Marine and Ecophysiology

Bryozoan reef habitat

Lab Head

Dr Travis Dutka

Senior Lecturer
View profile, publications and contact details



The Marine and Ecophysiology Groups seeks to address important research questions and issues relating to the passions of its members. In doing so, we actively encourage inter and intra-disciplinary research collaborations and industry partnerships to achieve translational outcomes. We undertake diverse research projects focusing on understanding the physiology of animals, and how physiology underpins their behaviour, diseases, conditions or performance etc. Ultimately, this can be integrated with other information to assist in conservation and management strategies for complex reef systems, establishment of artificial reefs and to understand various conditions or disease processes.

Areas of Research

Western Port Wonders: unique Bryozoan reef systems

Bryozoa are non-photosynthetic invertebrate filter-feeders, which live in colonies, commonly referred to as ‘lace corals’ despite being unrelated. They are distributed worldwide, however the Western Port Bryozoans are special as they form unique extensive shallow water biogenic reefs. The Western Port Bryozoan Reefs are of potentially global significance. Biogenic reefs are important habitat for a multitude of marine species including fish, mollusks, crustaceans etc. They provide food, attachment substrate for sessile organisms, shelter from wave action and strong currents as well as concealment from predators for both adult and larval stage organisms. These complex habitats are often biodiversity hotspots compared to the surrounding habitats. They are typified by a rigid skeletal framework rising above the seabed and are comprised of biological deposits produced over a long period. Recently, our group has undertaken a large research project examining the unique bryozoan reef systems of Western Port. This multifactorial study engages Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA) and our industry partner Fathom Pacific Pty Ltd. Our research team is currently working with key stakeholders in order to establish the conservation values of these communities, and to determine appropriate protective measures.

As part of this large project we aim to:

  • Investigate the biodiversity of bryozoans and co-occurring fauna
  • Determine the age and growth rates of these reef systems
  • Determine the extent of biogenic bryozoan reefs
  • Identify and quantify the key threats to these biogenic bryozoan reef systems
  • Understand the recolonization processes and connectivity to other populations

Muscle Physiology

The leader of the Marine and  Ecophysiology Group is an expert in skeletal muscle physiology spanning over 20 years, publishing research articles on various aspects of muscle contractility and excitability. To understand how muscle function or performance may become aberrant under certain conditions, we must understand how it normally functions.  Muscle plays a myriad of roles not just limited to power output or movement. Examining and comparing muscle’s many roles and intricacies gives insight into muscle fatigue, muscle dysfunction and disease. Our world class muscle researchers have long-established collaborations locally and internationally.

Areas of Interest include:

  • Action potential generation and propagation
  • Force development, maintenance and relaxation
  • Calcium regulation and influence factors
  • Physiological mechanisms and ultrastructure
  • Protein analysis (quantification and modulation)
  • Exercise physiology

Lab Members

Ms Nicole Wilson
Ms Adrienne Cheong
Dr Adrian Flynn (Honorary)
Dr Adele Harvey