Honours Projects: Marine Science

Academics in Marine Science

Associate Professor Tracy Ainsworth

Dr Mariana Mayer Pinto

Professor Alistair Poore

Professor Peter Steinberg

Professor Iain Suthers

Associate Professor Adriana Verges

Below are the current projects on offer in Marine Science. Supervisors don't always advertise specific projects, but will happily discuss options with prospective students. If there is a research area or supervisor you might like to pursue, email the relevant academics and ask! They love to talk science.

Honours Projects

 Project Title: Temporal dynamics of Coral Microbiome following thermal stress

Supervisor: Tracy Ainsworth

Synopsis: The microbiome is considered a critical component of the coral meta-organism. Members of the microbiome play a roles in defence and nutrient acquisition, however the microbial community is also highly diverse and transient. This project investigated the community structure of the coral microbiome over time and throughout heat stress disturbance events.

Aims: The projects aims to determine the seasonal changes in the coral microbiome and the influence of thermal stress events on microbial community structure.

Benefits to student: The student will gain experience and skills in microbial ecology, handling large datasets, data analysis and gain an understanding of the biology and ecology of coral reefs.


Project Title: How much shellfish reefs have we lost and why should we care?

Supervisor: Dr Mariana Mayer-Pinto & Dr Vicky Cole (NSW DPI Fisheries)

Synopsis: Globally, shellfish reefs have declined as a result of historical overharvest, disease, sedimentation, and poor water quality. Within Australia, it is estimated that only 5% of locations where oyster reefs were historically present still exist today. Preliminary investigation of historical records indicate considerable loss of shellfish reefs in NSW estuaries. In order to prioritise locations for restoration, valuable research is needed to provide estuary-specific evidence of historical shellfish reefs.

Aims: This project will determine historical and current densities of shellfish in NSW estuaries. This will be coupled with experimental work to estimate the loss of ecosystem services provided by these important reefs to NSW’s marine estate.

Benefit to students: This project will allow the student to develop applicable skills in critical thinking and scientific writing. The student will learn skills in researching historical records, and field and laboratory techniques in sampling and key ecological functions. This project will be in collaboration with and supported by the MEMA Oyster Reef Restoration Project at NSW DPI Fisheries, therefore the student will be able to gain experience that is relevant to careers within and outside academia.


Project Title: How is climate change and the tropicalisation of temperate reefs impacting invertebrate biodiversity?

Supervisors: A/Prof Adriana Verges & Aaron Eger (PhD candidate)

Synopsis: Climate change is driving a universal redistribution of species on Earth. In marine systems, ocean warming is causing the decline of kelp forests in Australia and globally. This loss of kelp is mediated by direct effects of warming and by increases in herbiory by range-expanding tropical fishes. As a consequence, temperate kelp forests are being replaced by low-biomass algal turfs, and associated ecological communities are becoming increasinly "tropicalised".

Aims: Our lab is investigating the ecosystem wide effects of tropicalisation in Eastern Australian reefs. Within this context, this project will investiate the relationship between reef habitat formers, structural complexity, and invertebrate bodiversity and biomass along a tropicalisation gradient.

Benefit to students: Students will benefit through working with a supportive team of BEES academics, industry scientists, and PhD candidates. In addition to general research skills, we expect that students will develop the ability to undertake subtidal resarch and quantitative ecological analysis (previous experience is an asset). Fieldwork will be carried out in the beautiful Solitary Islands Marine Park, a tropical-temperate transition zone where kelp forests and coral-domination reefs are only a few kilometers apart.


Project Title: Investigating the blue swimmer crab fisheries in Botany Bay and Lake Illawarra.

Supervisors: Iain Suthers (BEES-UNSW), Matt Taylor (DPI-Fisheries Port Stephens) & Roshan Hanamseth (PhD candidate)

Synopsis: The Blue Swimmer Crab (BSC, Portunus armatus) are high valued commercial and recreational crab fisheries in Australia. There is little information regarding the movement and recruitment of these species in New South Wales (NSW). The ecology of the larval dispersal, juvenile habitat preference, spawning triggers and migration patterns (male and female crabs) within and near the estuaries in these latitudes differ significantly from other states; this is due to varying environmental and seasonal differences for these species. Therefore, area specific assessment is vital to establish a baseline data for efficient management for a sustainable production towards fishery harvests.

Aims: To investigate temporal and spatial patterns in the settlement and juvenile habitat preference of BSC; and the spatio-temporal patterns in growth, diet, condition of juvenile BSC

Benefit to students: This project is part of a Fisheries R&D Corporation (FRDC) project investigating the portunid crab fisheries in NSW. The student will gain experience in the field working with crabs and assist in maintaining the temperature/salinity logger network. The student will also learn to handle datasets, data analysis and gain experience working with researchers at BEES UNSW and DPI. The field work will be carried out in Botany Bay and Lake Illawarra during September through to April and therefore expected to start mid-year 2019, or in early 2020