Current research

Developing a better understanding of resilience

  • Resilience of the intertidal habitat-forming alga Hormosira banksii.  This work examines the recovery component of resilience, examining the extent to which severe disturbance causes phase shifts, and looking at recovery rates at a regional scale (along the Victorian coast) and latitudinally (northern New South Wales- Victoria-Tasmania).  We are also testing whether harvesting of intertidal snails affects Hormosira recovery rates.
  • Responses of sessile invertebrate communities to disturbance.  Are heavily invaded communities less resilient?  What happens if we remove the invaders – can native species retain space?

Human impacts on coastal environments

  • Better detection tools for pollution in estuaries.  We are working to develop quick, cost-effective ways of detecting effects of pollutants in estuaries, using a combination of field mesocosm experiments, biomarkers, genetics, and developing new behavioural and life history assays..  You can find more details of this area through Allyson O’Brien’s links.
  • On rocky shores, humans can exert a direct influence by harvesting particular species for food and bait, and create disturbances by trampling, etc.  We have for many years documented these effects, and have a 20 year study following changes in populations of intertidal snails in response to different kinds of coastal management.

Life history and ecology of sessile invertebrates

The two-phase nature of invertebrate life histories create interesting questions about the links between these two life stages.  We know now that the condition of larvae at settlement can have far-reaching effects on their success after metamorphosis, influencing growth, survival, and the timing and extent of reproduction.  Conversely, we know that larval quality depends on parental, particularly maternal investment, and on larval experiences during dispersal.  How tightly linked are these components?  To what extent do parents adjust the kind of offspring they produce in response to environmental stresses?  What kinds of stresses do they respond to?  We are addressing these questions with a number of model species, most notably bryozoans.

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