Overcoming threats in an increasingly challenging marine environment
Marine ecosystems are increasingly threatened by human activity and development, and the waters surrounding Australia are no exception. Here, threats include oil spill events, increasing amounts of plastic pollution, exploitation by fishers and the ubiquitous challenges posed by climate change. Threat mitigation relies on sound knowledge of ecological processes. The Marine Vertebrates team conduct applied ecological research to inform appropriate conservation planning and management for Australia’s marine environments.
The team use a diversity of methods including animal-borne tracking devices, population genetic techniques and stable isotope analysis, combined with population censuses using ground counts, shipboard counts and the latest drone technology. In combination these approaches allow a detailed assessment of distribution and abundance and patterns of marine resource use for the target species or community. Members of our team are using their considerable experience with these and many other techniques in study areas as diverse as the Browse Basin between north-west Australia and Timor, and subantarctic Macquarie and Heard Islands.
Our research group has extensive experience working on seabirds. We also hold large datasets and have published on a diversity of other marine vertebrate groups. Cetaceans, sea turtles and populations of key prey-fish have been a focus of recent research voyages. Our research outputs allow us to make recommendations on matters such as extensions to existing marine protected areas and mitigation strategies for marine industries. Recent work with the oil and gas industry includes major contributions to seabird and shorebird Operational and Scientific Monitoring Programs (OSMPs), development and implementation of monitoring programs to meet OSMP baseline requirements and the scientific monitoring program for seabirds and shorebirds following the Montara Well Release. Beyond our ecological skill-set, the team also maintain industry-standard training ensuring capacity to respond rapidly to new OSMP needs.