Assessing the functional role of seagrass species in the tayaritja region (Flinders Island)

Supervisory Team:

  • Beth Strain
  • Jeff Wright
  • Vanessa Lucieer

Brief project description:

Seagrass beds provide shelter and food to diverse community of associated flora and fauna, including Phasianotrochus spp., which are culturally significant for Tasmanian Aboriginal people, especially women who continue the cultural practice of shell necklace making. The shells used in necklace making, commonly known as maireener / kelp shells (Phasianotrochus spp.) live in seagrass meadows and on seaweeds. Shell necklace-making is the oldest continuing cultural practice in Tasmania – a significant tradition for Aboriginal women that is still handed down through each generation. Aboriginal women have maintained a strong cultural knowledge of shell-collecting areas. In recent years shell collectors on the islands have reported a decrease in the number of shells available for harvest.

Previous research on seagrass has demonstrated that the associated faunal community is positively influenced by structural complexity of the seagrass species, biomass, and epiphytic loads. However, in Tasmania seagrass habitats are relatively understudied and there is little knowledge about how different species and their condition influence the associated ecological community. This research will quantify how each of the dominant seagrass species commonly found in the tayaritja region influences the associated epifauna and infauna communities in shallow waters (>5 m depth). At 3 randomly selected sites, 50 replicate samples of seagrass (10 replicates for each of the 4 species) and 10 samples of bare sediment will be collected on snorkel or via wading using 150 mm radius corer.

Skills students will develop during this research project:

The student in this project will gain extensive experience in conducting fieldwork in remote locations and sorting and identifying invertebrates and processing sediment samples in the laboratory. They will also gain basic experience in analysing these data through R gui.

Authorised by the Executive Director, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
May 23, 2023