Our members are leaders in the field of freshwater, estuarine and coastal aquatic system research. Our researchers specialise in estuarine health, threatened fishes, impact of introduced species, climate change and habitat condition. Our research spans the entire Western Australian state, from the rivers and macrotidal areas of the remote Kimberley, to the arid rivers and mangrove systems of the Pilbara and the world’s largest fringing reef at Ningaloo, to the spectacular stream, lakes, estuaries and islands of the south-west. 

Current Projects –

Infectious diseases and changing climates

PhD candidate: Siew Mee Bong

South-western Australia has highly endemic freshwater fish fauna that is threatened by anthropogenic stressors such as secondary salinisation, eutrophication and river regulation. Climate change poses an additional existential threat to these unique fishes, both directly through increased water temperatures and reduced flow, and indirectly, by exacerbating the impacts of other stressors. My project is investigating how increased water temperature may influence the effects of infectious bacterial diseases in freshwater fish. I have found that the virulence of Photobacterium damselae subspecies damselae (Pdd) to western pygmy perch (Nannoperca vittata) increases with increasing water temperatures. There is a strong positive relationship between temperature and the in vitro growth rate of Pdd, but no discernible effect of temperature on the aerobic scope (metabolic capacity) of N. vittata, suggesting that the increased virulence at higher temperatures is principally due to a greater pathogen replication rate. Interestingly, I also found that exposure to Pdd increased both resting metabolic rate and maximum metabolic rate in N. vittata, so that aerobic scope of fish was not compromised by bacterial infection.

Exposure to infectious disease, metabolic rate and personality in fishes

PhD candidate: Nuwandi Pathirana

The pace of life syndrome hypothesis posits that correlations exist, both within and between species, among life history, physiological and behavioural traits, such that organisms can be aligned on a fast to slow pace of life axis. While this hypothesis provides a theoretically satisfying framework to integrate animal personality studies with life history theory, empirical support for its predictions is weak and recent studies suggest that the emergence of correlations among pace of life traits depends on ecological context. I am investigating the role of exposure to infectious disease in determining the correlations among personality, metabolic rate and immune function traits in fishes.

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