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Our people

Discover the passionate minds driving innovation in our field.

Under the leadership of Director Professor Damien Burrows, our center boasts a diverse community of 150 dedicated researchers and more than 100 post-graduate students. Together, we drive forward groundbreaking research and cultivate the next generation of leaders in our field.

TropWATER researcher and community

Director, TropWATER Founder

Leadership

Professor Burrows is the founding Director of TropWATER, James Cook University’s Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research. With over 22 years of research experience, he specialises in freshwater, estuarine, and coastal ecosystems. He brings TropWATER scientists together, collaborating extensively with industry, community, and government from grassroots to policy level. His leadership drives research on critical environmental issues, providing science-based solutions for managing, protecting, and restoring tropical ecosystems.

Damien Burrows

Damien Burrows
Aaron Davis’ research broadly focuses on catchment water quality in northern Australia, particularly the role of anthropogenic (human) stressors in aquatic communities. One of his key research interests is identifying progressive agricultural practices that offer industry improvements from a natural resource management perspective, while also ensuring the long-term social and economic viability of farming enterprises. Aaron is also interested in better quantifying the temporal and spatial extent of water quality contamination in coastal freshwater and estuarine wetlands, particularly in regard to chronic, sub-lethal exposure to pollutants. Other research interests include landscape ecology in relation to wetland connectivity, and identifying primary production sources for aquatic communities and relationships to flow regime (for instance, dietary and isotopic ecology). Aaron’s research interests also span fish ecology, particularly size-related trophic ecology, and the evolutionary processes influencing the present-day Australasian fish fauna. This includes the biogeographic, phylogenetic and paleoecological drivers that have shaped the unique contemporary fish assemblage structure seen in Australian freshwaters.

Principal Research Officer

Aaron Davis

Our people
Abbi Scott moved to Australia in 2016 to pursue a passion for seagrass ecology after working on seagrasses, rocky shore ecology and citizen science projects in the UK. Abbi completed her PhD with the TropWATER seagrass ecology team in 2021, with her research examining how herbivores structure seagrass meadows on the Great Barrier Reef and how this could affect the delivery of ecosystem services by seagrasses. The focus was on the herbivore community as a whole, from large herbivores such as dugongs and turtles to small mesograzers, to quantify their impact on meadow structure. Understanding the role of plant-herbivore interactions in structuring seagrass meadows and modifying seagrass ecosystem service delivery is key to managing and conserving both seagrass meadows and herbivore populations in the future. Abbi currently works on research in seagrass herbivory, monitoring and restoration and coordinates the Cairns Port Douglas Reef Hub. Abbi is also an enthusiastic science communicator who has made regular contributions to illuminate the wonders of marine life and science on ABC radio. She also shares her knowledge via seminars targeted at various audiences, and through her blog.

Research Officer

Abbi Scott

Our people
Adam’s interests lie in investigating nature-based solutions to have a productive agricultural landscape within ecologically healthy catchments that support high water security. He has experience in using network modelling to better under the flow of nutrients (carbon and nitrogen) through catchments and aquatic ecosystems, species distribution modelling, catchment land use planning, sports fish and game bird management, and the interface between freshwater science and policy/planning. At present, he is on working on how wetlands and regenerative actions can be incorporated into our landscapes to increase food production, improve water quality or buffer against climate change.

Senior Research Officer

Adam Canning

Our people
Alexandra Carter’s research focuses on the ecology, conservation and assessment of coastal environments; in particular, large-scale ecosystem processes in northern Australia involving seagrass, coral, fish communities, turtle and dugong. Prior to commencing at James Cook University, she was employed as a scientist at Queensland Fisheries. She completed her PhD on spatial variation in reproductive biology for common coral trout (Plectropomus leopardus), and the role of marine reserves as a potential fisheries management tool for this species on the Great Barrier Reef. Alex leads a variety of projects and collaborations with diverse stakeholders and funding agencies, including all levels of government, other universities, industry, Traditional Owners, rangers, citizen scientists, and community groups. Some of her current work includes conducting large-scale marine habitat mapping across northern Australia, habitat and species modelling, and quantifying habitat use by species with significant cultural, ecological, conservation and economic importance. Alex is also involved in developing and implementing environmental condition report cards; working with rangers and Traditional Owners to expand seagrass and fish research and monitoring; and coral restoration.

Principal Research Officer

Alex Carter

Our people
Amrit's research experience is as a coastal marine ecologist, assessing coastal biogeochemistry of marine habitats of tropical marine ecosystems. His areas of specialisation coincide with coastal marine macrophyte (i.e., seagrass, saltmarsh, macroalgae) ecology and the biogeochemical processes that governs the functioning of these coastal ecosystems. Currently in TropWATER, Amrit is working on wetland restoration of the Queensland coast. His previous research experience includes coastal trace metal pollution monitoring through the use of seagrass and saltmarsh ecosystems as models. Secondly, he is also interested in climate change mitigation capacity of these coastal ecosystems through organic carbon, i.e., blue carbon sequestration and storage and how these ecosystem services can be utilised for conservation and management of coastal ecosystems. Amrit is also working on the impacts of ocean acidification on seagrass ecosystems and associated biodiversity for the Indian Ocean Region. His research also aims to understand the role of seascape connectivity in influencing climate change mitigation (both Carbon sequestration and ocean acidification) and adaptation strategies of coastal ecosystems and its associated biodiversity. His aim is to link the outcomes of his research to various Sustainable Development Goals. As an early career researcher, Amrit is aiming to generate new data on existing knowledge gaps on coastal ecology and high-quality science in partnership with government, and external funding agencies.

Senior Research Officer

Amrit Kumar Mishra

Our people
April Hall is a senior research officer at TropWATER with broad interests in coral reef fish ecology and a particular focus on marine parks management and conservation of coral reef fish communities. April’s current research is centred on monitoring fish communities and associated benthic habitats on inshore fringing coral reef habitats of the Great Barrier Reef. April is a specialist in identifying and quantifying reef fishes, and is part of a team delivering a broad-scale integrated monitoring program for fishes on inshore reefs. In collaboration with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, in 2022 April completed an Advance Queensland Postdoctoral Research Fellowship examining the contribution of partially protected conservation park (yellow) zones to biodiversity conservation in the Marine Park. This project built on her PhD research (2015) about the importance of predatory fishes on reefs and the trophic impacts of predator removals on coral reef fish communities. The fellowship provided novel data on the contribution of yellow zones to conservation and management of reef fishes on the Great Barrier Reef. April has worked collaboratively on a range of projects in Australia and the Indo-Pacific, including examining spatial and temporal trends in coral trout abundance, evaluating outcomes from locally managed marine reserves in Fiji and Solomon Islands, and investigating the demographics and reproductive biology of reef fishes.

Senior Research Officer

April Hall

Our people
Barry is a limnological consultant with more than thirty years experience studying the relationships between ambient water quality, ecological health and anthropogenic pressures in the freshwater ecosystems of northern Australia. Since joining the current research group at TropWATER (formerly the Australian Centre for Tropical Freshwater Research) in 1990 he has participated in numerous interdisciplinary contract research and consultancy projects for government agencies, resource managers, and industrial clients such as mines and refineries, and has authored in excess of 150 environmental monitoring reports for submission to State and Federal regulatory authorities.

Principal Research Officer

Barry Butler

Our people
With a fervent commitment to advancing environmental science and water resources engineering, Ben brings a wealth of professional and research excellence to James Cook University. As a seasoned hydrologist and water engineer with over 25 years of industry experience, his expertise spans Environmental Earth Science, Water Resources Engineering, Catchment and Coastal Processes, and Environmental Modelling. Armed with a PhD in Hydrological Science from the University of Queensland and dual master's degrees in Water Resources Engineering and Remote Sensing/GIS, Ben possesses a robust educational foundation in environmental modelling. His multifaceted career has seen him successfully navigate diverse multidisciplinary research projects, utilising advanced modeling skills and spatial analysis. In addition to his research prowess, he has demonstrated a dedication to education, delivering courses on Hydrology, Natural Hazards, Geomorphology, Remote Sensing, and GIS at undergraduate and master's levels. Ben has actively mentored students and supervised numerous PhD and Honours candidates, showcasing his commitment to knowledge dissemination. His interests include water resources management and engineering, watershed management and water quality modelling, environmental modelling (including hydrological and hydrodynamic modelling), hydroinformatics, flood risk assessment and mitigation, water-energy-food nexus, ecohydrology, remote sensing applications in hydrology, natural disasters and resilience to climate extremes, and soil and gully erosion modelling and mapping.

Principal Research Officer

Ben Jarihani

Our people
Ebb is an ecologist with expertise in aquatic conservation. His primary interest is at the interface between society and aquatic fauna in freshwater and near shore marine ecosystems. He champions the application of direct observation and remote video for studying freshwater fishes and this has led to new insights into behaviour of rare and threatened species. This exploration has led to detection of species not previously known to occupy Australian waters and the conservation listing of species. Ebb provides key input to regional, state and national conservation planning in tropical Australia.

Senior Research Officer

Brendan Ebner

Our people
Carissa's role as a Research Officer with James Cook University TropWATER involves studying and researching various aspects of seagrass ecosystems. As a project manager of various statewide monitoring programs, her work revolves around understanding seagrass ecosystems, their ecological significance and their interactions with other organisms and the environment. Monitoring and assessment projects involve regularly monitoring seagrass meadows to assess condition, growth patterns, reproductive strategies and adaptations to different environmental conditions. Another important role is conducting research to gain a comprehensive understanding of seagrass biology, ecology and physiology and investigating the impacts of human activities on seagrass ecosystems and evaluating the effects of restoration and mitigation efforts. She graduated from James Cook University in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science majoring in Zoology and began her science career working with Queensland Government in the Fisheries assessment and monitoring program as a Fisheries Technician. She rapidly enhanced her skills during various roles and acquired the position of Fisheries Biologist before transferring to James Cook University in a similar role as a Research Officer in 2012.

Research Officer

Carissa Reason

Our people
Caroline Petus is originally from the south-western coast of France.  She completed her PhD (2009) at the University of Bordeaux (France) and moved to Australia in 2010. Caroline is interested in how Earth observation sciences can contribute to the conservation of natural resources. Her research focus on monitoring marine environments conditions and trends through the integration of in-situ and satellite data and on translating these spatial data into relevant information for management. One key focus is the monitoring of water quality, including the mapping of riverine plumes and land-sourced contaminants transport and the assessment of marine habitats exposure and risk to flood waters (seagrasses and coral reefs). Caroline loves showcasing satellite images to support scientific stories and is passionate about promoting and facilitating the use of Earth observation technologies in marine conservation. Caroline has 10 years of experience working in the Oceania region through TropWATER and is currently one of the principal investigators for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority project Reef Rescue Marine Monitoring Program ($4,340,656 over 11 years). Caroline was also an investigator in water quality and seagrass projects for the Department of the Environment, and for multidisciplinary research and monitoring projects in Australia and overseas.

Senior Research Officer

Caroline Petus

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Cassie James is an experienced aquatic ecologist with a research interest in riparian and wetland vegetation.  She specialises in using information technologies and GIS to collate, manage and analyse data and support ecological research. Cassie completed a Bachelor of Science in plant biology at the University of Wales, Bangor, before transitioning to Liverpool University to complete a PhD in 1999 investigating the dynamics of invasive aquatic plants. Following stints working in the Murray Darling Basin, China and south-east Queensland, Cassie moved to Townsville in 2012 to work on identifying climate refuges for freshwater biodiversity, joining TropWATER in 2013. Some of Cassie’s recent projects include conducting a review of water quality monitoring and evaluation for dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN)-focused projects for the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, and managing the long-standing ambient monitoring for Defence at the Townsville Field Training Area. She has also been involved in a Queensland Department of Environment and Science project, compiling extensive historical water quality data into a single database that will be available to all researchers, modellers and end-users working in the Great Barrier Reef catchment area.

Senior Research Scientist

Cassandra James

Our people
Catherine’s research broadly focuses on the ecology and conservation of coastal marine habitats, in particular tropical seagrass meadows. She is interested in what drives natural changes in seagrass meadows and how this information can be used to detect and minimise anthropogenic impacts to valuable seagrass resources. Her recent research is primarily concerned with the conservation of seagrasses at risk from impacts associated with coastal developments including large scale dredging campaigns. Other research interests include the productivity of tropical seagrass ecosystems, the resilience of seagrasses to disturbance and the role of seed banks and other reproductive mechanisms in recovery.

Casual Senior Research Officer

Catherine Bryant

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Catherine Collier is broadly interested in coastal marine ecology, with a particular emphasis on seagrass eco-physiology and ecology. Her current work is focused on flood impacts to seagrasses. This research focus was triggered following record floods in 2011, which saw widespread loss of seagrass throughout Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef. Catherine aims to further knowledge about tropical seagrass ecology and to contribute to protecting seagrass meadows in regions where livelihoods are particularly dependant on vibrant coastal systems. A particular feature of Catherine’s work is using experimental techniques to address targeted questions about seagrass health and resilience. This approach focuses on both the risks and impacts to seagrass habitat from local scale stressors such as water quality, and on the prospective changes to seagrass ecosystems from rising temperature and ocean acidification. Catherine collaborates with diverse teams of scientists and managers, and is involved in contributing to long-term seagrass habitat monitoring in the GBR through the Paddock to Reef Marine Monitoring Program, which is used to track progress towards meeting the targets and objectives of the Reef 2050 Plan.

Principal Research Officer

Catherine Collier

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Cecilia Villacorta Rath is passionate about using genetic tools towards the sustainable management of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Cecilia is currently leading multiple projects using environmental DNA (eDNA) methods for biosecurity and conservation purposes and is also trialling field methods and conducting laboratory experiments testing the persistence and detectability of eDNA in an array of species of conservation and management concern. Cecilia’s work focuses on answering the questions that end-users want to address. She works in close collaboration with government agencies, Traditional Owners, consultancy companies, and community groups. Cecilia has previously worked across a wide variety of research topics, ranging from larval fish and seagrass ecology to invertebrate genomics. At James Cook University Cecilia pursued a Master of Science in Marine Biology and then worked for the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation of Queensland conducting seagrass monitoring along the northern and central Queensland coast. After spending some time in the tropics, Cecilia moved to Hobart to start a PhD at the University of Tasmania. Using next generation sequencing (NGS), she investigated the genetic connectivity of the southern rock lobster in south-east Australia to inform fisheries management.

Senior Research Officer

Cecilia Villacorta-Rath

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Chris Cleguer is a research scientist at TropWATER and leader of dugong research at James Cook University (JCU) in Australia. Chris also acts as international advisor to the United Nations’ Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) Memorandum of Understanding on the conservation and management of dugongs and seagrass habitats throughout their range. Chris has broad research interests in marine mammal population assessments, spatial ecology and conservation. His current research focuses on dugong, with Chris’ research team developing novel approaches to assess dugong abundance, health, distribution, behaviour and habitat use. This work uses aerial imagery, drones, biologging, and AI. As a strong advocate of research partnerships with First Nations people, Chris has worked with Indigenous communities across northern Australia, the Pacific-Island region, and in south-east Asia. Chris also develops training programs to upskill Indigenous land and sea rangers, local NGOs, and citizens to conduct their own monitoring studies. He works closely with state and federal governments in Australia and abroad to share the latest knowledge about dugong populations and ecology to inform management. After completing his PhD in 2015, Chris worked in Western Australia to develop methods using drones to map dugongs at the local scale, before returning to JCU in 2022.

Senior Research Officer

Christophe Cleguer

Our people
Wildlife veterinary consultant with a passion for marine wildlife and environmental health.

Casual Research Officer

Erina Young

Our people
Eva McClure is a senior research officer at TropWATER. She completed a Bachelor of Marine Studies at the University of Queensland (UQ) in 2007, graduating with first class honours for her project on colour signalling in nudibranchs. After working as a research assistant for UQ gaining experience in scientific diving and field work across the Great Barrier Reef, Moreton Bay (south-east Queensland), and the Coral Sea, Eva travelled overseas to South America and the Philippines, where she honed her skills in fish survey techniques and completed Dive Master training. Eva returned to Australia and completed her PhD. She worked at James Cook University’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies until 2022. At TropWATER, one of Eva’s main projects is the Coral Sea Bright Spot Reef Health and Resilience Survey (2022-24), which is investigating coral bleaching in shallow reefs in the Coral Sea Marine Park. The research team are using surveys of benthic, fish and invertebrate communities to assess the ongoing effects and potential recovery from back-to-back bleaching events.

Senior Research Officer

Eva McClure

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Gemma Gailbraith completed her PhD at James Cook University in 2021.  Her research explored the ecology of reef fishes on submerged seamount and pinnacle coral reefs. Before this, Gemma completed a Master of Science in marine environmental management and spent time working in the South Pacific, Caribbean and south-east Asia. Broadly, Gemma is interested in combining community ecology and emerging technologies to study remote and distinct coral reef habitats and to understand how understudied marine ecosystems are connected to the wider seascape. As a senior research officer at TropWATER, Gemma’s key focus is conducting reef fish surveys across the inshore island groups of the Great Barrier Reef as part of the IMR Reef Fish Monitoring Project. Gemma’s past research efforts have included using remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and remote video technologies to investigate deep and distinct coral reefs in Papua New Guinea and the Coral Sea, and investigating connectivity between marine reserves on the Great Barrier Reef. This work was conducted at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies as a postdoctoral research associate.

Senior Research Officer

Gemma Galbraith

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Helene Marsh is a conservation biologist with > 40 years’ experience in research into species conservation, management and policy with particular reference to tropical coastal megafauna. Helene was awarded an Order of Australia for this work. She is a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, and her research has been recognised by awards from the Pew Foundation, the Society for Conservation Biology, the American Society of Mammalogists, the Society for Marine Mammalogy and the Australian Marine Science Association. The policy outcomes of her research include significant contributions to the science base of the conservation of dugongs in Australia and internationally (IUCN, UNEP, Convention for Migratory Species) and through advising the governments of some 14 countries. Helene is the cross-hub lead for the Threatened and Migratory Species and Threatened Ecological Communities for the National Environmental Science Program (NESP). She chaired the Australian Threatened Species Scientific Committee from 2022–2023, was Vice President and the Secretary Biological Sciences of the Australian Academy of Science 2019-2023) and was a member of the Australian delegation to the World Heritage Committee 2018–2021. She is currently a member of the Independent Expert Panel for the Great Barrier Reef 2050 Plan and on the editorial boards of Conservation Biology, Endangered Species Research and Oecologia. Helene is proud of the accomplishments of the 62 PhD candidates that she has supervised to graduation, all of whom have taught her a lot.

Emeritius Professor

Helene Marsh

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Dr Jack Koci is a Senior Research Officer at the Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER), with over ten years’ experience working across university, government, and industry. Jack is committed to working collaboratively with community, industry, and government to deliver innovative and science-based solutions to challenges affecting agricultural and rangeland productivity, while preserving the health and function of natural landscapes, waterways, and biodiversity. Jack’s research is primarily focused on improving understanding of the causes, processes, impacts and management of land degradation in tropical agro-ecosystems. In this research, Jack combines detailed on-ground field studies, including soil, water, and vegetation monitoring, mapping and modelling, with broader scale remote sensing, including the use of drones and satellites. Prior to joining TropWATER, Jack worked as a Lecturer in the College of Science Engineering at James Cook University, Research Fellow at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Field Scientist at Seqwater, and Project Officer at the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

Senior Research Officer

Jack Koci

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Jane is a born Queenslander. She completed her MSc (1990) and PhD (2003) both at James Cook University. Her PhD research investigated the sediment and nutrient dynamics in coastal intertidal seagrass habitat of North Eastern Tropical Australia. Jane’s broad research interests encompass all aspects of seagrass habitat: taxonomy, plant nutrient requirements, population genetics, plant-animals interactions, and educating and training citizen scientists to monitor this marine resource.

Casual Senior Research Officer

Jane Mellors

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Jane is an environmental scientist with 26 years’ experience in Great Barrier Reef ‘catchment to reef’ water quality science and management. She specialises in the synthesis of scientific information to inform management decisions, reflected by her coordination or lead role in the 2008, 2013, 2017 and 2022 Scientific Consensus Statements. She has also been involved in several research projects involving water quality monitoring, modelling and analysis in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait and has led the inshore water quality monitoring component of the Marine Monitoring Program at TropWATER since 2015. Jane has worked on several projects to guide government investment including development of end-of-catchment pollutant load reduction targets, assessment of the risk of water quality to sensitive ecosystems to guide spatial priorities, and coordination and input to several regional Water Quality Improvement Plans. She is an advisor to the Reef Trust Partnership Water Quality Program and is a member of several committees including the Reef 2050 Independent Expert Panel, the Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership Independent Science Panel and the Reef Credits Technical Advisory Committee.

Senior Research Officer

Jane Waterhouse

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Dr Katie Chartrand has 20 years of expertise spanning tropical coral and seagrass ecosystems, photobiology, spatial analysis, and mapping. Katie's extensive research background has influenced the management and compliance of large-scale dredging programs. Katie’s research also extends to monitoring at-risk habitats, particularly inshore coral reefs and seagrass, while leading multiple applied research programs focused on replenishing high value marine ecosystems in a highly collaborative framework. Katie's passion has centred on building authentic partnerships with First Nations communities and tourism operators on the Great Barrier Reef. Her initiatives include the Great Reef Census, a citizen science-based monitoring program, Mars Reef Stars for rubble stabilization and repair, and coral larval delivery at targeted reef locations. These initiatives drive localised and scalable outcomes, anchored in partnerships spanning various sectors, including ports, indigenous rangers, tourism, and citizen science, complementing traditional government bodies such as the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science. Katie's overarching philosophy is to forge strong partnerships, using interdisciplinary networks to support scalable research strategies and conservation science. Through this approach, she is dedicated to advancing the science and management of reef and coastal assets. Katie’s research offers solutions that are making a tangible and positive impact on the preservation and resilience of our vital marine ecosystems.

Senior Research Fellow

Katie Chartrand

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Katie grew up in the North of England, spending most of her free-time living abroad and diving the world’s oceans. She graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2012 with a BSc in Geography and took to the skies once more, dreaming of diving and studying on the Great Barrier Reef. In 2014 Katie obtained her MSc in Marine Biology & Ecology at James Cook University, investigating the capacity for thermal developmental acclimation in three tropical wrasse species. After spending two years working in various research positions: as a research assistant for Prof. Philip Munday; as a Research Projects Officer with CSIRO in Brisbane; and researching the effects of Cyclone Winston on coral reefs in Fiji, Katie returned to her academic nest at JCU to begin her next adventure. Under the supervision of Dr. Andrew Hoey and Dr. Kate Hutson, Katie’s PhD looks at the effects of coral reef condition and disturbance on the parasite communities infecting herbivorous fish on the Great Barrier Reef.

Casual Research Worker

Katie Motson

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Len McKenzie has over 20 years’ experience as a research scientist on seagrass ecology, assessment and fisheries habitats. This includes experience within Australia and overseas in seagrass research, resource mapping/assessment and biodiversity. Len is interested in the relationship between seagrass and associated fauna, the impacts of declining water quality, and climate change. He has provided information about seagrass communities that has been vital in management of seagrass resources of the Great Barrier Reef, and at the state, national and international levels. Len has also advised about fisheries and coastal resource-use issues for managers, fishing organisations, conservation and community groups. He is the principal researcher and program leader of Seagrass-Watch, a non-profit seagrass research organisation that conducts research is 17 countries. Len is also the secretary of the World Seagrass Association. One of Len’s recent projects is investigating spatial and temporal trends in the health of GBR inshore seagrass meadows in relation to water quality, which includes identifying areas of seagrass that have been significantly impacted by flood plumes.

Principal Research Officer

Len McKenzie

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Maya Srinivasan is an experienced researcher in the field of coral reef ecology with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry. She is skilled in Marine Research Design, Lecturing, Conservation Issues, and Scientific Writing. Maya is a strong research professional with a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) focused in Spatial and Temporal Patterns of Reef Fish Recruitment from James Cook University and is currently running a monitoring program on inshore islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

Principal Research Officer

Maya Srinivasan

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Mike Rasheed has been researching tropical marine habitats, with a focus on seagrass ecology, since the early1990s. He has a Bachelor of Science in zoology and ecology, an Honours degree from Flinders University and was awarded a PhD from James Cook University for research investigating recovery and succession in tropical seagrass communities. Mike is passionate about finding science-based solutions to support marine habitat management efforts. As seagrass ecology lab leader, he has built a team to focus on researching the relationship between coastal development and risk, which has significantly impacted the way seagrass and fish habitats are managed and protected. The results of these endeavours have led to advances in the field of seagrass ecology and have also changed practices within coastal development, ports and shipping industries, and improved the ability of regulators and managers to protect marine habitats.

Principal Research Scientist

Michael Rasheed

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Dr Mohammad Jahanbakht is an innovative software engineer with diverse skills and interests from code development and numerical modelling to web programming and cloud technologies, and further to data science and machine intelligence. In addition to computer sciences, Mohammad has a rich background in the simulation and design of electronic, electromagnetic, antenna, and microwave technologies. The interdisciplinary research background has allowed Mohammad to participate in many research-based, as well as industrial-scale projects, including environmental studies, maritime research, and biodiversity monitoring. Some of his research topics include: Marine environmental parameters estimation and forecasting. Edge processing of underwater image and video data. Maritime, as well as wetland biodiversity monitoring with both the IP cameras and aerial images. AI-powered land studies in drone surveys and remote sensing. Cloud-based database design and implementation.

Research Officer

Mohammad Jahanbakht

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Mélanie is a dynamic conservation scientist with a broad expertise. She currently supports research for a NESP initiative on Australia's threatened and migratory species and threatened ecological communities, and several projects within the Dugong Research Group. A key goal of her work is providing a strong evidence base for informing the management of coastal and terrestrial ecosystems in a range of socio-ecological contexts. She uses and develops approaches that integrate multi-disciplinary data with a combination of tools such as geographic information systems, reserve design algorithms, and programming. A lot of her work focuses on coastal and marine environments in the Pacific Islands, but she is also involved in various projects on threatened species (including marine megafauna) ecology, management/conservation and monitoring in other parts of the world.

Research Officer

Mélanie Hamel

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Nathan has a deep interest in coastal landscape ecology and urbanisation, which has developed growing up on the Gold Coast in southeast Queensland, Australia. He completed a BSc in Marine Biology/Aquaculture in 1997 at Southern Cross University (Lismore) and post graduate studies in environmental management at Griffith University in 2001. Nathan has worked in local government (Gold Coast City Council) for 13 years. His PhD research investigated the habitat, role and value of artificial urban waterways (residential canal estates), which are an obvious and major feature of the worlds’ estuaries. Nathan’s research interests include ecosystem responses (freshwater, marine and estuarine) to urbanisation and landscape change, ecosystem health assessment, fish ecology, water quality, and modelling optimal mitigation responses to protect and enhance waterways and catchments.

Senior Principal Research Officer

Nathan Waltham

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Norman C Duke (MSc, PhD) is a mangrove ecologist with 50 years’ experience.  During this time, he has become a specialist in global mangrove floristics, biogeography, climate change adaptation, vegetation mapping, pollution and coastal habitat condition assessments. Before James Cook University, Norm gathered experience at the University of Queensland, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, where he developed his further specialist knowledge of the fate and impact of large oil spills on mangrove forests. He has since expanded this knowledge to include the damage, recovery and consequences on mangrove ecosystems of a variety of impacting agents including herbicides, severe tropical cyclones, and extreme changes in sea level and climate. With a particular interest in northern Australia because of the diverse set of topographic, environmental and climatic conditions, Norm currently leads an active research group on marine tidal wetlands at TropWATER. He regularly conducts exploratory research investigations and provides managers with effective monitoring and mitigation of disturbed and damaged tidal wetland ecosystems. Norm has published more than 280 articles and technical reports, including his authoritative book Australia’s Mangroves (2006), and has developed a smart device app for the identification of all mangrove species in the world. Norm heads the JCU Mangrove Hub and not-for-profit community-science partnership called MangroveWatch.

Senior Research Scientist

Norm Duke

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Paul York is a marine and estuarine ecologist who has worked extensively in benthic communities and particularly seagrass ecosystems. Paul completed his PhD in marine biology at The University of Technology, Sydney, in 2011. His research interests include seagrass food webs, invasive species, seagrass genetics, resilience, reproductive and population biology. He has also worked on soft sediment faunal communities and rocky shore ecology in both Australia and South America. Most recently, Paul has been working with Mandubarra Land and Sea Rangers on their sea country at Kurrimine Beach/King Reef to co-design and implement a habitat mapping program as part of a Healing Country Partnership. He has also been involved with research for the Queensland Department of Environment and Science mapping seagrass meadows across Hervey Bay to provide a condition update following the 2022 floods. A current focus for Paul is identifying, refining and implementing restoration methods for tropical seagrass species. This includes a combination of research through an ARC linkage project partnering with port management bodies, and a large-scale planting project in the Great Barrier Reef and Cocos Keeling Islands.

Senior Research Officer

Paul York

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Paula is a multi-disciplinary scientist specialising in marine and aquatic ecosystems. Her current research includes: 1) analysing spectral light wavelengths reaching benthic habitats (seagrasses, coral reefs) under changing metocean conditions and catchment pollutants; 2) investigating the impacts of urban/industrial and agricultural terrestrial activities on the northern Australian coastal water quality; 3) understanding the ecology of temporary waterholes across northern Australia and the potential effects of changes to the environmental water regime; and, 4) analysing current and historical satellite imagery to define distribution of freshwater river plumes for sediment and nutrients over northern Australian, and their relationship to river flow to examine future plume extent under future development and climate scenarios. Previously Paula has examined oceanic properties (physical, chemical, and biological) and quantified their relationship to climatic processes such as El-Nino Southern Oscillation and Indian Ocean Dipole events, as well as regional synoptic influences; developed algorithms for detecting marine sediment plumes and provided ‘toolkits’ for managers to monitor water quality from river outflow, conducted research in marine benthic ecology using remotely operated video and applied climate modelling techniques to quantify impacts of changing climate processes on coastal water quality.

Research Officer

Paula Cartwright

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Richard was employed at JCU as Senior Tutor in Zoology in 1974, eventually becoming Professor in 1999. He was successful in his 1988 funding application to the federal government to establish the Australian Centre for Tropical Freshwater Research (ACTFR, now TropWATER) and became its Deputy Director, moving to Director in the mid-90s. He was appointed as Head of the new School of Tropical Biology in 1999 and subsequently relinquished the directorship of the ACTFR. During this time, he continued to teach, supervise postgraduate students and undertake research, for which he had continuous funding from several sources. Richard initially investigated the effects of river pollution by sugar mills, followed by projects associated with the sugar industry and Cooperative Research Centres for Rainforest Management and the Great Barrier Reef. For the rainforest CRC he investigated the ecology of pristine tropical streams and continued that work beyond retirement in an international programme on stream ecology. He led the original joint CRC Catchment to Reef programme, and he worked for several years on the ecology of the Burdekin River. Richard has authored at least 70 technical reports and over 160 refereed journal papers and book chapters. He supervised more than 70 postgraduate students. He continues to collaborate with TropWATER staff and others, and to write up his and his students’ research results.

Emeritus Professor

Richard Pearson

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Rob has a Bachelor of Science in zoology, an Honours degree (first class) in entomology, and a PhD in fisheries from the University of Queensland. He has worked as an entomologist, a fisheries scientist, a fisheries manager in the Torres Strait, an environment and regional manager for the Queensland government, and as a seagrass scientist and research administrator. Rob has a history of promoting seagrass and coastal management research in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world and was the founding secretary of the World Seagrass Association. Some of Rob’s recent work has seen him study the connectivity among seagrass meadows and how this may influence management approaches. He has also been part of a team that has recompiled and revalidated Australian seagrass data extending back to the early 1980s with the aim to provide a publically available and reliable data set. His recent research and environment management focus has been to engage with northern Australian Traditional Owner groups in collaboration with seagrass and dugong expert colleagues from James Cook University and Charles Darwin University. This approach responds to concerns about threats and reduced resilience in the coastal environment. It addresses knowledge gaps about dugongs and seagrasses that are critical to Traditional Owners’ cultural identity and traditional values.

Principal Research Scientist

Rob Coles

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Samantha is an ecologist dedicated to unravelling the intricacies of marine ecosystems. Presently, her research encompasses seagrass and algal ecology. She has led investigations mapping benthic habitats within the Coral Sea Marine Park's deepwater lagoons, providing critical insights for habitat preservation and marine management. Simultaneously, her postdoctoral pursuits concentrate on pioneering environmental DNA (eDNA) techniques to detect Yellow Crazy Ants and their eDNA degradation, offering promising pathways for biosecurity enhancement. Samantha’s journey began with the Seagrass Ecology Team at TropWATER since 2012, contributing to coastal seagrass monitoring for industrial sectors. In 2021, she successfully completed her PhD, studying the complex dispersal mechanisms of tropical seagrass, notably emphasizing the influential roles of dugongs and green sea turtles. This research has provided insight for conservation strategies, through emphasizing the crucial interplay between species interactions and ecosystem health. Overall, Samantha's research is marked by a dedicated commitment to bridging academic exploration and practical applicability. Her work provides a synergy between theoretical insight and real-world impact, contributing to the preservation of marine environments and advancing the boundaries of ecological understanding.

Senior Research Officer

Samantha Tol

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Severine Choukroun is a physical oceanographer and biophysical modeller with a background in marine science. Severine has developped hydrodynamic models models for understanding and predicting ecological processes – like how marine life moves in ocean currents – and understanding how physical and biological processes influence marine population connectivity and persistence. She has significant experience in conducting observational and modelling research on coastal and shelf dynamics, coupled with biophysical modelling that integrates complex early life behaviour. Severine’s recent activities include work with crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS), including a project with CSIRO to develop information infrastructure to better share modelled data between stakeholders involved in COTS control. This will improve data-sharing reliability and efficiency, while aligning with the broader infrastructures already being created through other programs. Severine is also studying patterns of COTS outbreaks on the Great Barrier Reef by tracking larval spread via ocean currents. Understanding, measuring and predicting how larvae are dispersed is vital to both modelling COTS outbreaks on the GBR and controlling those outbreaks effectively.

Research Associate

Severine Choukroun

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Shelley (Michelle) Templeman’s research is broadly focused on understanding the impacts of pollutants and contaminants in tropical aquatic ecosystems, as well as developing more suitable ecological monitoring tools to measure and mitigate pollutant impacts. A childhood spent on cattle properties in central Australia may seem like an unlikely foundation for an aquatic scientist, however this experience provided Shelley with some early insights into the important interactions and impacts between humans and the environment. Since leaving school she has completed a range of undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications across Australia, mostly while performing several scientific roles in northern Australia, Indonesia and Antarctica. Shelley’s studies culminated in a PhD at James Cook University in 2012, investigating the bioindicator potential of jellyfishes to metal pollution. Her more recent research is focused on macroinvertebrate taxonomy and biological monitoring at Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory. Also, she is working with a north Queensland local council as an environmental specialist to help support the internal team to achieve sustainable outcomes for the community.

Principal Research Officer

Shelley Templeman

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Sigit Sasmito is a wetlands ecologist who has more than 12 years of experience in researching to assess the roles and impacts of tropical wetlands for climate change mitigation and adaptation, especially through peatland and blue carbon ecosystems. His research interests focus on carbon monitoring, greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory, ecosystem restoration assessment and natural carbon capture and removal. He uses multiple approaches such as systematic review and meta-analysis, spatial mapping and field assessment. His works are closely relevant to policies and decision-makers, specifically by providing science-based evidence on how to include wetlands conservation and restoration into national emissions reduction targets. He holds a PhD in Environmental Science from Charles Darwin University, Australia and a BSc in Applied Meteorology from IPB University, Indonesia. He has previous extensive research collaboration experiences at the National University of Singapore and CIFOR-ICRAF in Indonesia. Sigit is an active member of Science Technical Working Group for UN Global Ocean Decade Programme for Blue Carbon (GO-BC).

Senior Research Officer

Sigit Deni Sasmito

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Skye McKenna completed a Bachelor of Science and an Honours degree in the field of marine biology and zoology at James Cook University. Her Honours research investigated invertebrates, namely, the Asian green mussel. This led to work with the Queensland Government and its marine pest program, and then onto working with the Queensland Fisheries Marine Ecology Group, with a focus on seagrass research and monitoring across the state. Skye has worked in the Cairns TropWATER team since 2012 across various research and monitoring projects. Her research is focused on tropical seagrass ecology and conservation, including implementing science and community-based solutions to assist with managing these important marine habitats. In her current role as a senior member and project leader/manager of the team, Skye is responsible for several state-wide seagrass habitat research, assessment, and monitoring programs. This work includes research and monitoring as part of a partnership between JCU and North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation to assess marine environmental health within ports. This project also supports related research and education opportunities for undergraduate and postgraduate students in seagrass and coral ecology, along with applied management in the ports industry.

Senior Research Officer

Skye McKenna

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Stephen Lewis is a geochemist who focuses primarily on water quality in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) catchment area and lagoon, including evaluating the sources, transport and risks of various pollutants in freshwater, estuarine and marine ecosystems. A Townsville original, Stephen completed a Bachelor of Science (Hons) and PhD in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at James Cook University in 2000 and 2005, respectively. Stephen’s work includes examining water quality issues for a variety of land use types – including agriculture, industry and urban – and considering potential improvements that can be made to reduce runoff to receiving ecosystems. This is achieved through a combination of various monitoring and modelling activities. Some of these include the Paddock to Reef Program and the Reef Rescue Marine Monitoring Program, which span paddock, tributaries, river catchments and GBR lagoon. Other research interests include examining sea-level change on the east coast of Australia over the past 20,000 years and the development and growth of fringing reefs in the GBR. Stephen’s work also explores the use of trace elements and stable isotopes in coral core records to investigate changes in water quality since the time of European settlement in north Queensland (c.1850).

Principal Research Officer

Stephen Lewis

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Tim Smith is a marine ecologist with a background in seagrass and fisheries ecology.  His research largely focuses on seagrass resilience and restoration, fisheries contribution and connectivity. Tim completed his PhD at the University of Melbourne in 2010 on the effects of seagrass landscape on fish assemblages and maintained a broad interest in seagrass habitats. Tim has received funding from industry and government for projects that aim to understand fisheries and aquaculture practices to improve efficiency and reduce bycatch, investigate the impacts of herbivory on seagrass ecosystems, and is involved in mapping and monitoring seagrass habitats throughout North Queensland Ports. Tim has conducted research at institutes across the world, including Chile, Spain and France, and has worked in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. More recently, Tim has been monitoring fish community in nearshore habitats using underwater video to better understand fish connectivity in the Great Barrier Reef. This is in collaboration with researchers at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and the University of Sunshine Coast, and with Traditional Owners and rangers. Tim is also part of an ARC and industry-funded team working to develop a toolkit for tropical seagrass restoration, then up-scaling this for far north Queensland.

Senior Research Officer

Tim Smith

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Dr Zoe Bainbridge is a research fellow at the Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER), with over 15 years of experience dedicated to the field of reef water quality science. Zoe is currently hosted by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science’s Soil, Catchment and Riverine Processes unit, where she is working on a number of collaborative projects with the Queensland Government and CSIRO. Zoe’s research has focused on identifying catchment sources of sediment, characterising this sediment and advancing the understanding of its transport and dynamics in the tropics. With a focus on bridging the connection between catchment and marine environments, this knowledge is pivotal in identifying the most impactful sediment to manage and preserve aquatic ecosystems. Most recently, this research included a multiple lines of evidence approach to identify catchment sediment hotspots, utilising community-based water quality monitoring, sediment source tracing and catchment modelling. This research significantly contributes to and informs Australian and Queensland Government remediation investment programs to improve water quality. Throughout her career, Zoe has played an active role in engaging with regional Natural Resource Management (NRM) bodies and regionally focused water quality programs. She understands the importance of effective engagement across scientists, landholders, management agencies and industry to achieve positive water quality outcomes. Through these interactions, Zoe seeks to enhance community awareness and understanding of water quality issues across the Great Barrier Reef catchment and lagoon, fostering a sense of collective responsibility for its protection.

Senior Research Fellow

Zoe Bainbridge

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