edgar establishing a detailed biogeography of Tasmanian estuaries for conservation planning that developed into a major NHT-NRM funded program on estuarine health in Tasmanian waters. Likewise I established a marine habitat mapping program in Tasmania, initially for MPA planning (most notably the Bruny Bioregion mapping project), that has now effectively mapped the majority of Tasmanian inshore waters for natural resource management and planning.

Throughout the 2000’s I remained engaged with a wide range of MPA planning and monitoring surveys throughout Temperate Australia that assisted with MPA planning, establishment of monitoring programs, and ongoing understanding of their role and effectiveness. That work continued into the CERF Marine Biodiversity Hub, where we utilised our extensive inshore biodiversity datasets to develop models to predict patterns of biodiversity on the basis of physical and biological covariates, with the aim of better informing conservation planning and management, including protection of biodiversity and rare species. We also explored new surrogate approaches for habitat description and biodiversity inventory for deep water environments, including Multibeam Sonar (MBS) and AUVs. It quickly became clear that such tools were highly appropriate for the task of surveying and monitoring the new CMR network, and developing that approach became a focus for the New NERP Hub.

Within the NERP Hub our research (with Postdoc Nichole Hill) focusses on developing appropriate monitoring tools (e.g. MBS, AUVs and baited underwater video (BUV)) and statistical approaches to inventory and monitoring of the new CMR network and deep cross-shelf habitats in general. A particular focus was on developing robust quantitative approaches to estimation of habitat categories across the shelf, and the extent that particular species or species groupings were found within these habitats. This approach is essential for proper inventory, as well as a fundamental basis for any future monitoring of change. The second component of our NERP Hub research (with Graham Edgar and statistician Russell Thomson and postdoc Rick Stuart-Smith) focusses on developing appropriate indicators for change, that while based on evaluation of our rich inshore reef datasets (long-term and Reef Life Survey), are appropriate for development of robust indicators in a wide range of applications, from offshore CMRs, to coral reefs in the GBR and Coral Sea, to state reef systems in MPAs. This work fills an important need, not only for MPA evaluation, but overall for state-of-the-environment reporting and detection of significant environmental change.

Academic qualifications

BsC (Hons) MFAB UTas, PhD, University of Tasmania