ESTUARINE PROGRAM

Research Leader Professor Mick Keough
Contact Details:  Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, Vic 3010

My research involves assessing combined effects of coastal stressors, particularly nutrients and toxicants, I Design of environmental monitoring programs, and am involved in analysis of the impacts of invasive species in coastal ecosystems

Industry Involvement:

  • Collaboration with Derwent Estuary Program and Norske-Skog (multinational, pulp & paper industry) to examine impacts of toxicants, nutrients, and pest species in Derwent Estuary. Second Aim of project is to measure improvements ot estuarine health associated with changes to effluent stream of Norske Skog.
  • Sydney Water. Member of Independent Expert Group advising Sydney Water on conduct of environmental studies associated with Sydney Desalination Project.
  • Victorian Desalination Project. Member, Independent Experts Group advising Victorian government on conduct of marine environmental studies.
  • Channel Deepening Project. Member, Independent Experts Group advising Victorian government on conduct of marine environmental studies.
  • Victorian Coastal Council. Advisory body responsible for Victorian Coastal Strategy.

Estuarine Research Objective

  • Develop new measures of individual health for estuarine animals
  • Adapt marine field mesocosm techniques, currently used for examining effects of pollutants and nutrients, for use in estuaries
  • Use these new techniques in assessments of demonstration estuaries
  • Combine biological tools and new passive samplers to identify effects of individual pollutants
  • Use new measures of individual health and existing expertise in measuring connectivity to determine risks of single-estuary impacts extending beyond estuary boundaries.

Estuarine Heavy Metals and EDC’s

Research Leader Associate Professor Steve Swearer
Contact Details:Department of Zoology, The University of Melbourne 3010 Victoria

A major focus of my research is investigating the chronological records of trace element and heavy metal incorporation into fish ear bones (otoliths). Dr Nicole Barbee and I are applying such chronologies of chemical exposure history to reconstruct movement patterns in mobile fish species (and therefore exposure risk to pollutants) as well as reconstructing the timing and magnitude of heavy metal pollutant events from the chronologies recorded in sedentary species.

More recently, Dr Kathryn Hassell and I have initiated a research program into the effects of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) on estuarine fish development, growth, and reproduction using a range of biomarkers. Our research is focusing on the knock-on effects of EDC exposure during embryonic development and the impacts of EDCs on gonad development, sex allocation and social and mating behaviour in estuarine fish.

Industry Involvement:

  • Collaboration with DPI (Fisheries Victoria, MAFFRI) and DSE (ARI) to investigate the impacts of environmental flows in estuaries on the early life history and fisheries productivity of Black Bream in the Gippsland Lakes
  • Collaboration with DPI (Fisheries Victoria, MAFFRI) to investigate links between nutrient inputs, ocean productivity, and larval growth and survival of Snapper.
  • Melbourne Water Corporation. Research project to assess impacts of rock walls on estuarine fish assemblages and the potential for restoration of riparian vegetation to improve estuarine fish populations.
  • Victorian Coastal Council. Advisory body responsible for Victorian Coastal Strategy.
  • Phillip Island Nature Park. Member of the Scientific Research Advisory Committee.

Estuarine Heavy Metals and EDC Research Objectives: To establish, develop and validate (through cross-theme and inter-agency collaboration) new methods for detecting and managing effects of pollutants in Victoria’s estuaries. Specific objectives are to:

  • Ascertain the utility of galaxiid embryonic development as a biomarker of estuarine sediment toxicity.
  • Validate whether embryonic otolith core chemistry provides an elemental fingerprint of particular polluted estuaries which could be used to assess latent sublethal effects of embryonic pollution exposure.
  • Explore the ecotoxicological impacts on metapopulation dynamics through the impacts of pollutants on the process of larval dispersal and population connectivity.
  • Evaluate whether chemical chronologies stored in fish otoliths are accurate recorders of pollution exposure history.
  • Develop the eastern bluespot goby as a bioindicator species of EDCs in estuaries.
  • Assess effects of EDCs on early developmental stages of black bream.
  • Determine if intersex gonads in black bream are a result of EDC exposure or natural sex change. Evaluate whether chemical chronologies stored in fish otoliths are accurate recorders of pollution exposure history.

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