Study

Current Honours and Masters Projects

We have many exciting Honours and Masters projects already approved.

If you don't see something that fits your interest or passion, please explore our find a supervisor tool, and get in touch with a supervisor who may be able to help you.

Topics noted below may be subject to final IMAS approval, due to issues such as laboratory space, resourcing and supervision.

Plastics in the mud: Evaluating the extent of microplastic contamination in sediments of the Derwent Estuary

Supervisor team may include:

Associate Professor Zanna Chase

Dr Denise Hardestry

Dr Chris Wilcox, CSIRO

Plastic in the marine environment is a growing environmental concern. The presence of plastic has also been proposed as a stratigraphic marker of the Anthropocene. Yet we know virtually nothing about the geological behaviour of plastics in marine sediments - the nature of the plastics, its behaviour in sediments, the timing of accumulation, and the geographic distribution. Such information is needed to establish the potential utility of microplastics as a stratigraphic marker (Zalasiewicz et al. 2016). Such information can also shed light on the sources, sinks and impact of plastics in a given environment. This honours project will quantify microplastic (plastics < 2mm) concentrations in a suite of sediment cores from the Derwent Estuary. By analyzing microplastic concentrations in different layers of the cores, the project will characterize the historical input of microplastics to the estuary.

Responses of seaweeds (macroalgae) to ocean acidification

Supervisor team may include:

Associate Professor Catriona Hurd

Ocean acidification is predicted to cause widespread modification of marine ecosystems in a future high CO2 ocean.  Fleshy macroalgae (e.g. kelp) dominate temperate rocky reefs worldwide, and while it has been predicted that they will benefit from ocean acidification but to date there is little evidence to support this hypothesis.  Unlike terrestrial plants that use only CO2, macroalgae can utilise either CO2 or bicarbonate (HCO3-) that is dissolved in seawater for photosynthesis.  However, in Tasmania we have a globally unique coastal system that has a substantial number (80%) of species that can use only CO2 in photosynthesis (Cornwall et al. 2015).  In this honours project, you will examine the growth and physiological responses of Tasmanian red seaweeds to CO2 fertilization using a state-of-the-art ocean acidification simulator available in Hurd’s laboratory.

A number of projects on this general topic are available and would suit a student with a background in algal biology, plant physiology and/or temperate reef biology.  Diving is useful but not essential.

Responses of seaweeds to fluctuating pH in a future high-CO2 ocean

Supervisor team may include:

Associate Professor Catriona Hurd

Ocean acidification is predicted to alter rates of growth of seaweeds in temperature systems, however seaweeds are able to metabolically modify their own pH environment via photosynthesis and respiration. In the day, seaweed photosynthesis causes the pH at their surface to increase thereby ameliorating the negative effects of reduced pH.  At night, respiration causes pH to decline.  The result is that seawater pH in coastal systems fluctuates on a daily cycle, and such fluctuations have been shown to alter the outcome of experiments. For example, Britton et al (2016) found that the kelp Ecklonia grew faster in fluctuating pH compared to static pH whereas for a calcifying seaweed the effect of fluctuating pH was negative.  However, the generality of this response is unknown, as are the and physiological mechanisms underpinning the response.  In this honours project, you will examine the effects of fluctuating pH on the growth and physiological responses of previously un-studied Tasmanian seaweeds to fluctuating pH using a state-of-the-art ocean acidification simulator available in Hurd’s laboratory.  

A number of projects on this general topic are available and would suit a student with a background in algal biology, plant physiology and/or temperate reef biology.  Diving is useful but not essential.

Responses of seaweeds to the interactive effects of nitrogen supply and ocean acidification

Supervisor team may include:

Associate Professor Catriona Hurd

Globally, levels of dissolved CO2 in seawater are increasing, termed ocean acidification (OA).  Locally, levels of inorganic nitrogen are increasing due to altered land use (e.g. farming) or more intensive aquaculture.  However, we know little on the interactive effects of both increasing CO2 and nitrogen on seaweeds, which form the base of coastal ecosystems.  Recent work has shown for the common green seaweed, Ulva (sea lettuce) that nitrogen is more important than CO2 in controlling seaweed growth and photosynthesis (Rautenberger et al. 2015, Reidenbach et al (2017).  However, Tasmania has a globally unique and highly diverse seaweed flora with over 1000 species, most of which are unstudied in terms of their physiology and response to global and local anthropogenic change. In this honours project, you will examine the interactive effects of nitrogen and CO2 fertilization on previously un-studied Tasmanian red seaweeds using a state-of-the-art ocean acidification simulator available in Hurd’s laboratory.  

A number of projects on this general topic are available and would suit a student with a background in algal biology, temperate reef biology.  Diving is useful but not essential.

Mechanisms of nutrient uptake by Tasmanian seaweeds

Supervisor team may include:

Associate Professor Catriona Hurd

Tasmania has a globally unique and highly diverse seaweed flora with over 1000 species, most of which are unstudied in terms of their role in nitrogen and phosphorous cycling in the coastal environment. Nitrogen is the most important nutrient limiting seaweed growth and is available in two inorganic forms: nitrate and ammonium.  Nitrate is considered an energetically ‘expensive’ form of nitrogen because it requires energy (from light) in order to take up and assimilate.  Ammonium uptake is considered energetically ‘cheap’ as it is taken up by passive diffusion.  To date, uptake rates of nitrogen and ammonium have been measured for only two species of seaweed in Tasmania and we know little of their uptake mechanisms  Phosphorous is an essential nutrient for seaweeds but uptake rates of phosphate have not been measured for any Tasmanian species.  

In this honours project, you use laboratory experiments to measure the rates of nitrate, ammonium or phosphate uptake at a range of concentrations on previously un-studied Tasmanian red seaweeds.  A number of projects on this general topic are available and would suit a student with a background in algal biology, temperate reef biology.  Diving is useful but not essential.

Developing biomarkers of salmon farming: tracing feeds in the environment

Supervisor team may include: 

This project will produce new laboratory based data to support field studies tracing impacts from salmon farming in the wider marine environment. There are several possible projects within this topic, possibly including field sampling from farms and estuaries and or lab-based feeding studies in abalone. 

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Louise Adams (Louise.Adams@utas.edu.au) or Catriona Macleod (Catriona.Macleod@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Can feed formulation change environmental outcomes?

Supervisor team may include: 

Louise Adams
Catriona Macleod 

Nutrient models for salmon farms use information on nitrogen and phosphorus input and waste to predict nutrient output and wider impacts of salmon farms. This project will interrogate historical nutrition experimental data to generate more accurate models of nutrient cycling from salmon farms under current feeding regimes and stages of production. In addition, experiments may be designed to examine the theoretical basis for environment nutrient loading calculations based on different diets, fish sizes and environmental conditions, to experimentally compare environmental performance and to model nutrient losses under different production scenarios. 

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Louise Adams (Louise.Adams@utas.edu.au) or Catriona Macleod (Catriona.Macleod@utas.edu.au) for more details

Examining the Environmental Pros and Cons of Integrated Multi-trophic Aquaculture (IMTA)

Supervisor team may include: 


IMTA has several prospective benefits for salmon aquaculture; including the provision of alternative product(s) and the potential to offset the adverse effects of nutrient inputs. However, it is important to understand all of the interactions to ensure the benefits outweigh any possible negatives.


It has recently been suggested that current net cleaning activities in salmon culture may have the potential for adverse interactions in co-production with shellfish depending on the nature of the fouling communities and proximity of the farming operations.
Whether this might be a significant issue for IMTA/ polyculture operations needs to be investigated. There are two key project areas that have been identified: Project 1 - Impacts of net cleaning on co-culture species (performance & growth) and Project 2 – How close is too close? How far away must co-culture species be to beyond any influence of net-wash material.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Louise Adams (Louise.Adams@utas.edu.au) or Catriona Macleod (Catriona.Macleod@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Effect of ecological and physiological factors on heavy metal uptake mechanisms in key estuarine species

Supervisor team may include: 


Understanding trophic transfer mechanisms in marine species/ communities is an important precursor to clarifying contamination pathways, improving our understanding of the ecosystem and developing effective management and remediation strategies. This project aims to identify the main ecological and physiological factors associated with heavy metal uptake in key invertebrate and vertebrate species. Are they what they eat? How does environmental loading and metal speciation influence uptake potential? This information is important if we are to understand metal accumulation & toxicity, or to identify species with the potential to act as indicators of remediation and is essential for evaluating environmental impacts & developing risk/ management responses. 

The project will use a combination of field based and experimental studies (potentially including both traditional dietary analysis techniques and stable isotope analysis) to clarify the relevant responses for key species. There is flexibility within the project to change the project emphasis to suit specific student interests/ capabilities; for instance the project can be focussed on comparison of uptake rates and mechanisms between different functional types within a location, within a species/ type, between locations or even to look at specific uptake pathways.

This project can be tailored to suit students with an interest and ability in either ecological or physiological processes.

There are six key research areas that have been identified as priorities in 2016:
Project 1 - How is metal accumulation rate in Flathead from the Derwent Estuary affected by growth conditions?
Project 2 – Heavy metal uptake in recreationally fished species from the Derwent estuary: Focussing on mechanisms of bioaccumulation & bioavailability.
Project 3 – What can 20 years of oyster sampling tell us about bio-monitoring?
Project 4 – Assessing the relationship between infaunal body burden and mercury load in contamination hotspots.
Project 5 – What is the proportional representation of mercury species in sediments?
Project 6 – What factors can increase mercury accumulation risk in methylation hotspots?

From these projects you may gain skills in: experimental design (field and laboratory), field sampling, conducting laboratory based experiments, statistical analysis, stakeholder interactions and publication of results.

Suitable for February or July start date. 

Contact Catriona Macleod (Catriona.Macleod@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Messing With Reality: Testing Heavy Metal Management Scenarios For The Derwent Using Mesocosms

Supervisor team may include:

Catriona Macleod

The aim of this project would be to test the ability of artificial habitats or constructed wetlands to remediate a broad suite of contaminants relevant to the Derwent. Depending on student interests and experience the project could i) target a particular contaminant, such as mercury, and evaluate and test alternate strategies for remediation in mesocosm trials OR ii) target a particular location (eg. MONA) and test alternate strategies for general remediation of the broad suite of contaminants in the local ecosystem. 

Strategies that could be tested using mesocosm technology include but are not limited to hierarchical wetland construction with each stage designed to address a particular contamination issue and specific culture media targeting particular contaminants (these might include plant based cultures and/ or sediment based manipulations). 

A key component to this project in the latter stages would be integration with landscape architects/ designers with a view to identifying ways to implement any proposed technology in real scales.

Aims: 

  1. Evaluate alternate currently available strategies for environmental remediation of either mercury OR zinc in mesocosm trials
    OR
  2. Test the efficacy of broadscale remediation techniques (constructed wetlands) to reduce the load of particular contaminants (i.e. mercury/ zinc) in Derwent hotspots.

From this project you may gain skills in: experimental design (field and laboratory), field sampling, conducting laboratory based experiments, statistical analysis, stakeholder interactions and publication of results.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Catriona Macleod (Catriona.Macleod@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Are we getting through? Evaluating the success and impact of science communication and engagement activities

Supervisor team may include:

Gretta Pecl
Emily Ogier
Catriona Macleod

Scientists all have an obligation to society to contribute their observations and knowledge to the wider world. Additionally, to maintain public support, researchers need to be able to adapt to the rapidly changing needs of society and to clearly demonstrate the impact and value of their work. Across Australia, via initiatives like 'Science Week' and throughout many similar activities worldwide, many staff from various universities, institutes and research departments undertake science communication and engagement activities with school groups. 

IMAS also undertakes such activities but how do we know these efforts are effective, and how can we improve the benefits and impacts of these activities? This project will work with selected schools and teachers to undertake an evaluation of the success and impact of science engagement and communication activities from the perspectives of students, teachers, parents and the scientists involved in the outreach activities.

Aims:

  1. to determine effectiveness of current science engagement and communication activities
  2. to inform future engagement strategies

From this project you may gain skills in: community engagement processes and science communication strategies, experimental design, conducting social science experiments, statistical analysis, stakeholder interactions and publication of results.


Suitable for February start date.


Contact Gretta Pecl (Gretta.Pecl@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Remote sensing of coastal and inland waters

Supervisor team may include: 

Using data from a variety of satellite sensors, this project will develop and apply algorithms to detect algal blooms in inland and coastal waters around Tasmania. This project will also involve the processing of satellite imagery to develop long term time series of oceanographic parameters in the locations where algal bloom occur.

Suitable for February or July start date.


Contact Andy Fischer (Andy.Fischer@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Decision making approaches for marine resource management:

Supervisor team may include:
Andy Fischer

This project will involve the application of decision making approaches to address complex marine resource management issues. The area of research will depend on student interest and availability/feasibility of collecting data for particular study sites. Approaches examined include, TOPSIS, PCA, Fuzzy Logic, and will involve the comparison of two or more approaches.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Andy Fischer (Andy.Fischer@utas.edu.au) for more details.

National Outfall Database

Supervisor team may include: 

This project will involve the creation of a database of the location, composition, environmental significance and potential impact of sewerage outfalls on Australia's marine environment. The student will also conduct statistical analysis of data from different outfall studies to identify patterns among study results and to further understand relationships between the multiple studies. The meta analysis will include meta-regression statistical models and multivariate analyses (e.g. simple, fixed-effect meta-regression or random effect meta regression).

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Andy Fischer (Andy.Fischer@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Fish behaviour and Aquatic Biology

Supervisor team may include: 
John Purser

Projects can be developed directly with interested students in a range of areas including:

  • Fish feeding behaviour (possible species: salmon, trout, brook charr, barramundi)
  • Schooling behaviour of salmon smolt post-transfer to sea cages (at Van Diemen Aquaculture)
  • Gambusia biology, life history traits, behaviour and control (with Jawahar Patil)
  • Freshwater stream impacts of aquaculture outfalls (work in conjunction with Trinh Tran PhD)
  • Age structure and growth of elver and gambusia (with James Haddy and Inland Fisheries Service)
  • Life cycle and culture of caprellid amphipods (Crustacea) (live feed production)
  • Biology of earthworms associated with Kelp degradation (live feed production)
  • Ecology of sponge flies in Four Springs lake (mid-year start)

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact John Purser (John.Purser@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Primary host-pathogen interactions of amoebic gill disease in Atlantic salmon

Supervisor team may include: 
Mark Adams

This project will investigate the initial stages of interaction between Neoparamoeba perurans and host tissue in vivo.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Mark Adams (Mark.Adams@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Factors affecting the post-mortem analysis of mucosal surfaces

Supervisor team may include: 

Mark Adams

The skin, gill and gastric mucosae of many aquatic and terrestrial organisms can be collected and treated using different techniques to facilitate subsequent post-mortem analysis. This project seeks to explore pre and post-mortem procedures that may affect the interpretation of mucosal surfaces.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Mark Adams (Mark.Adams@utas.edu.au) for more details.

The impact of amoebic gill disease upon the ionoregulatory physiology of Atlantic salmon

Supervisor team may include: 

Mark Adams

Infection of fish gills by Neoparamoeba perurans causes a depletion of ionoregulatory cells in disease affected tissue. This project questions what effect does the experimental induction of amoebic gill disease have upon various ionoregulatory analytes.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Mark Adams (Mark.Adams@utas.edu.au) for more details.

The effect of hydrogen peroxide treatment and water hardness upon hatch rates and performance of Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout

Supervisor team may include: 

Mark Adams

This project will investigate the use of low concentration/long duration peroxide inclusion and provision of "hard" water to enhance hatchery production of eggs and fry.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Mark Adams (Mark.Adams@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Opercular erosion in Atlantic salmon fry and fingerlings

Supervisor team may include: 

Mark Adams

Shortly after first feeding Atlantic salmon fry can sometimes display high incidence of opercular erosion of which the cause and risk factors are poorly understood.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Mark Adams (Mark.Adams@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Factors affecting hatch rate success of fertilised Atlantic salmon ova

Supervisor team may include: 

Mark Adams

This project will investigate various husbandry and system parameters, configurations and approaches that potentially impact upon hatching success of ova post fertilization.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Mark Adams (Mark.Adams@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Mast cells – Fixation/staining optimization for distribution and function in teleost gills

Supervisor team may include: 

Mark Adams

The teleostean mast cell/eosinophilic granule cell often plays a key role in the initiation of some inflammatory processes. However its distribution and functionality is not well resolved due its somewhat enigmatic nature. This project will investigate different fixation/staining and sectioning approaches to describe the presence and distribution in a number of teleost species.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Mark Adams (Mark.Adams@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Aquatic Animal Health research projects

Supervisor team may include: 

Barbara Nowak

Projects can be developed directly with interested students in a range of areas including:

  • Pathogen identification and detection
  • Immune response - vaccine, adjuvants and immunostimulants
  • Disease diagnosis
  • Effect of pollution
  • Host-pathogen interaction
  • Risk factors in disease outbreaks

Research species may include: salmonids, tuna, flathead, barramundi, Greenland sculpin, lobster and others.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Barbara Nowak (Barbara.Nowak@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Ecology, physiology and toxicity of Tasmanian populations of the dinoflagellate Alexandrium tamarense

Supervisor team may include: 

Chris Bolch

In Winter and Spring 2012, the eastern coast of Tasmania experienced a bloom of a neurotoxic strain of the dinoflagellate called Alexandrium tamarense, The entire eastern coast of Tasmania was closed for harvest of mussels, oysters, scallops, and also wild lobster, abalone, and crabs for up to six months causing severe financial stress for fishing/aquaculture and industry financial losses in excess of $23M dollars. 

Major blooms reoccurred again in winter-spring 2015, resulting in three confirmed human poisonings from consumption of recreationally collected shellfish, prolonged harvest closures due to toxicity. Of major concern 2015 blooms also resulted in substantial mortalities of fauna and flora at some sites, including commercial stocks of adult and juvenile shellfish. 

IMAS research has identified, cultured and confirmed the toxicity of the causative organism/s, a highly toxic genotype not previously known from Australasian waters (Bolch et al. 2013). However, little is known of the ecolcogy and environmental preferences of this toxic species. Example project ideas listed below should be considered a starting point for discussion with me about specific details.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Chris Bolch (Chris.Bolch@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Comparative ecophysiology of Australian Alexandrium tamarense strains

Supervisor team may include: 

Chris Bolch

Limited data from the 2012 and 2013 blooms indicate that up to 3 different genotypes of differing toxicity (Type 1, 4 and 5) were present and detected in toxic shellfish during blooms. Each type have potentially different environmental preferences. 

This project aims to compare the temperature, salinity and nutrient preferences of the three different genotypes in order to predict their seasonal contribution to shellfish toxicity.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Chris Bolch (Chris.Bolch@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Effects of Alexandrium tamarense on larval and adult shellfish

Supervisor team may include: 

Chris Bolch

Several east coast shellfish farms report increased mortality of juvenile and adult shellfish associated with blooms of Alexandrium tamarense. This project will used cultures of toxic species to determine relevant cell concentrations and histopathological effects A. tamarense on shellfish.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Chris Bolch (Chris.Bolch@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Genetic diversity of bloom populations of Alexandrium tamarense

Supervisor team may include: 

Chris Bolch

This project aims to use microsatellite DNA methods to examine the genetic diversity and population structure of Tasmanian blooms of A. tamarense.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Chris Bolch (Chris.Bolch@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Toxic cyanobacteria projects

Supervisor team may include: 

Chris Bolch

Climate change is predicted to lead to increasing frequency and intensity of cyanobacterial blooms in freshwater used for drinking water and agriculture. Current research funded by a $370K Sense-T grant (Bolch and Fischer) is developing real-time detection of toxic blue green algal blooms in freshwater lakes using in-situ fluorometry and satellite remote-sensing. There are several potential Honours projects available in this area.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Chris Bolch (Chris.Bolch@utas.edu.au) for more details.

In-situ fluorescence detection of cyanobacteria

Supervisor team may include: 

Chris Bolch

A combined lab/field project to calibrate state of the art fluorescence detection methods to established national cyanobacterial bloom alert levels for lakes and rivers.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Chris Bolch (Chris.Bolch@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Satellite-based remote sensing and estimation of cyanobacterial blooms in Tasmanian lakes

Supervisor team may include: 

Chris Bolch

This project aims to refine satellite detection of cyanobacteria blooms by comparison with in-situ fluorescene detection buoys in Tasmanian water bodies.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Chris Bolch (Chris.Bolch@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Low-cost microscopic imaging for phytoplankton monitoring

Supervisor team may include: 

Chris Bolch

Modern consumer device imaging technology such as webcams and smart-phones have considerable potential as low-cost imaging solutions for environmental monitoring applications. This project aims to develop and test optical performance of a prototype smart-phone-based micro-imaging system for phytoplankton cells.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Chris Bolch (Chris.Bolch@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Do herbicide and pesticides promote blue-green algal blooms?

Supervisor team may include: 

Chris Bolch

Increasing use of intensive irrigated agriculture leads to increasing incidence and concentration of pesticides and herbicide in rivers lakes and estuarine environments. Under particular conditions, sub-lethal concentrations of these chemical favour the growth of blue-green over other algal groups. This project aims to examine the concentrations, mechanisms and environmental conditions of particular herbicides that favour blue-green algal blooms.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Chris Bolch (Chris.Bolch@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Cyanobacteria as a source of natural herbicides

Supervisor team may include: 

Chris Bolch

Previous studies have shown that some common cyanobacteria produce compounds that inhibit growth of green algae and have potential as natural herbicides. This project will screen range of cyanobacterial species for growth inhibiting activity against green-algae. Candidate cyanobacteria identified will then be tested against common higher plants.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Chris Bolch (Chris.Bolch@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Taxonomic diversity of toxic dinoflagellate microbiomes (MB)

Supervisor team may include: 

Chris Bolch

Dinoflagellate cells grow and interact with a community of closely associated bacteria that appear to mediate a range of critical functions such as nutrient and trace metal uptake, and also influence their cellular toxicity. Almost all of our understanding of these interactions is derived from laboratory cultures; we know almost nothing about the bacterial communities associated with cells in natural blooms. This project aims to use Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) sequencing approaches to compare the taxonomic diversity of laboratory cultures and natural phytoplankton cells of two important toxic dinoflagellates, Alexandrium tamarense and Gymnodinium catenatum.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Chris Bolch (Chris.Bolch@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Plate tectonic reconstructions in the Pacific

Supervisor team may include: 

Dr Jo Whittaker

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Jo Whittaker (jo.whittaker@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Heat flow in Antarctica

Supervisor team may include: 

Dr Jo Whittaker

Understanding heat flow in Antarctica is important for modelling ice sheets and glaciers.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Jo Whittaker (jo.whittaker@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Surface sediment proxy calibration for reconstructing water masses along the Antarctic shelf

Supervisor team may include: 

Taryn Noble
Zanna Chase
Ashley Townsend (Central Science Laboratory)

Background: Sediments along the continental shelf of Antarctica record the deglacial history of the Antarctic ice sheet. The ice shelves extending into the surrounding ocean are thought to be particularly important in controlling ice loss from the ice sheet (Church et al. 2013). Deglacial changes in ocean circulation have been hypothesised to play a role in melting of the surrounding ice shelves, resulting in rapid ice loss from the Antarctic ice sheet around 14.5 thousand years ago, and rapid sea level rise (Golledge et al. 2014). One way to test this hypothesis is to reconstruct the water mass characteristics surrounding the ice shelves, using geochemical proxies measured in marine sediment cores. But before we reconstruct the events of the deglaciation, our geochemical proxies need to be applied to surface sediments to ensure that they accurately represent the modern climate configuration.

This study will use surface sediments from near the Mertz glacier, East Antarctica, to calibrate our geochemical proxies to modern observations. The water mass characteristics overlying the surface sediments will be defined by Nd isotopes and redox sensitive metals. The Nd isotopic composition of seawater reflects its source region and mixing with other water masses during advection (Goldstein and Hemming, 2003; Lacan et al. 2012), while redox sensitive metals reflect the bottom water oxygenation (Morford and Emerson 1999; Tribovillard et al. 2006). 

Methodology and training: The most reliable method to extract the seawater Nd isotope signature from the sediment record uses carbonate skeletons of foraminifera (Roberts et al., 2012). Shelf sediments along Antarctica however, are usually dominated by silica, rather than carbonate. The student will test different sediment leaching procedures to optimise the extraction of the seawater-derived Nd isotope signal. If successful the student will then compare the Nd isotope data and redox sensitive trace metals to modern oceanographic data from the Mertz glacier region.

Student's competency: This project requires a student with strong lab-work skills in chemistry. A background in chemical oceanography or geochemistry would be advantageous. The student will gain experience working in a trace metal clean laboratory, chemical leaching techniques for climate reconstructions and oceanographic data interpretation. 

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Dr Taryn Noble (taryn.noble@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Scatterometry on the Antarctic Ice Sheet

Supervisor team may include: 

Dr Alex Fraser

The surface of parts of the Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS) is undergoing significant change, particularly in some coastal regions. The Advanced Scatterometer (ASCAT) is an active microwave scatterometer instrument in a low Earth polar orbit. Scatterometers observe the surface from a variety of different incidence and azumith angles, and the anisotropy of the backscatter reveals many properties of the surface/subsurface. ASCAT has many potential applications for AIS studies. With 5 GHz (C-­‐band) microwave remote sensing, we are able to retrieve information on the top ~20 m of the dry snow zone. ASCAT parameters are extremely sensitive to melt, and it has been shown that ASCAT is sensitive to changes in accumulation and near surface snow/firn temperature. ASCAT data have previously been retrieved and parameterised at the ACE CRC, for the period 2007-­‐2012. This processing is highly CPU-­‐intensive. Since 2012, a second ASCAT instrument has been launched, on a complementary orbit. Updating the ASCAT dataset to present, automation of future updates, and incorporation of the second ASCAT instrument are desirable.

Project outline:

The major aims of this project are to update the ASCAT dataset on the AIS to the present, and to automate future data acquisitions. Such automation is an essential component: With automated acquisitions, our group will be the first to detect new melt regions (and other significant surface changes) in the future. ASCAT parameterisation is highly suitable to automation, because there are no points in the processing chain where manual input is required. Due to the CPU-­‐intensive nature of the processing, use of a supercomputer will be investigated. Inclusion of data from the second ASCAT instrument will also be investigated.

The risks associated with this project are relatively low, because the basic processing methods have already been implemented, tested, and published (please see Fraser et al, 2014 for details). However, there is scope to improve the processing methods, and the student will be encouraged to implement such improvements.

After the technical implementation of the automation, the student will shift focus to detecting changes on the AIS, and (first-­‐order) analysis of interesting cases in conjunction with atmospheric reanalysis datasets.

There are also sea ice applications for ASCAT, which are outside of the scope of this project; however the student will also be listed as a co-­‐author on future publications using these data from the sea ice group.

Project aims:
  • Updating the ASCAT dataset processing to present
  • Automating future updates of the ASCAT dataset
  • Case studies involving change detection on the Antarctic Ice Sheet
Specific skills required:
  • A high level of mathematical competency (esp. calculus. Basic statistics is desirable)
  • A strong physical science background (esp. electromagnetics. Radiative transfer knowledge is desirable)
  • A high level of programming skill (esp. Unix shell scripting. Supercomputer and/or python experience is desirable)

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Dr Alex Fraser (alexander.fraser@utas.edu.au) for more details.

A comparison of Antarctic sea ice observation datasets

Supervisor team may include: 

Dr Phil Reid

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Dr Phil Reid (P.Reid@bom.gov.au) for more details.

Physical Oceanography/Climate

Supervisor team may include: 

Assoc Prof Neil Holbrook

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Assoc Prof Neil Holbrook (Neil.Holbrook@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Daily-ageing of Gambusia holbrooki, a short-lived pest fish, using novel molecular tools.

Supervisor team may include: 

Dr Jawahar Patil

Knowledge of population age-structure is necessary for stock assessments, and to develop management plans for invasive species such as the Gambusia. Size is generally associated with age; however, there are variations in size at any particular age for most fish species making it difficult to estimate one from the other with precision. Conventionally, counting natural growth rings on the scales, otoliths, vertebrae, etc has been used to good effect particularly in long-lived fish where the annual rings can be easily distinguished and annual aging is more appropriate for most management purposes. In short-lived species where they mature in months a daily ageing tool is necessary. Taking advantage of recent development in molecular biology this project will aim to establish a more precise againg framework, that is cross-validated with daily rings that may be laid on hard parts such as the otolith, scale and fin rays.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Dr Jawahar Patil (jawahar.patil@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Structural and functional diversity of a novel sex determining family of gene in fish

Supervisor team may include: 

Dr Jawahar Patil

Duplication and functional specialisation is a hallmark of teleostean genome, conferring adaptive and species diversity making teleosts the most diverse group of vertebrates. This diversity is underpinned by an array of reproductive strategies, providing a creative canvas to fundamentally reconstruct evolutionary process as well as opportunities to sustainably manage and use fishery resources. Set within a broader objective of developing a genetic approach to control pest fish, this project will use a live bearing fish Gambusia holbrooki as a model to understand what genetic mechanisms determine an individual's sex. Specifically this student project will isolate and characterise the structural and functional diversity of a family of gene implicated in vertebrate sex determination with a view to develop a sex-specific genetic marker. Elucidating shared evolutionary history and application of the outcomes to management of other pest fish (e.g. carp) and enhancing production efficiencies in commercially important species (e.g. salmon) of fish will also be of interest.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Dr Jawahar Patil (jawahar.patil@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Do larvae of fishes from cool temperate waters swim as well as those from warm water?

Supervisor team may include: 

Dr Jeff Leis

Nearly all marine, demersal, bony fishes have a pelagic larval stage that lives in open water for a couple of weeks to a couple of months or more, during which time the larvae are subject to dispersal. For most such species, nearly all dispersal takes place during this pelagic life-history stage, as does most connectivity between geographically separate populations. Traditionally, it was assumed that fish larvae drifted passively with currents, but research in tropical and warm temperate waters has shown that, in fact, larvae have impressive swimming abilities: they can swim at speeds that are similar to the speeds of the currents in which they live over long periods of time. The swimming abilities of fish larvae can have a major influence on dispersal outcomes. However, very little is known of the swimming ability of larvae of cooler water marine fishes, and this makes it difficult to model their dispersal. The project will involve testing reared and wild larvae of Tasmanian fishes in a laboratory swimming chamber to measure their swimming speed and swimming endurance, and how swimming performance changes with ontogeny.

Suggested reading: LEIS, J. M. 2010. Ontogeny of behaviour in larvae of marine demersal fishes. Ichthyological Research. 57:325-342.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact: Dr Jeff Leis (jeffrey.leis@utas.edu.au) for more details.

The spawning behaviour of Spotted Handfish in the Derwent Estuary

Supervisor team may include: 

Dr Neville Barrett

This project examines the extent that handfish utilise artificial vs natural spawning substrates, and the success of egg development through to hatching on each. A handfish guard eggs over this period, both eggs and adult fish are particularly vulnerable over this stage. Using gopros and visual observations, behavioural interactions will be described, and recruitment success determined.

Suitable for July start date.

Contact Dr Neville Barrett (neville.barrett@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Are artificial spawning substrates the key to enhancing populations of the endangered Spotted Handfish in the Derwent estuary?

Supervisor team may include: 

Dr Neville Barrett
Tim Lynch (CSIRO)
Mark Green (CSIRO) 

The spotted handfish is one of only a few Australian fish species listed as highly endangered under the EPBC act. The species is primarily only found in the Derwent Estuary, with a life history (site-attached adults producing guarded egg masses that hatch as miniature adults with no dispersal phase) that restricts their capacity to move in response to a changing environment. There are multiple threats to this species, including a physically degraded environment within the river and an increasing abundance of introduced pest species that may compete for resources and modify habitats. Previous studies have suggested that predation on stalked ascidians by the introduced seastar Asterais amurensis may be particularly problematic for the handfish as they preferentially use the ascidians as substrates for deposition of egg masses. Certainly the short egg mass stage (up to six weeks) may be the most critical stage in their life history. As a management response to this, artificial spawning substrates have been developed and planted out at known handfish 'hotspots" throughout the Derwent estuary. Brief surveys of these substrates suggest they are indeed utilised by the handfish, although the extent that they are utilised in preference to other natural substrates has yet to be determined, nor has the likely survival of eggs on such substrates during the incubation period. A potential Honours project would examine the success of artificial substrates at a range of sites throughout the estuary relative to natural substrates, and document the overall survival of egg masses over this period and the types of threats that they are exposed to, (e.g. predation by seastars, fish, crabs etc) and the methods that guarding adults may use to prevent egg loss. It would utilise a range of technologies such as underwater GPS (to relocate each spawning substrate with eggs) and time-lapse GOPRO cameras. This project is supported by the Derwent Estuary Program (DPIPWE) with a $2000 grant towards operating expenses of a dive-based research program, and with supervisory support from the Spotted Handfish advisory team, including representatives from IMAS, CSIRO and the Derwent Estuary Program.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Dr Neville Barrett (neville.barrett@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Utility of ROV’s (remote operated vehicles) for surveying reef fish assemblages below diving depths

Supervisor team may include: 

Dr Neville Barrett

This project utilises a ROV (Seabotix LVB300) to be deployed at a range of test locations in eastern Tasmania to both determine the effectiveness of ROV's for reef fish surveys, and the appropriate survey design to yield quantitatively robust results for monitoring programs. Surveys may focus on MPAs (State and Commonwealth).

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Dr Neville Barrett (neville.barrett@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Relationships between seabed complexity and the distribution of key biota

Supervisor team may include: 

Dr Neville Barrett

This project uses a comprehensive set of imagery derived from IMOS AUV deployments in Tasmanian shelf waters to examine the spatial distribution of characteristic reef associated species (e.g. particular sponges) and their relationship with significant habitat features. The work will allow future predictions of the distribution of key species based on mapped seabed geomorphology.

A range of similar projects are also available for this image analysis, including description of the spatial distribution of benthic invertebrates and algae within the Flinders Commonwealth Marine Reserve, physical drivers of benthic invertebrate structural height and complexity on deep reefs, the changing distribution of Centrostephanus barrens in eastern Tasmanian waters. 

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Dr Neville Barrett (neville.barrett@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Sense-T oyster biosensors

Supervisor team may include: 

Dr John Wright

 The overall project is a joint initiative with CSIRO with external funding. The overall aim of the project is to enhance the productivity of the Tasmanian oyster industry. I would be happy to meet and chat to any students interested in projects in the aquaculture/marine biology field. There would be extensive field work and travel involved. Possible projects could include the monitoring and assessment of metabolic rate of oysters deployed to various farms across the state and relating the data to environmental monitoring data and oyster health. Alternatively, the identification and characterization of phytoplankton available and consumed by oysters at various growing locations and relating this to oyster health and our biosensors.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Dr John Wright (john.wright@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Simulating the evolution of the Tasmanian ice sheet

Supervisor team may include:

Dr Steven Phipps, IMAS
Prof. Matt King, School of Land and Food

At the height of the last Ice Age, around 20,000 years ago, Tasmania was a very different place to today. Sea levels were 120m lower and Tasmania was joined to the Australian mainland. Ice sheets also covered much of south-eastern Australia, including Tasmania.

This project will use a state-of-the art ice sheet model to simulate the evolution of the Tasmanian ice sheet. Geological records will be used to validate the model simulations. The outcomes are likely to be of public interest, with potential for the candidate to engage in public outreach and science communication activities.

Key skills needed

This project would suit candidates with a background in physical sciences or engineering and with well-developed skills in numerical analysis. Experience in compiling and running scientific software would be highly advantageous for the purposes of completing the model experiments.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Steven Phipps (Steven.Phipps@utas.edu.au) or Matt King (Matt.King@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Modelling the Antarctic Ice Sheet

Supervisor team may include:

Dr Lenneke Jong
Dr Sue Cook
Dr Felicity Graham

Large sections of the Antarctic ice sheet rest on bedrock below sea level (marine ice sheets). The position of the region where the ice sheet starts to float, called the grounding line, and it's behaviour in response to changing conditions is an important factor in understanding the contribution of loss of Antarctic ice to sea level rise. It is thought that marine ice sheets resting on bedrock sloping upwards towards the ocean are inherently unstable and may be susceptible to rapid retreat. This project aims to use a numerical ice sheet model to examine the sensitivity of an ice sheet to grounding line retreat to the underlying bedrock geometry.

Skills and Background required:This project would suit a student with strong mathematical and computational skills. This project requires numerical modelling and would suit a student with a background in physics or fluid dynamics.

Further opportunities:Modelling the Antarctic ice sheet and its response to climate change is an area of active research in Hobart. You will gain experience and skills in ice sheet modelling that could lead to higher research degree opportunities.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Lenneke Jong (Lenneke.Jong@utas.edu.au), Sue Cook (Sue.Cook@utas.edu.au), or Felicity Graham (F.S.Graham@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Intra and interannual variability in larval fish distributions in Storm Bay, Tasmania, in relation to oceanographic conditions

Supervisor team may include:

Kerrie Swadling
John Keane
Jeremy Lyle

This project aims to describe the distribution and abundance of key larval fish species of ecological, recreational and commercial importance within Storm Bay in relation to seasonal and oceanographic cycles. Samples have been collected from 5 sites spanning the length and breadth of Storm Bay at approximately monthly intervals for a period of 5 years, yielding an extensive sample resource. 

Fish larvae will need to be sorted from plankton samples and identified. Results could be analysed in regard to spawning cycles, planktonic cycles, oceanographic conditions, hydrology and climate change. Outcomes will be a benefit for both fisheries and ecosystem management. 

This project involves elements of microscopy, taxonomy, ecology and oceanography. It would be expected that the research would yield a peer-reviewed scientific paper.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Kerrie Swadling (Kerrie.Swadling@utas.edu.au), John Keane (John.Keane@utas.edu.au) or Jeremy Lyle (Jeremy.Lyle@utas.edu.au) for more details.

The role of volcanoes in glacial inception

Supervisor team may include:

Dr Steven Phipps, IMAS
Dr Jason Roberts, AAD/ACE CRC
Dr Tessa Vance, ACE CRC

During the recent history of the Earth, it has experienced glacial cycles with a period of approximately 100,000 years. These cycles are asymmetric and are characterised by a relatively slow warming from glacial to interglacial temperatures. Interglacial periods then end with an abrupt transition back towards cold, glacial conditions. However, the exact nature of the processes that trigger this transition is unknown. In particular, global climate models are currently unable to simulate glacial inception.

This project will study the role of volcanoes in initiating ice ages. A state-of-the-art climate system model will be used to simulate the response of the modern and historical climate to clusters of volcanic eruptions. Using these simulations, it will be possible to determine whether volcanic eruptions are sufficient to trigger the transition from interglacial to glacial conditions.

Key skills needed

This project would suit candidates with a background in physical sciences or engineering and with well-developed skills in numerical analysis. Experience in compiling and running scientific software would be highly advantageous for the purposes of completing the model experiments.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Steven Phipps (Steven.Phipps@utas.edu.au) for more details.

The trophodynamics of fish on the Kerguelen Axis

Supervisor team could include:

Andrea Walters
Rowan Trebilco
Mary-Anne Lea
Mark Hindell

Trophodynamics of pelagic fish and squid in the southern ocean

Understanding and modelling the structure and function of ecosystems depends on sound knowledge of the trophodynamics of constituent species, (i.e. who eats who and how this changes within species as individuals grow and mature). Mesopelagic fish and squid, along with krill, dominate mid-trophic levels in Southern Ocean ecosystems, comprising the pathways by which energy from primary producers is made accessible to higher-order predators including whales, seals, penguins, flying seabirds, and large (often commercially valuable) fish. Krill-based trophic pathways have been relatively well-studied. But, despite their importance, squid and mesopelagic fish are far less well studied and represent a key area of uncertainty in current ecosystem modelling and management efforts.

The Kerguelen plateau is the most important area for primary production in the southern Indian Ocean, and is home to the high-value toothfish and icefish fisheries, as well as potential future krill fisheries in the south. The plateau is also an important foraging habitat for many predators. In early 2016 an extensive field sampling program - the "K-axis" study - was undertaken to characterise the pelagic food webs in this important area. Sampling on K-axis included depth-stratified sampling of pelagic communities from the surface to 1000 m using midwater trawl nets. This project will undertake stable isotope analysis for fish collected on K-axis in order to better resolve the trophic roles of dominant species, and to improve understanding of how energy flows through mesopelagic fish to higher trophic levels in this area.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Andrea Walters (Andrea.Walters@utas.edu.au) or Rowan Trebilco (Rowan.Trebilco@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Trophic allometries of southern ocean squid

Supervisor team could include:

Rowan Trebilco
Andrea Walters
Mark Hindell
Jess Melbourne-Thomas 

Trophodynamics of pelagic fish and squid in the southern ocean

Understanding and modelling the structure and function of ecosystems depends on sound knowledge of the trophodynamics of constituent species, (i.e. who eats who and how this changes within species as individuals grow and mature). Mesopelagic fish and squid, along with krill, dominate mid-trophic levels in Southern Ocean ecosystems, comprising the pathways by which energy from primary producers is made accessible to higher-order predators including whales, seals, penguins, flying seabirds, and large (often commercially valuable) fish. Krill-based trophic pathways have been relatively well-studied. But, despite their importance, squid and mesopelagic fish are far less well studied and represent a key area of uncertainty in current ecosystem modelling and management efforts.

Squid are key prey for many higher predators in the Southern Ocean, but they are challenging to sample because they have very low catchablity in the nets that are usually used for studying pelagic ecosystems. As a result, knowledge of squid trophodynamics is limited and patchy. In particular trophic allometries (the relationships between trophic position and body size within and across species) have yet to be quantified. This project will undertake stable isotope analysis of archived squid beaks that have been collected from several locations around the Southern Ocean, along with samples from whole squid collected in 2016 on the Kerguelen Axis, to examine the relationship between trophic level and body size within and across dominant squid species in the southern ocean, and to assess how these relationships vary regionally.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Rowan Trebilco (Rowan.Trebilco@utas.edu.au) or Andrea Walters (Andrea.Walters@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Ecological engineering to enhance ecosystem biodiversity and function on artificial habitats

Supervisor team may include:

Jeff Ross
Catriona Macleod
Christine Crawford
Neville Barrett
Scott Ling

World Harbour Project - Honours Project Opportunity

Globally, coastal urbanisation is increasing. One impact of coastal development is the replacement of natural marine habitats with man‐made artificial structures, such as seawalls, breakwaters, groynes and rip rap. Artificial structures are typically less biodiverse than natural habitats, and the surrounding water quality is often poor.

The World Harbour Project is investigating the use of ecological engineering to increase biodiversity and functioning of breakwaters/groynes in urban areas through the addition of structural features (e.g. crevices & holes, ridges, grooves and textures) and the creation of biogenic habitats such as bivalve communities and seaweeds (kelps). The Project brings together international research institutions and agencies concerned with the health of these heavily urbanised waterways and the increasing challenges they face.

Oysters and mussels are habitat-forming species that are known to enhance ecosystem biodiversity and functioning. Seawalls typically support impoverished bivalve communities because their flat, vertical surfaces compress the intertidal zone and limit the available 3 dimensional space (e.g. crevices, ledges, pits) for colonisation and growth of fauna and flora.  They are also often colonised by invasive species that can alter the biodiversity and ecosystems function. Adding bivalves to these structures via seeding or transplants could enhance their biodiversity and functioning, and minimize the colonization of unwanted species, such as non-indigenous species.

This project will explore whether adding complex habitat, that increases the number of microhabitats available on seawalls, will enhance native biodiversity and the survivorship of seeded bivalves over that found on flat plates. This includes testing whether tiles seeded with bivalves further enhance biodiversity and support fewer non-native species than those without bivalve seeding. The candidate should be willing to progress their skills in field data collection (at an intertidal site in the Derwent), experimental design and data analysis.

The position is available for a semester 1 2017 start; however, an early start/project involvement is strongly encouraged, please contact Jeff to discuss.

Global Experiment – the experiment in the Derwent is been repeated at a series of locations globally. So, not only will there be an opportunity to publish on the Derwent results, but the partners will also be authors on a global paper that will involve a meta-analysis of all the experiments.

Contact Jeff Ross (Jeff.Ross@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Climate extremes - phytoplankton responses to marine heat waves

Supervisor team may include:

Dr. Juan Diego Gaitán-Espitia (CSIRO) juandiego.gaitanespitia@csiro.au
Dr. Alistair Hobday (CSIRO) Alistair.hobday@csiro.au
Dr. Philip Boyd (IMAS) Philip.Boyd@utas.edu.au

Climate-related changes in SST are expected to affect the distribution, physiology and survival of marine organisms. In addition to gradual warming trends, different regions of the world have experienced changes in the frequency and intensity of marine heatwaves (MHWs). These extreme climatic events may have a profound influence in the dynamic of marine populations as well as in the community structure and biodiversity patterns of marine ecosystems. A MHW off the coast of Tasmania this past summer lasted almost 250 days. Understanding and predicting biological responses to these short-term extreme events is important when projecting the impacts of climate change. In this project, we will use realistic MHWs simulations exploring the effects of duration, intensity and rate of evolution of MHWs on the physiological performance, population dynamics and community structure of marine primary producers. Through comparative laboratory experiments we expect to assess the sensibilities, tolerances and dynamics in a range of marine phytoplankton species in response to MHWs. The successful candidate will lead part of an important research project and develop a range of skills as part of the Honours year.

  • This project will develop skills in* Climate change experiments
    * Phytoplankton culture, physiology and ecology.
    * Management and analysis of large datasets
    * Data analysis and publication of results

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Philip Boyd (Philip.Boyd@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Aquaculture of the native oyster Ostrea angasi in southern Tasmania

Supervisor: Dr Christine Crawford

Please send project enquiries before October 2016 to Course Coordinators Louise.Adams@utas.edu.au or Philip.Crosbie@utas.edu.au. Dr Crawford will be available to discuss details with candidates from October 2017.

Farming Pacific oysters has been an important primary industry in rural Tasmania for over three decades. However, the viral disease Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS) was first detected on farms in southern Tasmania in January 2016 with devastating effects; juvenile mortalities were > 80% on some farms. The native oyster O. angasi is being proposed as an alternate species to farm in southern Australia; however, it has a reputation as being very difficult to culture. A recent review of native oyster aquaculture in Australia found that a major issue in the farming of this species is that most farmers try to grow them using the same techniques and environmental conditions as Pacific oysters. It was recommended that culture methods are developed that are specific to O. anagsi requirements.

The proposed Honours project would investigate the survival, growth and condition of O. angasi in a range of culture conditions, including extent and periodicity of aerial exposure from mid intertidal to subtidal, using different types of rearing containers, degree of handling including grading, and density of culture. This project would be conducted on commercial farms in collaboration with the oyster growers. Likely locations are Bruny Island or Pittwater. This project would be part of the CRC-P Future Oysters, an Australian Government funding program in collaboration with State Governments to support the oyster industry in Australia.

Reconstruction of ocean (de)oxygenation in the South East Pacific over the last glacial cycle

Supervisor team may include:

Assoc Prof Zanna Chase (IMAS)
Axel Durand (IMAS)
Dr Ashley Townsend (Central Science Laboratory)

Our oceans are losing oxygen, a phenomenon referred to as “ocean deoxygenation”. Between 1970 and 1990 there has been an average decline of almost 1 μmol/L dissolved oxygen, with the largest losses of oxygen observed in the Southern Ocean, the North Pacific and North West Atlantic (Helm et al., 2011). Ocean deoxygenation could have a profound impact on ocean biology, and could even accelerate the pace of climate change, by increasing the oceanic production of the greenhouse gas N2O. However, our ability to predict the future course of ocean deoxygenation and its impact is limited because of the complex interplay between ocean physics and biogeochemistry in determining oxygenation levels. Studying the response of ocean oxygenation to past climate change events can illuminate the important processes involved. However, the geologic record of ocean oxygenation is limited: there are very few records of ocean oxygen anywhere that cover the full glacial cycle, or resolve high-frequency variability. To fill this gap, this project will generate proxy records of bottom water oxygen and bio-productivity at three ODP Leg 202 sites on the south-central Chile margin back to the last interglacial period, reconstructing the full glacial cycle and the response to millennial-scale climate events. This will allow us to address two main scientific questions, presented here are discussed in more detail below:

Question 1: When did oxygen first decrease in the SE Pacific, within the sequence of events beginning at glacial inception?
Question 2: How did oxygenation of the SE Pacific respond to the millennial- cale climate events that occurred during the last glacial period?

The student will use microwave assisted digestion to digest sediments prior to analysis by ICP-MS. Samples will be analysed at UTAS on a sector field, single collector Element 2 ICP-MS. The student will measure concentrations of redox-sensitive trace metals (Mn, U, Re) as well as lithogenic metals (Th, Al, Fe, Ti, Mg) in two sediment cores. The student will learn how to process raw data from the ICP-MS, calculate excess metal concentrations, and interpret changes in the context of bottom water oxygen and regional and global paleoclimactic events.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Zanna Chase (zanna.chase@utas.edu.au) for more details.

Conservation of Spotted handfish

Supervisor team may include:

Dr Tim Lynch (CSIRO) Tim.Lynch@csiro.au
Dr Neville Barrett (IMAS)

Spotted handfish (Brachionichthys hirsutus) are a critically endangered anglerfish known from only 10 sites across the Derwent estuary and D’Entrecasteaux Channel. Since 2014 monitoring of these sub-populations has been undertaken using geo-referenced underwater photography.

This provides both spatial data on densities for ‘hot-spot’ analysis and also tracking of individuals as adult fish have unique spot patterns. To assist in data analysis the pattern recognition software, I3S, was successful trailed in 2016. Data collection will continue through 2017 and we plan to pursue a variety of conservation and behavioural research questions.

First, a simple minimum population size estimate is required to advise government for the immediate commencement of a captive breeding program.

Second, with the developers of I3S, the pattern recognition software program needs to be optimised for spotted handfish.

Third, distributions and movements of fish both within and potentially between sites needs to be determined for management of threats. Forth, the size distribution of fish, especially for recaptures, will be used to investigate age and growth to determine the species life span. Finally, a more sophisticated capture-mark-recapture model that takes into account life-history characteristics, needs to be developed to better estimate the population size.

The project will involve extensive small boat and diving field work. Candidates will hence need to have or be able to achieve the required certification for scientific diving prior to commencing field-work. This includes a recreational diving ticket, at least 20 logged dives and the ability to pass a diving medical. Candidates will also be expected to work towards a coxswain certification. With the exception of the initial recreational dive ticket all training and other expenses will be paid for by the project.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Neville Barrett (Neville.Barrett@utas.edu.au) for more details.

A determination of the mass balance of a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) incorporating integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA)

Supervision team:

Professor Chris Carter

Dr Scott Hadley

Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) are land based and present several potential advantages compared with open water systems that include enhanced biosecurity and a controlled environment. A RAS is a flow through system where matching nutrient sources to sinks is the general aim as this reduces the cost (of removing nutrients) making the RAS a more efficient process. The Experimental Aquaculture Facility (EAF) at IMAS Taroona holds salmon in several tanks. The salmon are fed and the holding water receives the salmon waste, which is comprised of nutrients (nitrogen, carbon and phosphorous) in the form of; particulates (faeces and feed), ammonium (released though the gills from metabolic processes) and urea. Salmon discharge is the only nutrient source into the tank water, which is constantly replenished with fresh water, flushing the waste from the tanks into the RAS sinks. Determining the nutrient flux rates of salmon waste into the surrounding water necessarily forms part of the mass balance equation. Removal of waste can be done using bacteria, microbial processes, filtering, flushing or in a process called Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA). IMTA uses organisms from different trophic levels to manage the nutrient fluxes and these include extractive species such as microorganisms, plants, filter feeders and deposit feeders. RAS and on-shore IMTA aim to achieve a net waste of zero; this reduces the need for replenishing with new water thus reducing costs. There is also the potential increase in biomass yield of the identified IMTA crop, which contributes to reducing the system cost. As experiments in the EAF facility often vary environmental variables, particularly temperature, establishing the interaction between temperature and the processes involved in the mass balance would also be highly desirable.

Zooplankton diversity and/ or an investigation of microplastics in zooplankton samples collected during the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition

The Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE) was a three-month circumpolar survey (December 2016- March 2017) composed of 22 different projects bringing together research teams from six continents focusing on understanding the Antarctic ecosystem. As part of the microplastics project- involving researchers from Australian Antarctic Division and IMAS, we collected zooplankton using bongo nets deployed to 200 m throughout the circumpolar voyage. Aspects of this proposed student project could focus on zooplankton biodiversity in the first instance. The analysis of these samples could include the use of equipment such as a Laser Optical Plankton Counter to determine the size spectrum of the communities and a Zooscan to identify the dominant zooplankton groups. Analysis could also include traditional taxonomic methods using microscopy.

Either in addition to an analysis of the zooplankton diversity, or as a separate project, an investigation of the presence of microplastics (<5mm) associated with these samples could be undertaken. Microplastics can enter the marine food webs through accidental ingestion or via other ways. They can attract and accumulate chemical pollution on their surfaces, which can further affect the health of animals that have ingested them. In this project, depending on student interests, microplastic load in zooplankton could be assessed through gut content analysis and other chemical investigations.

Supervisor team may include:

Associate Professor Patti Virtue IMAS

Dr Kerrie Swadling IMAS/ACE

Cath King AAD

Dana Bergstrom AAD

John van den Hoff AAD

Kate Keifer AAD

Authorised by the Executive Director, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
February 16, 2016