Staff Profiles

Habitat Restoration

Theme Leader: Professor Stephen Swearer

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I am Professor of marine biology and Director of the National Centre of Coasts and Climate at the University of Melbourne. I began my career as a larval fish biologist and my research in this field has focussed on understanding how larval dispersal, settlement and recruitment influence population replenishment and connectivity in marine ecosystems and the ecological and environmental factors that influence these processes. Since taking on the directorship of NCCC, my research has taken a broader focus into developing solutions for addressing the impacts of overabundant species, habitat loss and climate change in marine and coastal ecosystems in partnership with government and industry.

Website . ResearchGate . Google Scholar



Ben Cleveland

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I completed a Bachelor of Environmental Science (Marine Biology- Honours) at Deakin University Warrnambool in 2010. My Honours research in aquaculture nutrition focused on alternative lipid sources for aquafeed production. Moving away from the nutrition field for my PhD research, I followed a passion for applied conservation and commenced my studies at the University of Melbourne focusing on restoration ecology, primarily shellfish reefs, in 2015.

Shellfish reefs are one of the most imperilled marine habitats on earth, with over 84% lost globally, and over 90% in Australia. While restoration efforts are being undertaken internationally, here in Australia’s temperate waters, we are really at the beginning of the journey, with limited ecological knowledge of these critical habitats and their requirements for successful restoration. Working with the native flat oyster Ostrea angasi, my PhD research hopes to assist the development of local restoration efforts through identifying both the substrate requirements of these shellfish reefs and the natural limitations to their recovery such as predation and sedimentation.  It is part of a collaborative project with the Victorian Fisheries Authority, The Nature Conservancy Australia and the Royal Albert Park Fishing and Yacht Club (APYAC) to restore oyster and mussel reefs within Port Phillip Bay.
My key interests include the conservation and restoration of these marine habitats, and developing environmental stewardship in the community.


Rituraj Sharma

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I have always been interested in marine science but my passion for conservation and restoration really took hold when I completed my Bachelor of Science at The University of Melbourne in 2017. This led me to pursue my Master of Science (Biosciences) at the university. Kelp forests are currently facing a major risk due to an overabundance of sea urchins. My research focuses on developing methods to block or make sea urchins averse to kelp dominated areas. The goal is to assist restoration efforts by developing ways to protect restored and intact kelp beds from urchin invasions in a less-laborious, cost-effective and ethical manner.




Alexander Coutts

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I’m a masters student at the University of Melbourne with  interests in marine restoration ecology, conservation and molecular biology. My research will help restore oyster reefs and kelp forests in Port Phillip Bay

Oyster reef restoration efforts in Port Phillip are currently hindered by lack of knowledge about the small remaining distribution of the native flat oyster. For kelp forests, controlling the purple sea urchin which is decimating them through overgrazing is proving difficult. Without an efficient means of detecting urchin over-abundance, we often can’t take action until it’s too late.
My project will attempt to overcome these issues by using environmental DNA to detect oyster presence and determine urchin abundance from DNA in sea-water samples. This will allow informed targeting of future restoration efforts.


Fisheries and Aquaculture

Aquaculture Theme Leader: Associate Professor Tim Dempster

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My research career began with larval fish ecology and biological oceanography before shifting towards the ecology of pelagic fish and the effects of fisheries during my PhD at the University of Sydney. During a post-doc at SINTEF Fisheries and Aquaculture, Norway, I began to research the ecological effects of aquaculture. My research interests have now converged to a common theme: basic ecological research, to ensure fishing, aquaculture and other anthropogenic practices are developed and conducted sustainably. While this theme has an applied angle, it draws strongly on fundamental principles of ecological theory.


Webpage . ResearchGate . Google Scholar


Fisheries Theme Leader: Dr John Morrongiello

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I  work in marine and freshwater systems investigating how aquatic organisms, primarily fish, respond to environmental change on contemporary and evolutionary time scales. I am keenly interested in the impacts of, and adaptations to, natural and human-induced flow variability, fishery activity, and environmental change. I ask questions at different levels of biological organisation, ranging from individuals to assemblages, using field-based and experimental techniques.


Webpage . ResearchGate . Google Scholar




Principal Investigator: Dr Fletcher Warren-Myers

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My main research interest focuses around improving and developing sustainable aquaculture for future generations. I received my Doctorate from the University of Melbourne at the end of 2015 and the focus of my PhD research was to develop mass marking techniques for farmed Norwegian Atlantic salmon for the purpose of monitoring the impacts of farm fish escapees. Since then I have been involved with a variety of research projects, such as monitoring pipi populations in South East Victoria; developing a mass marking program for Victorian salmon hatcheries; and undertaking preliminary trials for mass marking farmed Icelandic salmon.  In my current role as a Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne I am involved with developing on-shore sea urchin roe enhancement aquaculture. The purpose of this project is to make use of the overabundant supply of the purple sea urchin (Heliocidaris erythrogramma) on urchin barrens in Port Phillip Bay to further develop the sea urchin roe industry. My role in the project will focus on testing a range of newly developed urchin feeds that may enable the production of high quality urchin roe that is suitable for exporting to international markets year round.

Webpage . ResearchGate . Google Scholar

Principal Investigator: Associate Professor Nick Robinson

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Fish products not only provide high-value protein but are also important sources of a wide range of essential micronutrients such as iron, zinc, and vitamins such as vitamin A. Many countries are struggling to provide enough food for their growing populations. Aquaculture is an efficient way of producing animal protein, can play an important role in reducing poverty and can alleviate pressures on wild fishery stocks. But expansion of aquaculture is often limited by a lack of knowledge about simple farming practices (including feed and feeding) and the availability of good genetic stocks. Areas available for aquaculture are limited, so we need to make the fish and production more efficient so that more of this healthy food source can be produced per unit area.

My research focuses on making fish and shellfish more productive for aquaculture by developing technologies that can be used to speed genetic improvement with selective breeding.

Google Scholar

Juan Manuel Valero Rodriguez

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Coastal activities that involve the discharge of nutrients can result in deleterious environmental impacts, with harmful effects on marine biodiversity. My research focuses on the potential uses of freshwater and marine macroalgae as bioremediation agents. Specifically I am investigating production and competition of local freshwater species and their ability to remove nutrients from wastewater, and exploring the link between nutrient discharges and drift algal production and the environmental costs and benefits of algal drift harvesting for nutrient management.





Theme Leader: Dr Rebecca Morris

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I am a marine ecologist who is broadly interested in solutions-focused research to mitigate human impacts on coastal systems. I received my PhD from The University of Sydney, where my research focused on enhancing biodiversity of algae, invertebrates and fish on and around marine infrastructure (e.g. seawalls) through ecological engineering. Aside from the ecological value of eco-engineered habitats, I am also involved in projects investigating the social values (e.g. of the public and other stakeholders) of these initiatives.

As a Research Fellow at The University of Melbourne, I am continuing the theme of eco-engineering, but from a perspective of using nature-based coastal defence to enhance resilience to hazards exacerbated by climate change, such as erosion and flooding. I am interested in the value of created or restored habitats (e.g. oyster reefs and macroalgal beds) to provide coastal protection, as well as other ecosystem services, in comparison to traditional engineered structures.

ResearchGate  . Google Scholar

Ralph Roob

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I have recently commenced my research program with the University of Melbourne on a part time basis while still employed as an Environmental Engineer with the City of Greater Geelong. My research aims to explore the application of ecological engineering in coastal areas to address coastal hazards in environmentally sensitive areas and asses the benefits of ecosystem services that these approaches may deliver. As part of managing natural resources, in particular coastal areas on the Bellarine Peninsula and Corio Bay my work involves the delivery of capital works some of which aim to address the impacts of coastal hazards that result in erosion and / or landslides. As a key part of my research I will be applying a living shoreline approach by incorporating the establishment of an offshore breakwater in the form of an artificial reef and onshore treatments to stabilise the foreshore and consolidate the primary dune / berm.


Tristan Graham

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I completed a Bachelor of Environmental Engineering at RMIT in 2012 and subsequently worked with a coastal engineering team modelling surface water. My interests are mostly focussed on sustainable practices and minimising human impacts on the environment.

My current research looks at restoration of native kelp forests in southern Australia. Specifically, I am reviewing the services provided by kelp forests, using species distribution models to identify suitable locations for restoration, testing the impacts of surrogate canopies (both natural and artificial) on juvenile kelp recruitment and survival, and developing methods for quantifying scales of kelp spore dispersal.



Sarucha Suebsanguan

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I completed my Bachelor of Environment (Landscape Management) at the University of Melbourne in 2017, and decided to pursue my academic interest further with a Master of Science (Biosciences) degree in 2018. I became interested in mass cultivation methods of brown macroalgae, particularly for ecosystem services and restoration. The first component of my thesis is a literature review on cultivation of macroalgae for environmental benefits. In the second part, I will develop a mass cultivation method for Ecklonia radiata (Common kelp) to use in restoration of Port Phillip Bay. Successful mass cultivation of E. radiata will reduce the dependency of restoration on wild kelp populations. Cultivated kelp is to be used as an alternative supply in transplantation-based restoration.



Luke Adams

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After completing a Bachelor of Science in 2016 at the University of Melbourne, I have returned to pursue a Master of Science (Biosciences) in the field of marine ecology. My project will be focused on using eco-engineering techniques to improve ecosystem function within Wyndham Harbour.

Coastal artificial structures like marinas hinder many ecological and biological processes. By adding habitat complexity and mussels to artificial structures I will attempt to improve ecosystem functions. My research will be some of the first to implement these techniques within marinas in Australia.




Blue Carbon

Theme Leader: Professor Stefan Arndt

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In 1995 I completed an MSc in Biology, Chemistry and Education at the University of Münster in Germany. In 1996 I started a PhD on the ‘Mechanisms of drought tolerance in the tropical fruit tree genus Ziziphus’ at the University of Vienna in Austria with Marianne Popp. After completing the PhD in early 2000 I worked as a postdoc investigating plant adaptations in the Taklamakan desert in China. In 2001 I moved to Australia to work at the University of Western Australia for 18 months on various projects on plant adaptations to environmental stresses. In late 2002 I started at the School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences of the University of Melbourne. I was appointed Senior Research Fellow in 2005, Associate Professor in 2009 and Professor in 2014. In 2008 I was awarded a Visiting Professor position at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and since Juli 2011 I am the Director of the Burnley Campus.

ResearchGate . Google Scholar

Principal Investigator: Dr Ben Fest

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I am an ecosystem ecologist with a strong interest in biogeochemistry. My research over the past few years has centred around nitrous oxide, CO2 and methane exchange in soil and terrestrial forest systems, with a strong focus on methane oxidation processes across the soil profile

Over the last seven years, I have acquired great technical expertise in multiple aspects of soil/ecosystem greenhouse-gas (GHG) exchange research.  This ranges from measuring soil and forest carbon inventories to measuring soil and ecosystem GHG exchange processes and their drivers at different spatial scales (lab incubation studies, manual and automatic chamber systems, eddy covariance).  My research has been mainly concerned with the temporal and spatial variability of GHG exchange and associated processes within and between ecosystems.

As a Research Fellow at the National Centre for Coasts and Climate Change, my research is focussed on how we can improve our understanding of the processes that drive the spatial and temporal variability of carbon accumulation, carbon sequestration and GHG exchange in blue carbon environments (mangroves, saltmarshes, and seagrass beds).

I am especially interested in methods that can help to partition the sources and fates of of carbon that accumulate and pass through blue carbon ecosystems. I am also interested in whether ecological engineering can be used to not only provide erosion control and coastal defense but also to actively trap suspended sediment to reduce turbidity and increase sequestration of sediment-bound carbon in estuaries and bay areas.

Google Scholar

Yang Hu

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I’m a Masters student currently researching the fine root dynamics in the rarely explored temperate mangrove forests (Avicennia marina) in Western Port Bay. While mangroves are known for their invaluable role in coastal protection, water purification and as habitat for wildlife, their role as carbon sinks have recently gained attention. As a large proportion of carbon in mangroves are held underground, my project is exploring the dynamics of their fine roots, studying their contribution to the carbon sequestration capacity of these forests.

My work involves the monitoring of root growth patterns, measuring their turnover rates and comparing traditional harvesting method with in-situ imaging. I am also conducting greenhouse experiments testing the impact of tidal inundation on fine root dynamics.  My project aims to contribute  to improved management advice for combating climate change.



Coastal Erosion

Theme Leader: Dr Teresa Konlechner

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I am a coastal geomorphologist with connections to ecology and conservation management. My research interests lie at the interface of physical geography and ecology with a focus on the response of bio-geomorphic systems to disturbance. My research to date has been largely concerned with dunal and sandy coasts, since the morphology and dynamics of coastal dunes are governed in large part by the distribution, density and growth forms of associated plant communities and species. Recent projects have involved the measurement of aeolian sand transport and deposition over vegetated foredunes, the impact of invasive sand-binding plants on dune morphology and ecology, and the development of methodologies to evaluate the geomorphic success of coastal dune restorations. Current research examines the sensitivity of the Victorian coastline to erosion under future climates.

ResearchGate . Google Scholar

Marita McGuirk

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I am researching the role of vegetation in foredune morphology. I am interested in studying the role of vegetation in mediating erosion on the backshore, as predicted scenarios for climate change include rising sea levels and increased storm events. My study sites are located at Summerland’s Bay on Phillip Island Victoria.








Climate Adaptation

Theme Leader: Professor Jon Barnett

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I am a Professor in the School of Geography at The University of Melbourne, I am a political geographer whose research investigates social impacts and responses to environmental change. My research has helped explain the impacts of climate change on coastal communities, cultures, food security, migration, and water security. I am particularly focused on adaptation solutions that contribute to social justice and peace. I have conducted fieldwork in several Pacific Island Countries, and in Australia, China and Timor-Leste, and co-edit the journal Global Environmental Change.

ResearchGate . Google Scholar