Fish Ecology and Fisheries Group

Theme Head

Assoc Prof David Crook
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Our group in the Centre of Freshwater Ecosystems has extensive expertise in fish ecology and fisheries science, and works closely with industry and research partners across Australia and internationally.

We study the behaviour, biology and ecology of freshwater, estuarine and marine fishes, and focus on understanding how human disturbances - including climate change, water resource use and fisheries – affect the viability and sustainability of fish populations.

Our research supports the sustainable management of fisheries and associated natural resources.

Movement and migration

Understanding how fish and other aquatic organisms are distributed in the environment over time allows for the identification of critical movement pathways and the impacts of human activities.

We have expertise in a range of methods for studying fish movement and migration. We use radio- and acoustic telemetry to directly track the movements of fish and turtles in riverine landscapes, estuaries and the sea.

We are also leaders in the use of otolith (fish earstone) chemistry analysis, which allows us to hindcast the migration histories of individual fish over their entire lives.

The data we generate are integrated with environmental information (e.g. river discharge) to understand the responses of fish to environmental drivers and used to devise strategies to protect fish populations.

Population structure

Fish populations are often comprised of distinct spatial units that are demographically isolated. Management of structured populations requires location-specific approaches that account for variable population dynamics across regions.

We use a suite of natural tags, (otolith chemistry, parasites assemblage composition and population genetics - SNP, microsatellites) to examine population structure in freshwater, estuarine and marine fisheries.

Our research is used by management agencies to define boundaries for spatial management of commercially and socially important fisheries.

Biochronological analysis

Calcified structures, such as fish otoliths, provide the key to understanding many aspects of fish ecology and fish population dynamics. Otoliths provide a chronological record of a fish’s age, migration history and growth rate across the entire life history.

We use this information to build statistical models linking fish recruitment (year class strength) and growth rates to environmental variables such as river flow and large-scale climatic variation.

These models are used to examine the outcomes of future climatic and hydrologic scenarios, and inform water resource allocation and fisheries regulation

Traits and life history

We use ecological species traits (e.g., morphological attributes) and life history attributes (e.g. reproductive groups) to explain and predict species abundance patterns, the likelihood of species extinction and invasion, and changes in species distributions caused by environmental change.

Along with collaborators in Australia and overseas we apply trait-based ecology and life history theory to study how fish drive ecological function.

We study trait correlations and links between ‘trait-scapes’ and the environment to predict fish community assembly and responses to future hydrologic regimes and climate.

Theme Members

Assoc Prof Alison King
Prof Nick Bond
Dr Luke McPhan
Dr Michael Shackleton
Dr Andre Siebers
Dr Nicole Thurgate