Postgraduate Research Students


Nicola Fraser

“Sea anemones in the marine aquarium trade”

Supervisors: Dr Anna Scott, Dr Sangeeta Mangubhai (WCS Fiji) and Dr Karina Hall (NSW DPI)

The majority of sea anemones in the marine aquarium trade are wild-captured. I’m investigating both sexual and asexual reproduction of sea anemones that host anemonefishes. My long-term goal is to develop mariculture methods for host anemones, thereby reducing collection pressures on wild populations, providing stock to re-populate denuded habitats and the potential for sustainable livelihoods in developing nations.


Anna Giles 290-391

Anna Giles

The uses of 4D mapping in assessing environmental change”

Supervisors: Professor Brendan Kelaher and Prof Isaac Santos

Remote sensing techniques are instrumental in gaining a holistic understanding of landscape ecology. However, traditional techniques such as satellite imagery are often unable to provide adequate resolution and repetition for finer-scale ecological questions. Drones are a new technology that can bridge the gap between field surveying and traditional remote sensing techniques. My PhD aims to demonstrate the utility of drone-based mapping applications within the context of quantifying ecosystem change over time. The method of drone surveying, map creation and post-processing image classification techniques will be applied to different ecosystems across coastal, intertidal, and shallow-water marine environments. I will also be exploring the uses of deep learning algorithms combined with drone imagery to create automated environmental monitoring workflows. This study will use information gained through drone mapping to assist rapid ecological assessments, suggest practical, applied management solutions and monitor ecologically important areas.


Corinne Lawson

Corinne Lawson

“The role of predation in population eruptions of Crown of Thorns Starfish (Acanthaster sp.)”

Supervisor: Professor Symon Dworjanyn

Corals are under pressure from both anthropogenic and natural stressors. As a result, coral reefs are degrading globally. One major issue impacting coral reefs is population eruptions of the coral-eating Crown-of-Thorns Starfish (CoTS). A key knowledge gap in our understanding of CoTS population dynamics is the factors that determine the transition from herbivory to corallivory. My PhD is aimed at examining how changes in coral reefs (e.g. decrease coral cover, increased seaweed cover, and warming) influence the onset of corallivory by juvenile CoTS.


Rebecca Lipscombe 290-391

Rebecca Lipscombe

“Habitat use and post-release mortality of tiger sharks off the east coast of Australia”

Supervisors: Dr Anna Scott, Adjunct Professor Paul Butcher (NSW DPI)

My research involves the use of satellite tagging technology to quantify the vertical and horizontal movement of tiger sharks and identify the parameters that influence the use of habitat. In addition to this, determining post-release mortality rates and identifying stress indicators resulting from capture.


Sebastian Litchfield

Sebastian Litchfield

“The influence of ocean climate change and single-use plastics on estuarine ecosystem processes”

Supervisors: Professor Brendan Kelaher and Associate Professor Kai Schulz

My research aims to assess whether ocean warming, acidification, single-use plastics, and their interactions, have an impact on estuarine ecosystem processes. Particularly, I’m investigating the impacts these have on seagrass decomposition and microphytobenthic activity which are key components of the trophic structure and nutrient cycle in estuaries. Evaluating the responses to these factors may assist in the development of future management strategies for maintaining these key processes in estuaries.


PhD student Kate Seinor profile image

Kate Seinor

“Fishery biology and ecology of the marine snail, Turbo militaris

Supervisor: Professor Kirsten Benkendorff, and co-supervised by Assoc Prof Steve Purcell, Prof Steve Smith and Dr Hamish Malcolm (NSW DPI)

Turbinids are among the most sought-after marine gastropods harvested on rocky shores, targeted for their high-quality meat and nacreous shell. The large turbinid, Turbo militaris is endemic to the Australian east coast and is collected recreationally, commercially and culturally. Despite heavy harvesting, there is little known about this species. The objective of this thesis is to address critical knowledge gaps on the biology and ecology of T. militaris. This project will elevate our knowledge of this species and provide useful information for fisheries management decisions. Additionally, this thesis will offer broader insights into the spatial variability of turbinids' biological and ecological processes across a latitudinal gradient. Overall, by developing the knowledge-base for T. militaris, this research will aid in facilitating the transition of this species from data-deficient to scientifically managed.


Woman in wetsuit driving a boat

Tanika Shalders

“Effects of climate change on economically important fish species in temperate Australia”

Supervisors: Professor Kirsten Benkendorff, and collaboratively co-supervised by DPI staff Prof Melinda Coleman and Dr Curtis Champion

The effects of climate change on marine ecosystems are driving unprecedented biological responses and challenging our use of marine resources in the future. Species’ physiological responses to climate change can impact their nutritional quality and therefore human nutritional health. Billions of people globally depend on seafood as a primary source of protein and essential micronutrients, and this reliance is predicted to increase with continued population growth. Despite the potential for environmental change to affect the physiology of harvested marine resources, the effects of climate change on the nutritional quality of seafood remains poorly understood. This project will quantify and describe the effects of climate change on the health and nutritional quality of key harvested species across the marine food web. The response of seafood health and nutritional properties to climate-driven environmental change in conjunction with the effects on species mortality, growth and distribution will be used to determine implications for future food security and human health. These findings will contribute to an emerging understanding of the resilience and vulnerability of harvested marine species to changing environmental conditions, with implications for the future sustainability and nutritional quality of seafood.


Woman with black hair

Melissa Tan

"Investigating climate change impacts to fisheries on the east coast of Australia"

Supervisors: Professor Brendan Kelaher and Karina Hall (NSW DPI)

I will be investigating the impact of increased temperature and carbon dioxide levels on two important fisheries species; Eastern School Whiting (Sillago flindersi) and Stout Whiting (Sillago robusta). Fish will be subjected to predicted climate change scenarios within a mesocosm experiment at the NMSC, to investigate potential variation in growth rates, condition and determine the thermal dependency of oxygen isotopes in fish otoliths. Results from this project will inform fisheries management practices within state and federal jurisdictions on the east coast of Australia. 


Woman sitting in bright red lounge

Reina Veenhof

“Assessing vulnerability of key marine habitats to climate change”

Supervisors: Prof Symon Dworjanyn, Dr Melinda Coleman (Adjunct Professor – NMSC) and Dr Curtis Champion (Adjunct Lecturer – NMSC)

Reina joins us from the Netherlands, after completing her MSc in Ireland. She'll be doing her PhD on effects of climate change on benthic habitats, specifically kelp gametophytes. Reina is a co-funded SCU/DPI student



Shane White

“Nitrogen sources and management in streams with diverse land uses”

Supervisors: Professor Isaac Santos and Associate Professor Symon Dworjanyn

The biogeochemical and ecohydraulic states of waterways are heavily influenced by the surrounding land use in a catchment. My research will investigate phase shifts, nutrient cycling and greenhouse gas emissions in impacted waterways as a result of rainfall runoff and groundwater seepage in fertiliser intensive land use catchments. Along with this, I will explore possible ways to capture pollutants on farm. This could reduce the possibility of eutrophication, algal blooms and greenhouse gas emissions in impacted creeks, streams and estuaries.