Honours students' thesis summaries

The benefits of beekeeping for women in developing nations.
The benefits of beekeeping for women in developing nations.

Anneliese Austin (2020)

Understanding the Barriers to Women’s Engagement in Beekeeping in Papua New Guinea

Beekeeping has increasingly been recognised as an agricultural activity that promotes the socio-economic empowerment of poor rural women around the world. Despite a growing body of literature about the benefits of beekeeping, women’s engagement in beekeeping in Papua New Guinea remains low. This study uses mixed methods research to examine the social, cultural and economic barriers to women’s engagement in beekeeping and beekeeping training in Papua New Guinea. The results of this study suggest that cultural barriers, limited awareness of beekeeping, a lack of communication about training and high costs are barriers to women’s adoption of beekeeping and participation in beekeeping training. This research proposes adapting a family approach to beekeeping training and designing a participatory guarantee mentorship framework to support women’s inclusion in beekeeping.

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Dolphins as seen from above by a drone.
Dolphins as seen from above by a drone.

Anna B. Giles (2018)

Assessing the behavioural responses and ecology of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops spp .) using small drones

Drones can provide novel information on species ecology and behaviours. Their bird’s-eye view provides new opportunities to understand previously unseen marine wildlife behaviours, and to access cryptic and inaccessible species. Nonetheless, as drones become more prolific through recreational use and as a research tool, it is important to understand their impacts on targeted species. Coastal dolphins are accessible and charismatic megafauna that are at risk of potential exposure to drones. However, the effect of drones on dolphins is largely unknown. The present study used small (< 2 kg) drones as a platform to assess any effects on the behaviour of coastal dolphins (Tursiops truncatus and Tursiops aduncus), as well as to determine the utility of drones to monitor their behaviour in the field.

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Morphological tentacle response in E. pallida at 3 μg Cu/L at 24 and 96 hours of exposure.
Morphological tentacle response in E. pallida at 3 μg Cu/L at 24 and 96 hours of exposure.

Madeline Ianna (2020)

The Application of a Behavioural and Biochemical Endpoint in Ecotoxicity Testing with Exaiptasia pallida

Exaiptasia pallida (glass anemone)has been applied as a cnidarian model to assess the toxicity of various contaminants using endpoints related to growth, reproduction and mortality. However, increasingly accepted behavioural and biochemical endpoints are underrepresented in ecotoxicity testing, especially with cnidarian species. This study aimed to assess the application of a behavioural and biochemical endpoint in ecotoxicity testing with E. pallida. A concentration-dependent, tentacle retraction response was found in sub-lethal toxicity testing with anemones exposed to relevant copper and zinc concentrations for various times.

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Benthic chamber setup on Heron Island at low tide
Benthic chamber setup on Heron Island at low tide (Source: Coulson Lantz)

Charly Moras (2018)

Quantifying N2 fixation in coral reef sediments using a direct 15N tracer technique

In coral reefs systems, nitrogen is often the limiting nutrient. One of the major pathways of nitrogen input to coral reef systems is through dinitrogen fixation, ie the conversion of dinitrogen to ammonium carried out by diazotrophs. While a nitrogen budget exists for the Great Barrier Reef, rates of dinitrogen fixation are poorly constrained and based exclusively on the Acetylene Reduction Assay. In this project, I apply an isotope labelling technique, the direct 15N tracer technique, to measure dinitrogen fixation rates in the sediments of a coral reef lagoon (Heron Island in the southern Great Barrier Reef).

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Sociogram where nodes represent individual Australian humpback dolphins for the Port Curtis community.
Sociogram where nodes represent individual Australian humpback dolphins for the Port Curtis community.

Carla Patulny (2019)

Social structure of Australian humpback dolphins (Sousa sahulensis) in the Capricorn-Curtis Coast, Queensland, Australia: The influence of flooding and port expansion on community structure

This study examined the social structure of a population of Australian humpback dolphins (Sousa sahulensis) inhabiting the Capricorn-Curtis Coast region of the Southern Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and World Heritage Area, Queensland, Australia. It specifically determined if variations in the social structure occurred during and after a major flood and port expansion in the area.

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Glossodoris vespa Rudman 1990
Glossodoris vespa - Rudman 1990

Julie Schubert (2019)

Temporal variation and rarity in heterobranch (Mollusca: Gastropoda) sea slug assemblages: Contrasting patterns for estuarine and coastal reef habitats

Marine species such as heterobranch sea slugs have been proposed as the ‘canary in the climate-change coal mine’, providing clues that environmental conditions are changing. The Sunshine Coast in south-east Queensland is considered a transition zone between the tropical waters to the north and temperate waters to the south. Using historical data collected using scuba during a period of less than five years for an estuarine site and less than seven years for a coastal reef site, this study applied a suite of multivariate and univariate analysis to assess temporal variation in sea slug assemblages and compare assemblage composition in different habitats.

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Location of R. nilotica maximum basal shell width (BSW) measurement.
Location of R. nilotica maximum basal shell width (BSW) measurement.

Kate Seinor (2019)

Ecological correlates of the topshell gastropod, Rochia nilotica on coral reefs in Samoa

Coral reefs are naturally diverse ecosystems, the habitat characteristics of which exert a strong influence on their associated biota. Rochia nilotica has undergone extensive introductions and provides an important fishery throughout the Pacific. The study’s aims were to identify the habitat characteristics which high densities of R. nilotica, as well as different size distributions, associate with. The study also aimed to understand the overlap in habitat associations with other common herbivorous gastropods.

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Developmental stages of Acanthaster planci larvae post fertilisation a) Early Bipinnaria b) Late Bipinnaria c) Early Brachiolaria d) Late Brachiolaria e) Early juvenile f) Herbivorous juvenile g) abnormal larvae.

Corinne Lawson (2019)

Enhanced development in a future ocean, Crown of Thorns Starfish (Acanthastar planci) larvae are bolstered by warming and acidification

Anthropogenically induced warming and acidification (OA) along with multiple other anthropogenic stressors are causing the decline in coral reefs. In the Indo Pacific this is made worse by population outbreaks of the corallivorous Crown of Thorns Starfish (CoTS). This study used multifactorial experiments to examine the effects of near future ocean warming and acidification on survivorship, development, growth and feeding behaviour of CoTS larvae.

A scanning electron microscope image of a struvite crystal.

Loise Hunt (2019)

The production of struvite from dairy processing wastewater

In this study I tested the capacity to produce struvite from dairy processing wastewater. Struvite (formula Mg+ NH4+ + PO43- . 6H20) is a phosphorus (P) rich mineral that can be precipitated from wastewater, however, to date few studies have looked at struvite formation in dairy processing wastewater. I came to the conclusions that dairy processing wastewater appears to be promising as a source of mineral P, however, struvite is only one of the compounds formed during precipitation. Further work is required to either maximise the formation of struvite, or better quantify the other types of mineral P that are being formed.

Two examples of important Zingiberaceae plant species found in the Sabirut and Sarereiket regions of Siberut, Mentawai Islands, Indonesia. L: kiniu (Curcuma longa), R: Tottot mamai (Sabirut dialect) / Gojo (Sarereiket dialect) (Etlingera elatior)

Samantha M. Lee (2019)

Why ancient knowledge is the keystone to our future – A story from Siberut, Mentawai

Indigenous knowledge systems, like those traditionally practiced by the Mentawai people from the Mentawai Islands, West Sumatra, Indonesia, are a deep-time laboratory that examine how people successfully manage or failed to find adaptive solutions to changes in their surroundings, including biodiversity loss and changing climate. However, many of these practices, including Mentawai’s traditional knowledge system, Arat Sabulungan, are eroding. This thesis explores Mentawai cultural protocols underlying conservation of Siberut’s biome, and examines Mentawai values and attitudes about their traditional ecological knowledge.

Squirrel glider (Petaurus norfolcensis)

Luke O’Brien (2019)

Seasonal home range and den site characteristics of the squirrel glider (Petaurus norfolcensis) in the Avon Valley of New South Wales

Global biodiversity has continued to decline during the past four decades, with one-fifth of mammal species at risk of becoming extinct in the wild. Extinction at a local level may occur when the size of remnant habitat patches decrease and become more fragmented, causing populations to become demographically and genetically inviable. This study investigated aspects of the ecology of the squirrel glider (Petaurus norfolcensis) in the Avon Valley, in central-eastern NSW, an area where the species is currently being affected by habitat fragmentation due to coal mining.

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