Study

Current Honours and Masters Projects

We have many exciting Honours and Masters projects already approved.

If you don't see something that fits your interest or passion, please explore our find a supervisor tool, and get in touch with a supervisor who may be able to help you.

Topics noted below may be subject to final IMAS approval, due to issues such as laboratory space, resourcing and supervision.

Alternative impact indicators – Sound, light, taste and smell, how can these be used in marine condition assessments

Supervisor team may include:

Dr Catriona Macleod

Dr Jeff Ross

Adam Davey

Do they squeal, glow or create a stink when stressed? Many marine organisms will exhibit changes in their ecophysiology when put under environmental pressure, and these responses could be used to measure/ monitor environmental conditions. This project proposes to examine the responses of key species, which are known to have a clear ecological response to contamination (e.g. brittle stars (bioluminescence), polychaete (pheromones/ smell) to determine whether their responses can be quantitative measured and attributed to specific environmental.

Aquaculture Nutrition

Supervisor team may include:

Dr Louise Adams

Professor Chris Carter

Projects relating to core nutrition and animal performance research themes: Fishmeal replacement, nutrient requirement, digestive physiology or feed assessment in Atlantic salmon, trout, abalone, barramundi or prawns. Links with IMTA Nutrition-Environment and modelling. Please discuss directly with supervisors.

Are artificial spawning substrates the key to enhancing populations of the endangered Spotted Handfish in the Derwent estuary?

Supervisor team may include:

Dr Neville Barrett
Tim Lynch (CSIRO)
Mark Green (CSIRO)

The spotted handfish is one of only a few Australian fish species listed as highly endangered under the EPBC act. The species is primarily only found in the Derwent Estuary, with a life history (site-attached adults producing guarded egg masses that hatch as miniature adults with no dispersal phase) that restricts their capacity to move in response to a changing environment. There are multiple threats to this species, including a physically degraded environment within the river and an increasing abundance of introduced pest species that may compete for resources and modify habitats. Previous studies have suggested that predation on stalked ascidians by the introduced seastar Asterais amurensis may be particularly problematic for the handfish as they preferentially use the ascidians as substrates for deposition of egg masses. Certainly the short egg mass stage (up to six weeks) may be the most critical stage in  their life history. As a management response to this, artificial spawning substrates have been developed and planted out at known handfish 'hotspots" throughout the Derwent estuary.  Brief surveys of these substrates suggest they are indeed utilised by the handfish, although the extent that they are utilised in preference to other natural substrates has yet to be determined, nor has the likely survival of eggs on such substrates during the incubation period. A potential Honours project would examine the success of artificial substrates at a range of sites throughout the estuary relative to natural substrates, and document the overall survival of egg masses over this period and the types of threats that they are exposed to, (e.g. predation by seastars, fish, crabs etc) and the methods that guarding adults may use to prevent egg loss. It would utilise a range of technologies such as underwater GPS (to relocate each spawning substrate with eggs) and time-lapse GOPRO cameras.  This project is supported by the Derwent Estuary Program (DPIPWE) with a $2000 grant towards operating expenses of a dive-based research program, and with supervisory support from the Spotted Handfish advisory team, including representatives from IMAS, CSIRO and the Derwent Estuary Program.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Dr Neville Barrett (neville.barrett@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Assessing The effect of high CO2 preloading and Modified Atmosphere Packaging on the shelf-life of Atlantic salmon fillets

Supervisor:

Mike Williams

(Please contact the supervisor for further information)

Assessing the impacts of husbandry techniques on the physiology and performance of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) broodstock

Supervision team:

Dr. Kelli Anderson

Dr. Gianluca Amoroso (Petuna Seafoods)

Professor Abigail Elizur (University of the Sunshine Coast)

Salmonids have been farmed for decades in Australia, and ~50 000 tonne is produced annually in Tasmania, yet the industry faces challenges to long term stability due to climate change. This can be observed in outdoor pond and tank systems where the water reaches in excess of 22 °C in summer. To date, the impacts of outdoor pond culture on the physiology and reproductive performance of female Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) has never been studied systematically, and it is therefore difficult to gauge the costs/benefits of using different broodstock management strategies. Thus, the first broad aim of the proposed work is to 1) characterise the impacts of pond and tank culture techniques on broodstock physiology and development, egg quality, and offspring performance.

The spawning period for the Tasmanian stock of Atlantic salmon is typically compressed relative to their northern hemisphere counterparts, and the reduced window for stripping and fertilisation increases the difficulty of managing a large number of broodstock during the spawning season. This project will trial the use photothermal manipulation as means of fine tuning the onset of ovulation and spawning in female Atlantic salmon, with the ultimate goal being to 2) stagger the spawning period for subsets of fish without reducing reproductive performance.

By utilising a range of molecular techniques, we will also assess the physiological responses of female salmon to the conditions tested, and understand the molecular processes that underpin reproductive performance.

Biodiversity patterns of marine infauna on the Antarctic shelf

Supervision team:

Dr Nicole Hill

Dr Jonny Stark (Australian Antarctic Division)

More than 90% of the world’s oceans occur at depths below the photic zone rely on food that sinks through the water-column, a link referred to as pelagic- benthic coupling. A newly developed technique that estimates patterns of food availability on the seafloor based on ocean models and patterns of surface productivity, has shown the link between seafloor communities and surface productivity largely depends on which types of seafloor organisms are considered. While current research mainly focuses on megabenthos such as corals and sponges, the sediment infauna play a vital role in the functioning of this unique benthic ecosystem and is less studied. Quantifying patterns of both the megabenthos and the infauna and their relation to environmental variables such as food availability can help to better manage, understand and protect this unique environment.

This project aims to quantify and predict patterns of marine infauna biodiversity in East Antarctica using maps pf food availability and other relevant environmental variables. The project will also use the food availability maps to test hypotheses about productivity-biodiversity relationships.

The project will involve the sorting and identification of infauna and will utilise new biodiversity modelling techniques. The project is a collaboration with the Australian Antarctic Division.

Can engaging with the community really inform science or is it just hand waving?

Supervisor team may include:

Dr Catriona Macleod

Dr Emily Ogier

This project will look at how we can better relate community concerns and values to specific environmental outcomes and monitoring data.

Can feed formulation change environmental outcomes?

Supervisor team may include:

Louise Adams
Catriona Macleod

Nutrient models for salmon farms use information on nitrogen and phosphorus input and waste to predict nutrient output and wider impacts of salmon farms. This project will interrogate historical nutrition experimental data to generate more accurate models of nutrient cycling from salmon farms under current feeding regimes and stages of production. In addition, experiments may be designed to examine the theoretical basis for environment nutrient loading calculations based on different diets, fish sizes and environmental conditions, to experimentally compare environmental performance and to model nutrient losses under different production scenarios.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Louise Adams (Louise.Adams@utas.edu.au) or Catriona Macleod (Catriona.Macleod@utas.edu.au) for more details

Can You Really Trust a Model? Help Us Find Out

Supervisor team may include:

Dr Scott Hadley

Dr Catriona Macleod

Dr Jeff Ross

Models are only as good as the data that is put into them. There is potential for a couple of student projects here to test some of the established assumptions/parameterisation in our existing aquaculture interaction models (e.g. digestibility co-efficient, sediment resuspension and/or for the more mathematically minded how some of the model calculations are derived).

Comparative ecophysiology of Australian Alexandrium tamarense strains

Supervisor team may include:

Chris Bolch

Limited data from the 2012 and 2013 blooms indicate that up to 3 different genotypes of differing toxicity (Type 1, 4 and 5) were present and detected in toxic shellfish during blooms. Each type have potentially different environmental preferences.

This project aims to compare the temperature, salinity and nutrient preferences of the three different genotypes in order to predict their seasonal contribution to shellfish toxicity.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Chris Bolch (Chris.Bolch@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Comparison of gut morphology in fresh water and sea water grown chinook salmon

Supervisor team may include:

Barbara Nowak

The student will do morphometrics on histological sections from selected freshwater and seawater grown chinook samples, including mucous cell counts.  Main areas - histology, morphometry and image analysis and statistical analysis.

Suitable for February or July start.

Contact: email Barbara Nowak for more details

Conservation of Spotted handfish

Supervisor team may include:

Dr Tim Lynch (CSIRO) Tim.Lynch@csiro.au
Dr Neville Barrett (IMAS)

Spotted handfish (Brachionichthys hirsutus) are a critically endangered anglerfish known from only 10 sites across the Derwent estuary and D’Entrecasteaux Channel. Since 2014 monitoring of these sub-populations has been undertaken using geo-referenced underwater photography.

This provides both spatial data on densities for ‘hot-spot’ analysis and also tracking of individuals as adult fish have unique spot patterns. To assist in data analysis the pattern recognition software, I3S, was successful trailed in 2016. Data collection will continue through 2017 and we plan to pursue a variety of conservation and behavioural research questions.

First, a simple minimum population size estimate is required to advise government for the immediate commencement of a captive breeding program.

Second, with the developers of I3S, the pattern recognition software program needs to be optimised for spotted handfish.

Third, distributions and movements of fish both within and potentially between sites needs to be determined for management of threats. Forth, the size distribution of fish, especially for recaptures, will be used to investigate age and growth to determine the species life span. Finally, a more sophisticated capture-mark-recapture model that takes into account life-history characteristics, needs to be developed to better estimate the population size.

The project will involve extensive small boat and diving field work. Candidates will hence need to have or be able to achieve the required certification for scientific diving prior to commencing field-work. This includes a recreational diving ticket, at least 20 logged dives and the ability to pass a diving medical. Candidates will also be expected to work towards a coxswain certification. With the exception of the initial recreational dive ticket all training and other expenses will be paid for by the project.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Neville Barrett (Neville.Barrett@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Daily-ageing of Gambusia holbrooki, a short-lived pest fish, using novel molecular tools.

Supervisor team may include: 

Dr Jawahar Patil

Knowledge of population age-structure is necessary for stock assessments, and to develop management plans for invasive species such as the Gambusia. Size is generally associated with age; however, there are variations in size at any particular age for most fish species making it difficult to estimate one from the other with precision. Conventionally, counting natural growth rings on the scales, otoliths, vertebrae, etc has been used to good effect particularly in long-lived fish where the annual rings can be easily distinguished and annual aging is more appropriate for most management purposes. In short-lived species where they mature in months a daily ageing tool is necessary. Taking advantage of recent development in molecular biology this project will aim to establish a more precise againg framework, that is cross-validated with daily rings that may be laid on hard parts such as the otolith, scale and fin rays.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Dr Jawahar Patil (jawahar.patil@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Demographics of recreational fishing participation – understanding the past and looking to the future

Supervisor team may include:

Dr Jeremy Lyle

Dr Sean Tracey

The 2000/01 National Recreational Fishing Survey provided the first comprehensive assessment of recreational fishing in Australia. At the time an estimated 3.4 million Australians fished at least one a year, representing almost 20% of the total population. Participation rates did, however, vary widely by age, gender and area of residence. More recent surveys highlight a trend of declining participation that can be linked in part to changing population demographics. This project will review results of surveys of recreational fishing participation in the context of population demographics and the implications for future participation in recreational fishing.

Developing biomarkers of salmon farming: tracing feeds in the environment

Supervisor team may include:

This project will produce new laboratory based data to support field studies tracing impacts from salmon farming in the wider marine environment. There are several possible projects within this topic, possibly including field sampling from farms and estuaries and or lab-based feeding studies in abalone.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Louise Adams (Louise.Adams@utas.edu.au) or Catriona Macleod (Catriona.Macleod@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Digestive system development in the tropical rock lobster, Panulirus ornatus and the slipper lobster, Thenus australiensis from late-stage phyllosoma to juvenile

Supervision team:

Dr Andrew Trotter

Associate Professor Greg Smith

Spiny lobsters have very high economic value that are captured and cultured in more than 90 countries. Aquaculture of spiny lobster has always been impeded by the lack of seed stock and all current industries rely of wild caught seed. Larval culture is very difficult, primarily due to the protracted larval cycle. Larval culture of spiny lobsters has been undertaken for 20 years at IMAS and three spiny lobster species have been cultured through the full larval cycle; including Jasus edwardsii, the southern rock lobster, Panulirus ornatus, the tropical rock lobster and Sagmariasus verreauxi, the eastern rock lobster(all Palinuridae). More recently IMAS has used culture techniques developed for spiny lobsters to successfully culture the slipper lobster, Thenus australiensis (Scyllaridae). It is likely that both P. ornatus and T. australiensis will be cultured commercially in the near future using technologies developed at IMAS.

Although the culture techniques are very advanced, some aspects of the larval biology are not well understood. Two of the most challenging developmental stages in the lifecycle of lobsters include metamorphosis, where a dramatic reconstruction in morphology occurs from the feeding phyllosoma larval stage to the non-feeding puerulus stage, and then the emergence from puerulus to the juvenile. During this time the digestive system transitions from processing planktonic to benthic prey with an intermediate non-feeding stage. The digestive system in particular undergoes extensive gross morphological transformation during these life stages but has never been characterised in detail in either species. A more comprehensive understanding ontogenetic changes during these life stages will provide insights/baselines to make improvements to larval and juvenile rearing, particularly in regard to health and nutrition.

Effect of ecological and physiological factors on heavy metal uptake mechanisms in key estuarine species

Supervisor team may include:


Understanding trophic transfer mechanisms in marine species/ communities is an important precursor to clarifying contamination pathways, improving our understanding of the ecosystem and developing effective management and remediation strategies. This project aims to identify the main ecological and physiological factors associated with heavy metal uptake in key invertebrate and vertebrate species. Are they what they eat? How does environmental loading and metal speciation influence uptake potential? This information is important if we are to understand metal accumulation & toxicity, or to identify species with the potential to act as indicators of remediation and is essential for evaluating environmental impacts & developing risk/ management responses.

The project will use a combination of field based and experimental studies (potentially including both traditional dietary analysis techniques and stable isotope analysis) to clarify the relevant responses for key species. There is flexibility within the project to change the project emphasis to suit specific student interests/ capabilities; for instance the project can be focussed on comparison of uptake rates and mechanisms between different functional types within a location, within a species/ type, between locations or even to look at specific uptake pathways.

This project can be tailored to suit students with an interest and ability in either ecological or physiological processes.

There are six key research areas that have been identified as priorities in 2016:
Project 1 - How is metal accumulation rate in Flathead from the Derwent Estuary affected by growth conditions?
Project 2 – Heavy metal uptake in recreationally fished species from the Derwent estuary: Focussing on mechanisms of bioaccumulation & bioavailability.
Project 3 – What can 20 years of oyster sampling tell us about bio-monitoring?
Project 4 – Assessing the relationship between infaunal body burden and mercury load in contamination hotspots.
Project 5 – What is the proportional representation of mercury species in sediments?
Project 6 – What factors can increase mercury accumulation risk in methylation hotspots?

From these projects you may gain skills in: experimental design (field and laboratory), field sampling, conducting laboratory based experiments, statistical analysis, stakeholder interactions and publication of results.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Catriona Macleod (Catriona.Macleod@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Examining the Environmental Pros and Cons of Integrated Multi-trophic Aquaculture (IMTA)

Supervisor team may include:


IMTA has several prospective benefits for salmon aquaculture; including the provision of alternative product(s) and the potential to offset the adverse effects of nutrient inputs. However, it is important to understand all of the interactions to ensure the benefits outweigh any possible negatives.


It has recently been suggested that current net cleaning activities in salmon culture may have the potential for adverse interactions in co-production with shellfish depending on the nature of the fouling communities and proximity of the farming operations.
Whether this might be a significant issue for IMTA/ polyculture operations needs to be investigated. There are two key project areas that have been identified: Project 1 - Impacts of net cleaning on co-culture species (performance & growth) and Project 2 – How close is too close? How far away must co-culture species be to beyond any influence of net-wash material.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Louise Adams (Louise.Adams@utas.edu.au) or Catriona Macleod (Catriona.Macleod@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Factors affecting the post-mortem analysis of mucosal surfaces

Supervisor team may include:

Mark Adams

The skin, gill and gastric mucosae of many aquatic and terrestrial organisms can be collected and treated using different techniques to facilitate subsequent post-mortem analysis.  This project seeks to explore pre and post-mortem procedures that may affect the interpretation of mucosal surfaces.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Mark Adams (Mark.Adams@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Genetic diversity of bloom populations of Alexandrium tamarense

Supervisor team may include:

Chris Bolch

This project aims to use microsatellite DNA methods to examine the genetic diversity and population structure of Tasmanian blooms of A. tamarense.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Chris Bolch (Chris.Bolch@utas.edu.au) for more details.

I Spy!! – Using Time Lapse photography to Inform Environmental Management

Supervisor team may include:

Dr Catriona Macleod

Dr Jeff Ross

Adam Davey

This project would look at using existing sensor and telemetry infrastructure to deploy time-lapse cameras in Macquarie Harbour in order to assess the response of key species to nutrient enrichment.

Indirect impacts of the range–extending sea urchin, Centrostephanus rogersii: a socioeconomic assessment

Supervisor team may include:

Dr John Keane

Dr Emily Ogier

Professor Caleb Gardner

Centrostephanus are continuing to expand down the east coast of Tasmania, resulting in destructive overgrazing of kelp habitats. While direct biological impacts have been well documented, economic and social implications are less understood. This project looks to define what fisheries/industries are most at risk should barrens continue to expand, and to quantify the social and economic impacts to regional areas, and Tasmania as a whole.

Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture – Testing the Theory in Tasmania

Supervisor team may include:

Dr Catriona Macleod

Dr Jeff Ross

Dr Scott Hadley

IMTA involves growing different species together to offset adverse interactions such as elevated nutrients. This project will test the efficiency of nutrient uptake by seaweed under different growing conditions and compare the outcomes with previously developed model outputs.

Intra and interannual variability in larval fish distributions in Storm Bay, Tasmania, in relation to oceanographic conditions

Supervisor team may include:

Dr John Keane

Dr Jeremy Lyle

Dr Kerrie Swadling

This project aims to describe the distribution and abundance of key larval fish species of ecological, recreational and commercial importance within Storm Bay in relation to seasonal and oceanographic cycles. Samples have been collected from 5 sites spanning the length and breadth of Storm Bay at approximately monthly intervals for a period of 5 years, yielding an extensive sample resource. Fish larvae will need to be sorted from plankton samples and identified. Results could be analysed in regard to spawning cycles, planktonic cycles, oceanographic conditions, hydrology and climate change. Outcomes will be a benefit for both fisheries and ecosystem management. This project involves elements of microscopy, taxonomy, ecology and oceanography. It would be expected that the research would yield a peer-reviewed scientific paper.

Large salmon nutrition and performance

Supervisor team may include:

Dr Louise Adams

Professor Chris Carter

Nutrition and feeding studies on harvest sized salmon are challenging without specialist experimental facilities. There are opportunities for nutrition related projects investigating aspects of feed digestibility, digestive physiology, product quality and performance under commercial conditions, aligned with large multidisciplinary experiments conducted at the EAF. Laboratory work would begin early (Feb-March) and would require travel between Hobart and Launceston during the project.

Low-cost microscopic imaging for phytoplankton monitoring

Supervisor team may include:

Chris Bolch

Modern consumer device imaging technology such as webcams and smart-phones have considerable potential as low-cost imaging solutions for environmental monitoring applications. This project aims to develop and test optical performance of a prototype smart-phone-based micro-imaging system for phytoplankton cells.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Chris Bolch (Chris.Bolch@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Mast cells – Fixation/staining optimization for distribution and function in teleost gills

Supervisor team may include:

Mark Adams

The teleostean mast cell/eosinophilic granule cell often plays a key role in the initiation of some inflammatory processes. However its distribution and functionality is not well resolved due its somewhat enigmatic nature. This project will investigate different fixation/staining and sectioning approaches to describe the presence and distribution in a number of teleost species.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Mark Adams (Mark.Adams@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Mechanisms of nutrient uptake by Tasmanian seaweeds

Supervisor team may include:

Associate Professor Catriona Hurd

Tasmania has a globally unique and highly diverse seaweed flora with over 1000 species, most of which are unstudied in terms of their role in nitrogen and phosphorous cycling in the coastal environment. Nitrogen is the most important nutrient limiting seaweed growth and is available in two inorganic forms: nitrate and ammonium. Nitrate is considered an energetically ‘expensive’ form of nitrogen because it requires energy (from light) in order to take up and assimilate. Ammonium uptake is considered energetically ‘cheap’ as it is taken up by passive diffusion. To date, uptake rates of nitrogen and ammonium have been measured for only two species of seaweed in Tasmania and we know little of their uptake mechanisms. Phosphorous is an essential nutrient for seaweeds but uptake rates of phosphate have not been measured for any Tasmanian species.

In this honours project, you use laboratory experiments to measure the rates of nitrate, ammonium or phosphate uptake at a range of concentrations on previously un-studied Tasmanian red seaweeds. A number of projects on this general topic are available and would suit a student with a background in algal biology, temperate reef biology. Diving is useful but not essential.

Messing With Reality: Testing Heavy Metal Management Scenarios For The Derwent Using Mesocosms

Supervisor team may include:

Catriona Macleod

The aim of this project would be to test the ability of artificial habitats or constructed wetlands to remediate a broad suite of contaminants relevant to the Derwent. Depending on student interests and experience the project could i) target a particular contaminant, such as mercury, and evaluate and test alternate strategies for remediation in mesocosm trials OR ii) target a particular location (eg. MONA) and test alternate strategies for general remediation of the broad suite of contaminants in the local ecosystem.

Strategies that could be tested using mesocosm technology include but are not limited to hierarchical wetland construction with each stage designed to address a particular contamination issue and specific culture media targeting particular contaminants (these might include plant based cultures and/ or sediment based manipulations).

A key component to this project in the latter stages would be integration with landscape architects/ designers with a view to identifying ways to implement any proposed technology in real scales.

Aims: 

  1. Evaluate alternate currently available strategies for environmental remediation of either mercury OR zinc in mesocosm trials
    OR
  2. Test the efficacy of broadscale remediation techniques (constructed wetlands) to reduce the load of particular contaminants (i.e. mercury/ zinc) in Derwent hotspots.

From this project you may gain skills in: experimental design (field and laboratory), field sampling, conducting laboratory based experiments, statistical analysis, stakeholder interactions and publication of results.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Catriona Macleod (Catriona.Macleod@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Orange is the new Red – Evaluating a Colorimetric Indicator for Mercury Pollution

Supervisor team may include:

Dr Catriona Macleod

Dr Justin Chalker (Flinders University)

This project will test a novel approach to detect mercury contamination and bioavailability in sediments? Scientists at Flinders University have developed an innovative new polymer that is able to extract mercury from the environment. This polymer has a distinct colour change (it goes bright orange) when associated with metal uptake. We would like to improve our understanding of how this technology could be applied in environmental monitoring i.e. can this polymer provide an accurate indication of mercury distribution in the environment. This project would look to ground truth the new technology against our existing science and sediment understanding and more clearly identify how the polymer responds under different environmental conditions.

Physical Oceanography/Climate

Supervisor team may include:

Assoc Prof Neil Holbrook

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Assoc Prof Neil Holbrook (Neil.Holbrook@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Plastics in the mud: Evaluating the extent of microplastic contamination in sediments of the Derwent Estuary

Supervisor team may include:

Associate Professor Zanna Chase

Dr Denise Hardestry

Dr Chris Wilcox, CSIRO

Plastic in the marine environment is a growing environmental concern. The presence of plastic has also been proposed as a stratigraphic marker of the Anthropocene. Yet we know virtually nothing about the geological behaviour of plastics in marine sediments - the nature of the plastics, its behaviour in sediments, the timing of accumulation, and the geographic distribution. Such information is needed to establish the potential utility of microplastics as a stratigraphic marker (Zalasiewicz et al. 2016). Such information can also shed light on the sources, sinks and impact of plastics in a given environment. This honours project will quantify microplastic (plastics < 2mm) concentrations in a suite of sediment cores from the Derwent Estuary. By analyzing microplastic concentrations in different layers of the cores, the project will characterize the historical input of microplastics to the estuary.

Population growth and age dynamics of the overgrazing sea urchin Heliocidaris erythrogramma

Supervisor team may include:

Dr Scott Ling

Dr John Keane

This project will describe age and growth of the short-spined sea urchin in Tasmania.

Primary host-pathogen interactions of amoebic gill disease in Atlantic salmon

Supervisor team may include:
Mark Adams

This project will investigate the initial stages of interaction between Neoparamoeba perurans and host tissue in vivo.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Mark Adams (Mark.Adams@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Regional contrasts in Tasmanian cross-shelf fish assemblages recorded from baited-underwater-video surveys

Supervision team:

Associate Professor Neville Barrett

Dr Jacquomo Monk

Baited underwater videos (BRUVs) are now in common use for surveying fish populations on reef systems around Australia. A number of surveys have now been undertaken at locations around Tasmania, but this information has yet to be synthesised to gain an understanding of the general lessons from this with respect to biogeographical patterns, ranges and depth distributions of key species, or the effectiveness of potential indicator species for long-term monitoring programs. A project is available to undertake this synthesis, as well as potentially completing an additional set of BRUV deployments on the Tasmanian west coast to fill in a current biogeographical gap in this regional coverage.

Relationships between seabed complexity and the distribution of key biota

Supervisor team may include:

Dr Neville Barrett

This project uses a comprehensive set of imagery derived from IMOS AUV deployments in Tasmanian shelf waters to examine the spatial distribution of characteristic reef associated species (e.g. particular sponges) and their relationship with significant habitat features. The work will allow future predictions of the distribution of key species based on mapped seabed geomorphology.

A range of similar projects are also available for this image analysis, including description of the spatial distribution of benthic invertebrates and algae within the Flinders Commonwealth Marine Reserve, physical drivers of benthic invertebrate structural height and complexity on deep reefs, the changing distribution of Centrostephanus barrens in eastern Tasmanian waters.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Dr Neville Barrett (neville.barrett@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Reproductive dynamics of the sea urchin Heliocidaris erythrogramma: implications for roe harvest and kelp bed overgrazing

Supervisor team may include:

Dr Scott Ling

Dr John Keane

This project will describe reproductive biology of the short-spined sea urchin in Tasmania.

Responses of seaweeds (macroalgae) to ocean acidification

Supervisor team may include:

Associate Professor Catriona Hurd

Ocean acidification is predicted to cause widespread modification of marine ecosystems in a future high CO2 ocean.  Fleshy macroalgae (e.g. kelp) dominate temperate rocky reefs worldwide, and while it has been predicted that they will benefit from ocean acidification but to date there is little evidence to support this hypothesis.  Unlike terrestrial plants that use only CO2, macroalgae can utilise either CO2 or bicarbonate (HCO3-) that is dissolved in seawater for photosynthesis.  However, in Tasmania we have a globally unique coastal system that has a substantial number (80%) of species that can use only CO2 in photosynthesis (Cornwall et al. 2015).  In this honours project, you will examine the growth and physiological responses of Tasmanian red seaweeds to CO2 fertilization using a state-of-the-art ocean acidification simulator available in Hurd’s laboratory.

A number of projects on this general topic are available and would suit a student with a background in algal biology, plant physiology and/or temperate reef biology.  Diving is useful but not essential.

Responses of seaweeds to the interactive effects of nitrogen supply and ocean acidification

Supervisor team may include:

Associate Professor Catriona Hurd

Globally, levels of dissolved CO2 in seawater are increasing, termed ocean acidification (OA).  Locally, levels of inorganic nitrogen are increasing due to altered land use (e.g. farming) or more intensive aquaculture.  However, we know little on the interactive effects of both increasing CO2 and nitrogen on seaweeds, which form the base of coastal ecosystems.  Recent work has shown for the common green seaweed, Ulva (sea lettuce) that nitrogen is more important than CO2 in controlling seaweed growth and photosynthesis (Rautenberger et al. 2015, Reidenbach et al (2017).  However, Tasmania has a globally unique and highly diverse seaweed flora with over 1000 species, most of which are unstudied in terms of their physiology and response to global and local anthropogenic change. In this honours project, you will examine the interactive effects of nitrogen and CO2 fertilization on previously un-studied Tasmanian red seaweeds using a state-of-the-art ocean acidification simulator available in Hurd’s laboratory.

A number of projects on this general topic are available and would suit a student with a background in algal biology, temperate reef biology.  Diving is useful but not essential.

Satellite-based remote sensing and estimation of cyanobacterial blooms in Tasmanian lakes

Supervisor team may include:

Chris Bolch

This project aims to refine satellite detection of cyanobacteria blooms by comparison with in-situ fluorescene detection buoys in Tasmanian water bodies.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Chris Bolch (Chris.Bolch@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Sediment recovery – A quantitative assessment of how faunal activity influences recovery response in Macquarie Harbour and analysis of key risk factors.

Supervisor team may include:

Dr Catriona Macleod

Dr Jeff Ross

Adam Davey

Lab based assessment of the functional response of sediments in Macquarie Harbour to key species.

Taxonomic diversity of toxic dinoflagellate microbiomes (MB)

Supervisor team may include:

Chris Bolch

Dinoflagellate cells grow and interact with a community of closely associated bacteria that appear to mediate a range of critical functions such as nutrient and trace metal uptake, and also influence their cellular toxicity. Almost all of our understanding of these interactions is derived from laboratory cultures; we know almost nothing about the bacterial communities associated with cells in natural blooms. This project aims to use Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) sequencing approaches to compare the taxonomic diversity of laboratory cultures and natural phytoplankton cells of two important toxic dinoflagellates, Alexandrium tamarense and Gymnodinium catenatum.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Chris Bolch (Chris.Bolch@utas.edu.au) for more details.

The spawning behaviour of Spotted Handfish in the Derwent Estuary

Supervisor team may include:

Dr Neville Barrett

This project examines the extent that handfish utilise artificial vs natural spawning substrates, and the success of egg development through to hatching on each. A handfish guard eggs over this period, both eggs and adult fish are particularly vulnerable over this stage. Using gopros and visual observations, behavioural interactions will be described, and recruitment success determined.

Suitable for July start date.

Contact Dr Neville Barrett (neville.barrett@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Two decades of recreational licensing – what has changed and why?

Supervisor team may include:

Dr Jeremy Lyle

Dr Sean Tracey

Marine recreational licences are required for a range of fishing activities in Tasmania. The databases provide an informative insight into the characteristic of those interested in each of the specific fishing methods, including age and area of residence. Not only does this data reveal interesting patterns in the changing demographics of fishing, for example a transition from diving to potting for lobster with age, but also variability in licensing linked to changing management and resource availability.

Using Electrolysed Oxidising (EO) water as a pre-treatment sanitiser for chilled fish stored on ice

Supervisor:

Mike Williams

(Please contact the supervisor for further information)

Utilising towed-video contrasts in/out of offshore marine parks to assess the possible impacts of trawling on benthic invertebrate assemblages

Supervision team:

Associate Professor Neville Barrett

Dr Jacquomo Monk

The potential influence of trawling in shelf waters on benthic fauna had been estimated by model-based approaches but never examined empirically in temperate Australia. Current IMAS surveys in/out of the Beagle Marine Park in Bass Strait (an area closed to trawling for the last 10 years) utilising towed-video, offer an opportunity to quantify the nature and extent of soft-sediment epi-benthic fauna (sponges, ascideans, corals etc) in this region for the first time. This will allow a contrast to be made between the MPA and adjacent fished areas, informing the extent to which trawling may have influenced (or not) this assemblage.

Utility of ROV’s (remote operated vehicles) for surveying reef fish assemblages below diving depths

Supervisor team may include:

Dr Neville Barrett

This project utilises a ROV (Seabotix LVB300) to be deployed at a range of test locations in eastern Tasmania to both determine the effectiveness of ROV's for reef fish surveys, and the appropriate survey design to yield quantitatively robust results for monitoring programs. Surveys may focus on MPAs (State and Commonwealth).

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Dr Neville Barrett (neville.barrett@utas.edu.au) for more details.

What’s the big deal with big fish?

Supervision team:

Dr Karen Alexander

Dr Asta Audzijonyte

Dr Ingrid van Putten

Increasing scientific evidence demonstrates the importance of big individuals in marine animal populations. They include fish, rock lobsters, abalone, and many other species that traditionally are valued (economically and otherwise) by humans. Big individuals often have disproportionally large input for reproduction, better viability of offspring and they also play a key role in ecosystem structure and function. However, in many cases the biggest individuals are also the most desired by humans for instrumental and intrinsic reasons. Commercial fishers may target large fish because the economic returns are higher and because fishing regulations typically protect small but not large individuals. Recreational fishers may have other reasons driving their desire to catch big fish, and catching the biggest fish is often formalised in fishing competitions and trophies. The desirability of big fish has deep roots in our history, where a big trophy proved the harvesters powers and provided a lot of food for the village. However, in some traditional societies the biggest individuals were voluntarily protected.

This project will be undertaken through the Centre for Marine Socioecology and will explore the history of perceptions about large fish and other marine organisms in traditional and modern societies around the world. What can history and cultural traditions tell us about our social norms and attitudes related to the size of fish? How do we perceive the size of fish in Australia and how does this compare to perceptions elsewhere? How do our attitudes, and descriptive and injunctive social norms shape our behaviour? Does the way a society perceives the ecological and social role of fish size conducive or hindering to sustainability? If societal attitudes and social norms are hindering sustainability outcomes are there examples of how we can change these attitudes? How can science influence human behaviour for the better and what are the most efficient ways of communication and engagement?

Authorised by the Executive Director, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
October 1, 2019