The researchers working to protect our ocean and its creatures


As human activity continues to threaten the health of our oceans, this year’s World Ocean Day calls on us to collaborate to secure their future.

Here at Murdoch University, students and scientists alike are driving the change we need. Today, we look at a few of the projects providing hope for this enormously important resource that we all share. 


Cracking the plastics problem

Plastic pollution is a leading threat to the health of our oceans, and researchers and students are blazing forward to find the solution.  

From finding ways to completely break down waste to developing compostable plastic alternatives, the young bioplastics team at Murdoch University is breaking new ground.  

PhD student Joseph Boctor who moved from Egypt to Perth to study with the Murdoch team is researching how bug enzymes (such as from the greater wax moth) can break down the plastic already existing in our ocean safely. 


I strongly believe that we have a huge responsibility towards keeping the earth habitable and healthy for all living species, including ourselves. Solving the plastic problem is a major step in that,” Mr Boctor said.  



Balancing the needs of many 

Australia provides an important case study regarding the opportunities and challenges of managing shared marine resources in cross-cultural settings.  

The Harry Butler Institute’s Dr Adrian Gleiss and Dean Mathews of Nyamba Buru Yawuru are leading a team that’s tackling a problem of great importance to resource managers globally: how equity in resource management can be achieved with First Nations peoples. 

The way green turtle and dugong populations are managed in Roebuck Bay provides an excellent opportunity to explore these dynamics. This work will provide a blueprint that can be used in any situation where resources are co-managed or knowledge is co-produced. 


“We recognise the value, skills, knowledge and lived experience of Indigenous land managers, and this project is an opportunity to merge western science and traditional knowledge, which is really important for effective two-way knowledge sharing.”
- Dr Adrian Gleiss  



Caring for its creatures 

Dr Delphine Chabanne from Harry Butler Institute led a study which identified distinct ecological communities of dolphins living in Perth waters requiring separate protection measures from anthropogenic threats.  

Dr Chabanne said this research was crucial to ensuring successful conservation management, with the identification of population structure and boundaries helping to better-protect dolphins against human induced threats.  


Each community needs to be treated as a distinct ecological unit, and require different protection measures because they are exposed to different anthropogenic threats occurring in those distinct ecological habitats.”
- Dr Delphine Chabanne 



Empowering citizen scientists 

Murdoch Senior Lecturer in Animal Biology, Dr James Tweedley is harnessing people power to magnify marine research efforts.  

Dr Tweedley has trained recreational fishers to deploy underwater video cameras to collect monitoring data on artificial reefs and helped to develop a smartphone application to track prawn catches, which resulted in changes to prawning regulations to increase sustainability. 

His research has also led to the development of indicators that can be used to help predict the effects of climate change on aquatic ecosystems.  


For some research it’s not the scientists that need to know about it, it’s the people on the ground who can actually make the real difference.”
- Dr James Tweedley 



Developing sustainable ocean industries  

The most recent work at hand is a new partnership between Murdoch University and Indigenous-owned business Tidal Moon, which is helping to realise the full potential of WA’s sea cucumbers in a sustainable way.  

Sea cucumbers have soft, cylindrical bodies and are found on the sea floor. They play a critical role in cycling the nutrients that maintain seagrass meadows and are sought after in Asian cuisine. Emerging research suggests there may also be compounds made by sea cucumbers that are helpful in treating cancer.  

The collaboration spanning innovative applications of algae, to seagrass restoration and cultural studies is expected to unearth a range of education, economic and environmental opportunities for the Shark Bay area. 

Australia’s first export was trade of sea cucumbers and our goal is to preserve and enhance our heritage while creating a business that will last for years to come.”
- Michael Wear, Malgana Traditional Owner and founder of Tidal Moon  
Learn more about Murdoch University's sustainability pillar.
Posted on:

7 Jun 2024


Research, General

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