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, marine megafauna, catchments to coast and, oceanography. A full list of current research projects and publications can be found on the Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems external webpage.

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 diseases in yellowtail kingfish.

Aquatic Megafauna

Marine 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


Our research extends from coastal waters out to the high seas, and our expertise is primarily in understanding the influence of oceanographic processes on the ecology of the Indian Ocean. Our research is solution-focussed and encompasses state-of-the-art techniques to obtain a real-time understanding of the marine environment, as well as the rehabilitation of coastal and marine habitats.


Key researchers

Dr Stephen Beatty

Dr Stephen Beatty is Deputy Director of the Centre and leads the Catchments to Coast node. His 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 Dr Beatty’s 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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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 recreate the lives of animals while out of sight. This work has been able to increase our understanding of threatened fauna, such as whale sharks, flatback turtles and sawfish, both in Western Australia and globally.

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Dr Jennifer Verduin

Dr Jennifer Verduin heads the Oceanography node of the Centre. Dr Verduin is an oceanographer with many years of research experience on the role of high latitude oceans in decadal climate variability and thermo-haline circulation. Her current research focuses on the impact of physical processes on biological and ecosystem dynamics, including the effects of coastal hydrodynamics on benthic vegetation, particles and structures. Her work aims to develop innovative soft-engineering solutions for reducing coastal decline. 

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Dr James Tweedley

Dr Tweedley leads the Fisheries and Aquaculture node of the Centre. His research focuses on two main areas: (1) the ecology and health of estuaries; and (2) the management of fisheries and their restoration and enhancement. In community ecology, he aims to understanding linkages between fish and invertebrate communities and complex suites of environmental drivers, and develop indices of estuarine health. In fisheries, James has been involved in determining the biological characteristics of important species, aquaculture-based enhancement, restoration of shellfish habitats, and the provision and evaluation of artificial reefs.

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Associate Professor Belinda Robson

Associate Professor Robson's research is in freshwater ecology, addressing the conservation challenges of freshwater management and climate change. Her research focuses on invertebrate ecology, using field and laboratory experiments to create knowledge that supports biodiversity conservation in rivers and lakes. Professor Robson is also Editor in Chief of the leading freshwater ecology journal, Freshwater Biology.

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Associate Professor David Morgan

Associate Professor Morgan 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 many new species and the documentation of the distribution of most inland Western Australian fishes.

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