Marine enthusiast Marie Windstein has been awarded a Forrest Research Foundation scholarship to study the ecology of shark and ray nurseries along the Kimberley coast of Western Australia.The Forrest Research Foundation supports outstanding scholars from around the world to undertake high quality research at any of the five universities in Western Australia.
Windstein plans to use her scholarship to dive deeper into marine ecology by studying how differences in environmental and biological conditions of coastal habitats influence the distribution, growth and health of young sharks and rays.
These animals, which have a skeleton made of cartilage rather than bone, are known as elasmobranchs and play a critical role in maintaining healthy marine ecosystems.
Coastal communities may also benefit from healthy ecosystems with more diverse food webs and attractive reefs helping to boost local fishing and tourism.
"As the Kimberley region is one of the last pristine coastal areas in the world, this project is an exciting and rare opportunity to study relatively undisturbed elasmobranch nurseries,” said Windstein.
Coastal areas are estimated to be home to 40% of the world’s human population, which has resulted in significant exploitation, habitat loss and threats to coastal nurseries.
“The findings of this project will not only help us better understand the ecology of the Kimberley Marine Park, but hopefully improve the way we manage and restore altered coastal ecosystems globally in the future,” said Windstein.
Windstein will conduct research under the guidance of Dr Adrian Gleiss, Post Doctoral Research Fellow at the Harry Butler Institute.
“I asked Dr Gleiss to be my supervisor because I believe he will offer valuable guidance to develop my practical and analytical skills. I am very thankful he encouraged me to pursue this project,” explained Windstein.
Being considered a Forrest scholar is an honour and I look forward to contributing to this community of curious and brilliant minds.”Windstein’s enthusiasm for this project is rooted in her long-standing passion for the ocean and her recent field work tagging juvenile hammerhead sharks in the Galapagos. She also spent four years working towards mangrove conservation in the French overseas territories.
The Forrest scholar has developed a keen interest in biologging technologies throughout her academic career, allowing her to study free-ranging animals as they move through their environment.
Windstein will commence her PhD studies in April 2020.
About the Forrest Research FoundationThe Forrest Research Foundation was established in 2014 following a $65 million donation by Andrew and Nicola Forrest, one of the largest ever philanthropic donations in Australian history.
Aimed at attracting outstanding minds from around the world to Western Australia, the scholarship supports projects from all disciplines.
It encourages researchers to advance cutting-edge applied science, kick start innovative business collaborations, and further the development of impact-driven emergent technologies in Australia.
Find out more on Forrest Research Foundation funded programs.