Student Research Projects

Student Research Projects

Recent Graduates

   

 

Rebecca Branconi Research

Photo by Dr Peter Buston
Lizard Island
  

  

 

Lucia Andrea Aguilar

PhD Candidate
Supervisor:
Professor David Ayre
Co-supervisor:
Associate Professor Todd Minchinton
Email:
laa045@uowmail.edu.au

 Lucia AguilarLucia Aguilar - Research

Project:
Understanding fine scale patterns of connectedness such as those among intertidal and subtidal areas are important because they ultimately influence the broad scale genetic and morphological patterns which can occur at the geographic level. They may provide insights into adaptive evolution, and could be used in conservation management of marine reserves. My research focuses on measuring genetic diversity, gene flow and dispersal using a range of life history phases of two mollusc species Dicathais orbita and Lunella undulata (commercially harvested) across Marine protected areas of the temperate coastline of Australia across a scale covering ~ 3, 900 kms.

Thesis Title:
Marine connectivity of invertebrates with intertidal and subtidal distributions of the temperate Australian coast.

Publications:

L. A. Aguilar, D. G. Roberts, T. E. Minchinton and D. J. Ayre. 2014. Genetic differentiation in the barnacle Catomerus polymerus despite migration across a biogeographic barrier. Marine Ecology Progress Series. In review.

Linking Art and the Environment: Proceedings of the first EcoArts Australis Conference, 12-13 May 2013, Wollongong, NSW. Edited by David Curtis and Lucia Aguilar. Wollongong: EcoArts Australis Inc. 

E. K. O’Brien, L. A. Aguilar, D. J. Ayre, R. J. Whelan. 2010. Genetic tests of the isolation of rare coastal dwarf populations of Banksia spinulosa. Australian Journal of Botany. 58: 637–645.

Searchable publications

Lauren Cole

PhD Candidate
Supervisor:  Associate Professor Andy Davis
Email:  ljc998@uowmail.edu.au

Lauren Cole Lauren Cole Research

Project:
Phyllospora comosa,
an intertidal brown alga, provides important habitat for a wide variety of marine species, including invertebrates. After it detaches from shore and becomes floating wrack it continues to serve as a habitat, food source and mode of dispersal. Unfortunately, it is particularly susceptible to climate change, leading to a recorded decline along the urbanized Sydney coastline. My research includes spatial and temporal analysis of Phyllospora wrack distribution and its associated invertebrate fauna. I am also building a Bayesian network to model the factors that influence the abundance and longevity of Phyllospora wrack in a future ocean. This model can serve as a tool for predicting the impacts of climate change and provide insight into management options for preserving future biodiversity.

Thesis Title:
Cut adrift: the distribution and abundance of algal wrack and associated fauna. Modelling the impact of decline in a future ocean.

Marie-Claire Demers

PhD Candidate
Supervisor:  Associate Professor Andy Davis
Co-supervisor: Dr Nathan Knott (Research Scientist, Fisheries NSW, NSW Department of Primary Industries)
Email: mcd324@uowmail.edu.au 

Marie-Claire DemersMarie-Claire Demers Research

Project:
The sessile epifaunal invertebrate community associated with seagrass meadows have been poorly documented despite the alarming rate of global seagrass decline. Posidonia australis is a threatened seagrass species with endangered populations in the Sydney region, NSW. This is the first study to expand the baseline knowledge of the spatial distribution patterns of sponges and ascidians in Posidonia australis meadows. The biotic and abiotic factors driving this distribution were also investigated using statistical models and manipulative experiments. Over 20 sponge species have been catalogued thus far. Mediterranean seagrass ecosystems are also being investigated to widen the scope of my research. This study will contribute to the understanding of seagrass communities worldwide and to the development of effective seagrass monitoring and management programs.

Thesis Title:
Pattern and process in a threatened seagrass community: Dynamics and habitat use by sessile epifaunal invertebrates in Posidonia australis.

Award:
University of Wollongong Global Challenges PhD Scholar Travel Grant - Sustaining coastal and marine zones.

Searchable publications
Link to more photos

Lachlan Fetterplace

PhD Candidate
Supervisor
: Associate Professor Andy Davis
Co-supervisor: Dr Nathan Knott (Research Scientist, Fisheries NSW, NSW Department of Primary Industries)
Email:  lcf775@uowmail.edu.au

 Lachlan FetterplaceLachlan Fetterplace Research

Project:
My PhD aims to examine the ecology of soft sediment fish assemblages in temperate waters of South Eastern Australia. I use Stereo Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUVs) to identify and compare fish communities found on temperate soft sediments, including in NSW marine park sanctuary zones (no-take zones), habitat protection zones (recreational fishing allowed) and areas outside of the marine park (that are targeted by both recreational fishers and commercial fishing vessels). In addition, I am using acoustic tracking to investigate issues surrounding the movement patterns of key soft sediment fishes.

I am a recreational fisher and a co-founder of ‘The 17th best fishing club in Australia’. I also have a long held interest in Native Australian Fish, among my many ‘non-aquatic’ interests are lion and African wild dog ecology and conservation.

Thesis Title:
The Ecology and Conservation of Temperate Soft Sediment Fishes

Awards Grants:

  • UOW Marine Science Honours Prize 2012
  • The Nature Conservancy Applied Conservation Award 2014
  • Seaworld Research and Rescue grant 2014
  • Ecological Society of Australia student grant 2013
  • Australian Wildlife Society grant 2013

Research Blog:  http://fishthinkers.wordpress.com  
Reseach Photo updates: http://instagram.com/fish_thinkers

Amy-Marie Gilpin

PhD Candidate
SupervisorProfessor David Ayre
Email:  amg871@uowmail.edu.au 

Amy-Marie GilpinAmy-Marie Gilpin Research

Project:
Investigating competitive effects between co-flowering plant species and the role of the European honeybee (Apis mellifera) in driving these effects.

Thesis Title: 
Competitive interaction among native plants: the effects of major sources of pollen and nectar on pollinator services.

Searchable publications  

Martin Hing

PhD Candidate
SupervisorDr Marian Wong
Email: mlh913@uowmail.edu.au

Martin HingMartin Hing - Research

Project: 
One of the most astonishing facets of animal societies is the decision of individuals to join a group as a non-breeding subordinate member. This decision is intriguing as, on the face of it, one might expect an individual to maximise its genetic contribution by breeding as soon as possible and as many times as possible for the duration of its life. Why then, do we observe so many examples in nature, including our own species, in which individuals routinely delay or completely forgo their own reproductive opportunities in order to join and remain within a group? The fact that this behaviour has been shown to vary considerably, within a single species and also between multiple species across genera or families, indicates that there may be external factors influencing the behaviour. This project will investigate the ecological, social and life history factors at the root of this decision in a model group of coral-reef associated fishes. 

Thesis Title:
The Evolution of Sociality in Habitat-Specialist Coral Reef Fishes

Website

Jessica Holan

PhD Candidate
Supervisor: Associate Professor Andy Davis
Email: Jessica.Holan@aad.gov.au

Jessica HolanJessica Holan - Research

Project:
Although relatively remote and untouched, the subantarctic and Antarctic have not escaped the impacts of contamination.  Decades of occupation in these areas have left a legacy of wastes that may be impacting the local biota.  Due to slow metabolisms and long life history stages, cold water species are likely to be more sensitive to contamination.  My project will determine the sensitivities of a range of subantarctic marine invertebrates to metal contamination.  In addition to contamination stressors, these species will be exposed to increasing temperatures and changes in salinities.  Part of my project is therefore also to determine how key species’ sensitivity will be affected by climate change. 

Thesis title:
Sensitivity of subantarctic marine invertebrates to metals under a changing climate

Awards: 

IMBER travel award to attend “Future Oceans,” Bergen, Norway

Scientific Committee of Antarctic Research (SCAR) “Best Poster” award

Young researcher award in the Environmental Contamination Antarctica group

Alice Hudson

PhD Candidate
Supervisors:  Professor David Ayre, Dr Mark Ooi and Dr Tony Auld (Office Environment and Heritage)
Email: arh785@uowmail.edu.au

 Alice HudsonAlice Hudson Research

Project:
In fire prone environments, many plant species are killed by the passage of fire and recruitment from the seed bank post fire is critical to ensure populations are sustained. Physical dormancy is one of the most common types of dormancy in these ecosystems where heat from fire breaks the dormancy. However very little is known about how the temperatures needed to break dormancy vary between and within sites, and what possible causes of any variation may exist. My PhD aims to quantify and investigate possible causes of variation in the temperatures needed to break physical dormancy using the model species Acacia suaveolens. This data will feed into predictive models which look at how climatic change and changes to fire regimes may impact the species germination response and subsequent persistence.

Thesis Title:
The relative importance of genetic diversity and phenotypic variation as determinants of germination in physically dormant species in the face of climate change

Publications:
Hudson, A.R.H., Ayre, D.J.A. and Ooi, M.K.J. (Accepted pending minor revisions) Physical Dormancy in a Changing Climate. Seed Science Research.

Awards:

The Laverick-Webster-Hewitt Prize for the overall best performance in the final examination of a student reading Geology (Environmental Science) - 2010-2011 University of Sheffield 

APAI Scholarship

Stephanie Courtney Jones

PhD Candidate
Supervisors:  Dr Adam Munn and Dr Phil Byrne
Email: skcj542@uowmail.edu.au

Stephanie Courtney-Jones

Project:
This study is investigating the role of phenotypic variation in Captive Breeding Programs (CBPs). Whilst CBPs are having success with rearing of animals, there are induced changes in the morphology, physiology and behaviour of animals resulting in low survivorship and poor success in reintroductions. My project (using a multiple species approach) investigates techniques for manipulating the phenotype, particularly animal’s behaviour and morphology, to reduce the adaptations to captivity and in turn to help improve CBPs and reintroduction success.

Thesis Title:
Using model systems to investigate the role of phenotypic variation in Captive Breeding and Release programmes.

Awards: 
Australia Society of Herpetologists Student Travel Grant 2015 

Searchable publications

Diana King

PhD Candidate
Supervisors: Professor Sharon Robinson, Associate Professor Laurie Chisholm and Arko Lucieer (UTas, Geography & Environmental Studies)
Email: dhk442@uowmail.edu.au

Diana KingDiana King Research

Project:
My research focuses on monitoring vegetation in Antarctica, and developing a system for automated identification of Antarctic vegetation from digital photos. This involves species identification using microscopy, vegetation cover classification using object-based image analysis software, modelling of environmental parameters across sites in Antarctica and long-term climate analyses.

Thesis Title:
Low-impact monitoring of dynamic vegetation communities in East Antarctica

Publications:

Lucieer, A., Turner, D., King, D. H. & Robinson, S. A. (2014). Using an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to capture micro-topography of Antarctic moss beds. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, 27 (Part A), 53-62.

Bramley-Alves, J., King, D. H., Robinson, S. A. & Miller, R. E. (2014). Dominating the Antarctic environment: bryophytes in a time of change. Advances in Photosynthesis and Respiration, 37 309-324.

Turner, D., Lucieer, A., Malenovsky, Z., King, D. H. & Robinson, S. A. (2014). Spatial co-registration of ultra-high resolution visible, multispectral and thermal images acquired with a micro-UAV over Antarctic moss beds. Remote Sensing, 6 (5), 4003-4024.

Takayama, K., King, D., Robinson, S. A. & Osmond, B. (2013). Integrating transient heterogeneity of non-photochemical quenching in shade-grown heterobaric leaves of avocado (Persea americana L.): responses to CO2 concentration, stomatal occlusion, dehydration and relative humidity. Plant and Cell Physiology, 54 (11), 1852-1866.  

Wasley, J., Robinson, S. A., Turnbull, J. D., King, D. H., Wanek, W. & Popp, M. (2012). Bryophyte species composition over moisture gradients in the Windmill Islands, East Antarctica: development of a baseline for monitoring climate change impacts. Biodiversity, 13 (3-4), 257-264

Ganesha Liyanage

PhD Candidate
Supervisors: 
Dr Mark Ooi 
Co-supervisor: Professor David Ayre
Email: gslbl998@uowmail.edu.au

 Ganesha Borala LiyanageGanesha Borala Liyanage Research

Project:
Plant species with physical dormancy occur in many different vegetation types and are particularly common in disturbance-prone areas. In fire-prone regions physically dormant species often display greater than 80% dormancy. Assessing the proportion of dormant seeds at dispersal therefore provides little useful information when trying to determine variation among or within populations.  By studying the variation of dormancy-breaking temperature thresholds within populations of fire-following physically dormant species, as well as among years of seed production and seed age in the seed bank, my project will investigate physical dormancy variation and subsequently the mechanistic processes potentially controlling seed bank dynamics. This study will contribute to our understanding of seed ecology in fire-prone ecosystems and therefore improve our ability to predict and manage potential risks to species in fire-prone vegetation, under increasing anthropogenic management and future climatic changes.

Thesis Title:
Variation of physical dormancy and its ecological role in unpredictable environments

Publications:

Sanjeewani B.L.G., Jayasuriya K.M.G.G., Fernando M.T.R., Damunupola J.W. (2013) Storage and germination treatments for seeds of an ornamentally important palm, Livistona rotundifolia (Lam.) Mart. Journal of the National Science Foundation of Sri Lanka, 41, 273-277.

Sanjeewani B.L.G., Jayasuriya K.M.G.G., Jayasinghe J.H.L.D.H.C.(2010), Seed dormancy and Hydrotime model for seed population in two habitats of an invasive Fabaceae species, Prosopis juliflora, IUFRO Tree seed symposium: Recent Advances in Seed Research and Ex Situ Conservation, Taipei, Taiwan, TFRI Extension series No.212., 153-162. 

Awards:

Award for one of the Best commercially applicable research finding at National Symposium of Floriculture Research, (NaSFLOR), Sri Lanka, 2011.

Prof. M.D. Dassanayake Gold Medal for Botany, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, 2010. 

University Award for Academic Excellence, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, 2010. 

Laura Kate Lopez

PhD Candidate
Supervisors
Associate Professor Andy Davis and Dr Marian Wong
Email:  lkl999@uowmail.edu.au
Website:  www.laurakatelopez.weebly.com

Laura LopezDunmore Quarry

Project:
Interactions between invasive and native species are often significantly altered by abiotic and biotic variables, including temperature, salinity, density and naiveté. An understanding of these complex interactions is essential to developing effective management practises for invasive species.

My research combines the fields of behavioural ecology and conservation biology to explore how interspecies interactions between the Eastern Mosquito fish, Gambusia holbrooki and native freshwater fish are mediated by environmental variables via a combination of laboratory and field experiments.

Thesis Title:
The role of environmental variables in mediating interactions between the Eastern Mosquito fish and Australian fauna

Award:
Department of Primary Industries, Recreational Fisheries Trust Grant, 2014

Publications:
L.K. Lopez, P. Couture, W.A. Maher, F. Krikowa, D.F. Jolley, A.R. Davis. (2014). Response of the hairy mussel Trichomya hirsuta to sediment-metal contamination in the presence of a bioturbator. Marine Pollution Bulletin. In press.

News Article: 
Aggression in fish depends on environmental conditions

Will Mulvaney

PhD Candidate
Supervisors: Dr Pia Winberg and Associate Professor Andy Davis
Email:  wm963@uowmail.edu.au

Will MulvaneyWill Mulvaney Research 

Project:
Aquaculture is a growing industry that provides an alternative source of seafood to wild caught fisheries. By increasing yields, using environmentally sensitive methods, the efficiency and production potential of culture systems increases. This project, in partnership with Fisheries Victoria (Department of Environment and Primary Industries), aims to assess the viability of using off shore culture systems and various seaweed and formulated feeds to farm abalone.

Thesis Title:
Offshore abalone farming in Port Phillip Bay: production performance and lipid profiles of abalone and seaweed 

Award:
Highly commended Victorian Marine Science Consortium Postgraduate Award 2012 and 2013

Publications:

Mulvaney, W., Jahangard, S., Winberg, P. and Ingram, B.A. 2013 ‘Offshore abalone farming development in Port Phillip Bay: A pilot study’. Fisheries Victoria Research Report Series No. 65.

Mulvaney W., Winberg P., and Adams L. 2013 ‘Comparison of macroalgal (Ulva and Grateloupia spp.) and formulated terrestrial feed on the growth and condition of juvenile abalone’. Journal of Applied Phycology 25 (3) p. 815–824

Matthew Rees

PhD Candidate
Supervisor: Associate Professor Andy Davis
Co-supervisor: Dr Nathan Knott (Research Scientist, Fisheries NSW, NSW Department of Primary Industries)
Email:  mjr849@uowmail.edu.au

Matthew ReesMatthew Rees Research

Project:
I have a broad interest in the spatial ecology and conservation of marine assemblages. Specifically, my research focuses on improving the design of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and assessing their effectiveness in conserving biodiversity.

Thesis Title:
Developing seascape models for pelagic and demersal fish assemblages.

Awards:
The Nature Conservation Applied Ecology Award 2012
Ecological Society of Australia student grant

Publications:
Rees MJ, Jordan A, Price OF, Coleman MA, Davis AR (2014) Abiotic surrogates for temperate rocky reef biodiversity: implications for marine protected areas. Diversity and Distributions 20, 284-296.

Kelaher BP, Coleman MA, Broad A, Rees MJ, Jordan A, Davis AR (2014) Changes in fish assemblages following the establishment of a network of no-take marine reserves and partially-protected areas. PLoS ONE 9(1): e85825. 

Research blog: www.fishthinkers.wordpress.com
Research photo updates: http://instagram.com/fish_thinkers

Rhys Wyber

PhD Candidate
Supervisors:
  Professor Sharon Robinson and Professor Barry Osmond
Email:   rw774@uowmail.edu.au

Rhys WyberRhys Wyber Research

Project:
With a growing population and resource shortages, food production will be a major challenge for the next generation. One way to improve productivity and lessen resource wastage would be to measure plant health from a distance and over large areas, allowing farmers to selectively allocate resources to plants which need them. This project aims to set the ground work for this using a new method to measure plant photosynthetic health. This method is called Light Induced Fluorescence Transients or LIFT for short. This method relies on using rapid pulses of light (>300 in <1 second) to excite the green pigment in leaves (Chlorophyll). When excited the chlorophyll emits a small amount of heat and red light, this red light is focused and detected by the instrument and gives information about the plants health. 

UOW has one of only three LIFT instruments in the world and in this project we will be examining how measurements with the LIFT instrument are affected by different crop species, leaf angle and canopy structure as well as using LIFT to measure how plants cope with sun-flecks in low light environments.

Thesis Title:
Phylogeny of Antarctic Mosses

Awards:
Australian Postgraduate award  

Recent Graduates 

 


Jessica Bramley-Alves

PhD Graduate December 2014
Supervisor:
Professor Sharon Robinson
Co-supervisor:
 Professor Kris French

Jessica Bramley-AlvesJessica Bramley-Alves

ARTICLES:

 

Project:
Polar regions are predicted to experience some of the most pronounced climatic changes over the next century, with subsequent effects on biologically accessible water of particular concern. Large temporal and spatial gaps in meteorological data limit our ability to understand past and present trends, and so to forecast the future; making the development of innovative climate proxies a high priority. This thesis explores the possibility of using stable isotopes in long shoots of moss as an integrated proxy measure of past water regimes in polar regions, with the aim of reconstructing changes in bio-accessible water to a high resolution.

Thesis Title:
Stable isotopes reveal past polar environments

Publications:
Moss delta C-13: an accurate proxy for past water environments in polar regions.  Bramley-Alves, J; Wanek, W; French, K; Robinson, SA.  GLOBAL CHANGE BIOLOGY, 21 (6):2454-2464; 2015.  

Phytoremediation of hydrocarbon contaminants in subantarctic soils: an effective management option. Bramley-Alves J1, Wasley J2, King CK2, Powell S3, Robinson SA4. J Environ Manage. 2014 Sep 1;142:60-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2014.04.019. Epub 2014 May 14.

Last reviewed: 4 May, 2016