Harry Butler Institute
 

Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems

Centre Director: Professor Alan Lymbery
Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia

 

About the centre

Our vision is for healthy, biodiverse and productive aquatic ecosystems supporting vibrant societies in Australia and the Indo-Pacific region. 

Our mission is to provide, through discovery and innovation, adaptive and lasting solutions for protecting the health of aquatic ecosystems that underpin our economy and society.

Healthy freshwater, estuarine and marine ecosystems underpin economic development and provide social and recreational values for communities in Australia and throughout the world.

 

The centre’s core research areas

The inherent connection of freshwater, estuarine and marine ecosystems means that they must be studied and managed in an integrated fashion. In recognition of this, the research program of the Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems consists of four interrelated nodes.

Fisheries and Aquaculture

Fisheries and Aquaculture

Our research helps to underpin sustainable management of wild capture fisheries and the development of environmentally sound aquaculture practices. We have expertise in fisheries biology, fish diseases, stock enhancement, animal breeding and algal biotechnology.

Recent and current projects include restocking western school prawns in the Swan-Canning estuary, investigating the efficacy of algal culture to provide high-value products from wastewater, and developing new treatment and control methods for bacterial and parasitic diseases in cultured yellowtail kingfish.

Aquatic Megafauna

Aquatic Megafauna

Large, charismatic aquatic species can capture the imagination of the public and serve as conservation flagships to promote the protection of biodiversity. To this end, we study the biology of sharks and rays, turtles, and marine mammals, such as dolphins, whales and dugongs. We have expertise in physiological ecology, behaviour, animal health and quantitative data analysis.

Much of our work utilises technological innovations, such as drones, biologging and artificial intelligence to monitor aquatic animals. Current projects include the ecological energetics of sharks and whales, foraging ecology of flatback turtles and white sharks, monitoring whale shark and dugong populations, and the health of bottlenose dolphins.

Catchments to Coast

Catchments to Coast

We conduct translational research to support the sustainable management of inland and estuarine aquatic ecosystems. Recognising the fundamental flow-mediated connections within catchments, our research seeks to understand the links between land, water and biodiversity management through knowledge of ecosystem processes.

We have expertise in riverine, wetland and estuarine ecology, species biology, community ecology, ecosystem biological processes, and hydro-ecological relationships. Our current projects are focused on understanding and developing solutions around the challenges of climate change, eutrophication, salinization, invasive species and water resource development.

Biological Oceanography

Biological Oceanography

Our research extends from coastal waters out to the high seas and expertise is primarily in understanding the influence of oceanographic processes on the ecology of the Indian Ocean.

Recent and ongoing projects pertain to the influence of the Leeuwin Current and its associated eddy field on fish larvae, krill and zooplankton, feeding ecology of rock lobster larvae and mesopelagic fishes and, as part of the second International Indian Ocean Expedition, an integrated bio-physical investigation of the oceanic ecosystem along the 110°E meridian from sub-Antarctic to tropical waters.

 

Key researchers

Professor Alan Lymbery

Professor Lymbery’s research is principally in the field of disease ecology, addressing both conservation challenges facing native freshwater fishes and infectious disease threats to aquaculture species. Professor Lymbery’s work bridges parasitology, ecology and genetics to bring findings relevant to biodiversity conservation.

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Professor Neil Loneragan

Professor Loneragan leads the fish biology research node of the Centre, with a focus on population biology and ecology of fish and invertebrates, relationships between aquatic habitats and fisheries production and biodiversity, the trophic ecology of estuaries and marine systems, interactions of fisheries with the environment; methods for fisheries assessments, and stock enhancement of recreational and commercial fisheries.

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Associate Professor David Morgan

Associate Professor Morgan is the Deputy Director of the Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems. His research, which takes him throughout Western Australia, studies threatened fishes, alien fishes and their impacts to native fauna and the ecology of fish and how they use their habitats. His auspicious career has led to the discovery of new species and the documentation of the distribution of most inland Western Australian fishes.

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Dr Adrian Gleiss

Dr Gleiss’ research revolves around understanding how ecology and physiology drive the evolution of animals, including research into the movement ecology of marine megafauna. Dr Gleiss uses biologging tags to log migration patterns and movement behaviours, and his work on the freshwater sawfish in the Kimberley has brought worldwide attention to this globally threatened fish.

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Professor Lynnath Beckley

Professor Beckley’s research at Murdoch includes leading the Marine Science programme, lecturing in coastal and marine management, and research on marine resource use and biological oceanography of the Leeuwin Current. She was the recipient of the prestigious Australian Marine Sciences Association Jubilee Award in 2020 for her contribution to marine research in Western Australia, and in 2019 she led an international research team on the RV Investigator that contributed to the second International Indian Ocean Expedition.

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Dr Stephen Beatty

Dr Beatty’s research interests relate to the conservation of inland aquatic ecosystems. A particular field of interest is the biology and ecology of freshwater crayfishes and his work has included determining the biology and ecology of the Smooth Marron to aid in the sustainable management of its recreational fishery. Other areas of his research relate to south-western Australian freshwater fish communities, particularly with regard to the impacts of feral species, river regulation, surface and groundwater extraction and salinisation.

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