UWA Oceans Institute

Research Associate (Ref 4255) Thematic Areas


Oceanography of West Australia

This research will examine the physical, chemical and biological dynamics of major boundary currents and other oceanographic processes in Western Australia, their influence on adjacent ecosystems, and teleconnections between geographically separated physical processes and marine biodiversity.  It is envisaged that historical observations, data gathered by the Integrated Marine Observing System, and global and regional numerical models will be integral to the work, and will enhance the goals and objectives of the WAIMOS research plan

Biophysical and ecological interactions and connectivity of shallow water systems in West Australia

Sustainable use of marine resources in northern Australia requires an understanding of the biophysical dynamics, biogeochemistry and ecology of coastal and shelf habitats that are characterised by very large (>8 m) tidal ranges, and complex topography and highly variable water quality. Nearshore physical dynamics are likely to have a strong influence on ecology, biogeochemistry and connectivity. Patterns of productivity and nutrient supply, including catchment and seasonal influences will be important features to characterise and understand. Patterns of connectivity within and between populations of organisms at both cross-shelf and longshore scales are also key factors influencing population structure and resilience. Projects in this theme could be addressed using one, or a combination of approaches (genetic, ecological, modelling) and will complement ongoing studies of physical oceanography of these coasts

Developing effective conservation strategies for vulnerable, threatened, endangered and protected marine species

There is increasing concern over the status and trends in the global populations of a range of vulnerable and endangered species which frequent the west coasts of Australia. Projects in this theme will develop a comprehensive understanding of the vital rates, movements and habitat utilisation that will enhance effective conservation strategies. Research topics could include the ecology and behaviour of key species, the impacts of any loss of these organisms from ecosystems, and the effectiveness of strategies such as Marine Protected Areas as a management tool to reduce and mitigate these effects

Climate change in marine environments

Warming climates are predicted to impact tropical marine ecosystems and fishery resources by altering trophic linkages, recruitment dynamics, connectivity and the performance of individual organisms. This project will seek innovative methods to understand, document and predict the effects of climate change on the marine environments of Western Australia with a view to informing adaptation strategies

Littoral-zone physical and ecological dynamics

Beach stability and coastal inundation are major issues for the Australian coast, particularly given concerns about rising sea-level and increasing storm intensity. The WA coastline is exposed to the impacts of eastward-propagating weather systems in the Indian and Southern Oceans. Littoral-zone dynamics are a complex interaction of waves, currents and morphology. A combination of new measurement technology, better process-understanding and bigger computers is improving both description and predictability of these dynamics. Applications include the short-term response of beaches to storms, their long-term response to climate-change, and ecosystem dynamics such as the role of wrack.

Blue Carbon description

Efforts to understand and model the carbon budget of the oceans have focused, traditionally, on fluxes in pelagic, open ocean environments, comprising the bulk of the area across which the ocean exchanges carbon with the atmosphere. Efforts to encompass coastal processes within ocean carbon budgets have, historically, focused on the continental shelf and the fate of riverine carbon inputs and have ignored the highly productive vegetated coastal habitats, including mangrove forests, salt marshes, seagrass meadows and the diverse components of coral-reef ecosystems that fringe the coastline of most continents. Yet, marine macrophytes were likely to act as major carbon sinks in the ocean, potentially contributing to the formulation of climate change mitigation strategies based on these ecosystems, strategies that have been termed "Blue Carbon" strategies.  Projects furthering our understanding of the capacity of vegetated coastal habitats to secuester CO2, improve the management and conservation of these sinks and the associated carbons stocks, examine their response to climate change and other global changes and address their economic significance are encouraged.