The introduction of non-native species is a major cause of ecological change worldwide. In the marine environment there has been a rapid increase in the number of invasions by exotic species, driven by an increase in human aided transport across oceans and seas. In Australian coastal waters alone there are over 175 detected exotic species, yet the ecological effects of these species are little known. Our lab has been investigating the effects that invasive marine pests have on the function and ecology of native communities in southeastern Australia. Past projects have examined the impact of high profile invaders such as the northern Pacific seastar (Asterias amurensis) and the European fan worm (Sabella spallanzanii) on native communities and nutrient cycling in soft sediment habitats. Current projects are looking at both the impact of invasive species on nutrient cycling in the Derwent Estuary, Tasmania, and the ecology of marine fouling organisms in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria.
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A common source of disturbance in coastal marine communities is the input of toxicants and nutrients. We are interested in how different types, timings, frequencies and intensities of these disturbances can vary in their impacts on marine communities. Our general focus is on how these disturbances effect sessile communities growing on hard substrates and soft sediment invertebrate communities. We are investigating both how such disturbances specifically effect the organisms within these communities and also more general ideas relating to disturbance and invasion theory.
Allyson O'Brien Effects of disturbances on intertidal mudflat assemblagesBack to top
A strong componenet of our lab's research focuses on how human activities impact on coastal environments. We have been investigating how a range of human impacts such as harvesting, trampling on rocky shores and the fragmentation of important marine habitats affect marine populations and communities. We are interested in how such disturbances act on marine environments and ways in which they can be managed and mediated.
Jacqui Pocklington The ecological role of canopy-forming fucoid algae on temperate intertidal rocky shores
One of the main steps being taken to off set the effects of human impacts on marine environments and protect biodiversity is the creation of Marine Protected Areas. However, many reserves are created with little knowledge of how they affect the areas they are intended to protect. We are involved in several projects that aim to assess and develop tools for evaluating the effectiveness of MPA's. Our research aims to understand the dispersal patterns of marine animals and the patterns of replenishment and connectivity of populations within reserves.