Sydney Harbour’s beauty draws tourists from all over Australia and from around the world, it provides a wonderful living environment to many of Sydney’s population, it is the playground for many Sydney-siders and it supports significant economic activity. However, the increasing population of Sydney (7 million by 2050) and the strength of the East Australian Current (which is making Sydney and eastern Australia climate change “hotspots”) will continue to add significantly to the pressures upon the Harbour with as yet unknown consequences. In response to these challenges, SIMS has initiated the Sydney Harbour Research Program to continue to enhance water quality in the Harbour, to characterise the biodiversity of species and habitats, to investigate functioning and resilience, to restore degraded habitats and to provide the scientific basis for management and policy decisions for the Harbour.
For further information on this partner harbour, please email the primary contact listed in bold below.
Melanie’s research focuses on estuarine and coastal ecosystems, not only some of the most important ecosystems in terms of carbon sequestration and marine productivity, but also areas that have borne the brunt of human impacts. She uses field experiments to address questions at ecologically meaningful scales, spanning coastlines, continents, years and decades. The contribution her research is making to environmental management in Australia, and globally has been recognised with the 2010 NSW Scientist of the Year Award in the Category Environment, Water and Climate Change Sciences and the 2012 Brian Robinson Fellowship from the Banksia Environmental Foundation.
Melanie leads a nationally and internationally respected team of 15 researchers at Macquarie University, hailing from Portugal, Italy, the UK, the USA, Canada, India and Australia. Over the past 10 years, she has also involved over 50 undergraduate students and interns in her research. Amongst Melanie’s diverse research interests has been her investigations into the key factors influencing the fate of dead organic matter (detritus): when is it remineralised and when does it accumulate, storing carbon? Her team have for the first time shown how species invasions and extinctions can influence spatially removed ecosystems by modifying the supply and fate of detritus transported across ecosystem boundaries by wind, waves and currents. Her team’s work has shown how the timing, synchrony, and species composition of detrital pulses on sand and mudflats influences its value to its consumers. The research has revolutionised food web models by challenging the assumption that detritus can be treated as a static and homogenous resource.
- Director of the World Harbour Project
- Director and CEO of the Sydney Institute of Marine Science
- Professor of Biology and Director of the Centre for Marine Bio-Innovation at The University of New South Wales
- Visiting Professor in the Singapore Center for Environmental
- Life Science Engineering at Nanyang Technological University
Peter has 30 years of experience and some 150 international publications in a diversity of biological and ecological fields, and is an inventor on 9 patents. He has been a Fulbright Scholar, a Queen Elizabeth II Fellow, CEO of a publically listed biotechnology company and is on the editorial boards of leading scientific journals.
His research interests include environmental change and marine coastal ecology; kelp and seaweed ecology; bacterial biofilm biology and ecology; biofouling and antifouling, and; environmental biotechnology.
Katherine A. Dafforn
Katherine A. Dafforn is a Research Associate at the University of New South Wales and Sydney Institute of Marine Science. Katherine completed her doctorate in 2010 before taking up a research position in the Ecology and Evolution Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. Katherine’s research has focused on understanding and managing anthropogenic impacts on marine communities. She has compared the effectiveness of different ecological monitoring tools for assessing the health of estuaries. These tools are being implemented in a survey of Sydney Harbour that investigates the interactive effects of stormwater contaminants on sediment community structure and function.
Katherine’s research on physical stressors has included surveys of nonindigenous species on artificial structures and manipulative experiments to understand how the design of artificial structures might facilitate invasion. More recently her research is investigating the potential for engineering designs to mitigate ecological impacts associated with artificial structures.
Dr Chariton is Research Team Leader for Molecular Ecology and Toxicology with the Commonwealth Science and Industry Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) Oceans and Atmosphere. His team’s focus is on the development, application and integration ‘omic’ technologies and traditional ecology for the monitoring and assessment of aquatic systems. His research is primarily in the area of estuarine ecology, with a focus on the effects on environmental contaminants on sedimentary environments. However, he is also currently involved in a broad-range of research projects, which include: biogeochemical cycling in seagrass food-webs, ecotoxicology of contaminated ground-waters, flood-plain ecology, the ecology of metalloids, developing a trigger value for uranium and studying the estuarine benthic ecology of Kakadu National Park. In addition, Dr Chariton provides specialised environmental assessment, risk assessment and ecological expertise to a range of industry and government clients. Dr Chariton is currently contributing to the revised Australian Water Quality Guidelines and a co-author the revised Sediment Quality Guidelines.
Emma Johnston is an Australian marine ecologist and ecotoxicologist. She is a professor at the University of New South Wales, where she heads the Subtidal Ecology and Ecotoxicology Research Group. Johnston is the inaugural Director of the Sydney Harbour Research Program at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science. She is also a research fellow of the Australian Research Council. Professor Johnston’s research focuses on the impact of human activities and the effects of pollutants on marine life. She performs most of her research in the field, often in Sydney Harbour. As of 2014, Johnston has published over 80 peer-reviewed works.
David Raftos is an Associate Professor of Marine Science at Macquarie University. He has over 25 years’ experience in marine biology, focusing on the cell and molecular biology of marine invertebrates. After completing his PhD, Associate Professor Raftos worked as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of California Los Angeles, and as an Australian Research Council Fellow at the University of Technology Sydney. He has since held faculty positions at the University of Technology Sydney and Macquarie University, and has also been a Visiting Professor at Cornell University in New York and the George Washington University in Washington DC.
Associate Professor Raftos is currently acting as Deputy Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University and is Co-Director of the University’s Marine Science Program. He is also a senior member of the Sydney Institute of Marine Science and has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Experimental Zoology and Developmental and Comparative Immunology. His current research focuses on the effects of environmental stress on marine invertebrates at the cellular, protein and genetic levels, with particular emphasis on infectious disease, environmental contamination and climate change. His research projects, funded by the Australian Research Council and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, include the use of proteomics and transcriptomics to investigate the biological effects of environmental stress and climate change on marine invertebrates, and molecular studies of disease resistance and susceptibility in oysters.
Dr Mariana Mayer-Pinto is a Research Associate at the University of New South Wales and the Sydney Institute of Marine Science. Mariana did her Honours and Masters degree in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, moving to Sydney, Australia in 2005 to do her PhD. After completing her PhD (2009), she worked as a Research Associate at the University of Sydney and as Senior Environmental Scientist in private consultancy companies. In 2013, she took a research position in the Ecology and Evolution Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. Mariana’s research focuses on understanding how multiple anthropogenic effects, such as artificial structures and contaminants, affect ecosystem structure and functioning of marine and estuarine systems. Understanding how biodiversity and ecological processes are affected by these threats is essential to be able to predict their consequences and create successful conservation and management policies. Her most recent project is investigating the effects of urban structures on marine systems, so that these structures can be better planned and designed to mitigate their impacts on the environment as well as serve multipurpose functions, e.g. to restore local diversity and increase productivity.
Dr Ezequiel ‘Ziggy’ Marzinelli is a Research Associate at the University of New South Wales and a Visiting Research Fellow at the Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering (SCELSE). Ziggy’s research is focused broadly on marine community ecology. His primary research goal is to understand how ecological processes and environmental changes influence interactions between microbes and their hosts, particularly habitat-forming species, and how disruptions to these interactions affect associated biodiversity. His research combine large-scale surveys with experiments to gain mechanistic understanding of the causes and consequences of species’ declines, and to provide sensible, practical solutions via ecological restoration of foundation species such as large seaweeds.
Bob Creese received his tertiary education at the University of Sydney, majoring in marine ecology. Following postdoctoral fellowships in New Zealand and the USA, Bob was appointed to the permanent academic staff at the University of Auckland in 1985. He was based at the University’s Leigh Marine Laboratory and conducted teaching and research in the fields of marine ecology, conservation biology and aquaculture. He had a long involvement with the New Zealand Marine Sciences Society (NZMSS) during that time and was awarded the NZMSS Award in 2000 for outstanding services to marine ecological research and postgraduate training in New Zealand.
Bob returned to Australia in 2000 and was appointed Research Leader for Aquatic Ecosystems research in 2004. The research within this unit covers a wide range of marine and freshwater topics including biodiversity assessments, threatened species, aquatic pests, habitat assessment and rehabilitation and ecosystem modelling. Bob’s direct involvement with this research effort is centred around aquatic components of the NSW Government’s MER program, particularly the marine theme.Contact Bob
Edwina is a researcher and coordinator of the Marine Studies Institute at the University of Sydney. Her research focus is on the cycling of carbon and oxygen in estuaries. The methods of individual estuaries in processing terrestrial carbon before it enters the marine environment is still largely unknown. My study of the Sydney Harbour Estuary has illuminated how carbon is processed in this large temperate drowned river valley system under various environmental scenarios. I am passionate about this study because of the changes you see as you go down the river starting with a high carbon dioxide low oxygen environment at the fresh water source decreasing as you head downstream where the ocean water interacts, the phytoplankton do their bit and the fish come and feed. This interplay of ocean and river hydrodynamics and of the tiny creatures and the chemistry balance in the estuary all contribute to the much bigger story of climate change.
Emma Thompson is a Dr of Marine Biology and the Project Manager for the World Harbour Project. Initially from a marketing background Emma came to Australia 10 years ago to undertake her PhD at Macquarie University. Her research has focused on assessing the anthropogenic impacts on organisms in coastal waterways including the effects of contamination, ocean acidification and infectious disease. Her passion is communicating science to the general public.
Dr Beth Strain is the project co-ordinator for the green engineering group of the World Harbour Project (Workgroup 2). She has +10 years of experience working on Australian and international projects designed to test the effects of different types of green engineering interventions in developing artificial structures that promote native biodiversity, limit the spread of invasive species and improve ecosystems functioning. She is currently conducting research into the benefits of retrofiting existing artificial structures by adding microhabitats and bivalves onto seawalls in 15 harbours, and the effects adding soft-habitats and kelps onto artificial boulder habitats in 4 harbours.
Paul Gribben is interested in understanding the processes that determine the structure of marine communities, and how individuals and communities respond to environmental stressors. My research is conducted in a range of ecosystems – from intertidal sandy shores to subtidal rocky reefs. My general research themes include 1) ecology and evolution of the spread and impacts of marine invaders 2) disturbance ecology and the response of marine ecosystems to stress 3) the role of trophic interactions and ecosystem engineering in maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem function. I also have an extensive background in aquaculture and fisheries conservation science.
Stuart Pearson is a geographer working at UNSW Canberra in the School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences. He does integrated environmental and natural resource management research – much of it through Sino-Australian Research Centre for Coastal Management (SARCCM) collaborations and more recently with research students from Indonesia. He joined UNSW in 2009 after managing research investment and being a senior knowledge broker for Land & Water Australia (Australian Government RDC). In that role, he provided research leadership and support on issues such as Stewardship, Citizen Science, Periurban Issues, Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, Pesticides risk on the Great Barrier Reef and Resilience.
Ana Vila Concejo
Ana Vila Concejo’s career started in Spain, where I did my undergraduate and MSc studying urban beaches at the University of Vigo; and Portugal, where I completed my PhD at the University of Algarve investigating the short and medium term evolution of tidal inlets in a barrier island system. Then I moved to Australia and started looking into the morphodynamics of flood-tide deltas in wave-dominated coasts within the framework of an ARC funded linkage project which was based in Port Stephens. In 2010 I started researching the morphodynamics of sand aprons in reef platforms. In 2011 I was awarded an ARC Future Fellowship to continue the studies in the dynamics of coral sands. Since 2012, I am the Director of One Tree Island Research Station.
Ross Coleman is Director of the Centre for Research on Ecological Impacts of Coastal Cities. Ross specialises in increasing understanding of ecological processes in hard surface communities. His key research findings are that grazing by molluscs on rocky shores is a near universal driver of rocky surface ecology and that limpet grazing exerts the strongest herbivory effects in any marine system. His research also embraces invasion biology, marine conservation and ecological engineering.
A/Professor Gavin Birch (B.Sc Hons, M.Sc, Ph.D, G-MBA) has worked in industry for Exxon Corporation in Australia, USA and in other parts of the world for 12 years and as an academic for 30 years at University of Cape Town (5 years) and at Sydney University, Australia (25 years). His interests are in the source, fate and effects of contaminants in marine, estuarine and fluvial environments. He also researches remedial options for effective stormwater management, recycling and water harvesting. Professor Birch has a wide range of interests within environmental science and collaborates extensively nationally and internationally. Gavin consults to industry and government and provides managerial advice.
Gavin Birch has authored 175 peer-reviewed scientific publications, including three books, as well as 130 un-refereed conference abstracts and reports. Gavin has supervised 91 postgraduate and Honours students and currently supervises two PhD students and one MSc student. He has attracted PhD students from Brazil and Korea and visiting professors from China, Iran, United Kingdom, India, Canada and the US. Gavin has supervised students from 27 nations.
Gavin Birch is a member of Australian Society for Ecotoxicology, Society for Environmental Geochemistry and Health, Society of Marine Conservation, and the Australian Marine Science Association.
Jung-Ho (John) Lee
John Lee recently completed his PhD degree in February 2016 under the watchful supervision of A/Professor Gavin Birch at the University of Sydney. John’s doctorate research investigated the resuspension of contaminated surficial sediments by wind-waves into the water column as well as studying the dietary uptake processes of these contaminated particles by aquatic filter-feeding organisms such as bivalves. John’s work ultimately aimed to establish a link between aquatic geochemistry to bivalve physiology in order to explain the high contaminant concentrations previously reported in the soft-tissues of Australian bivalves. Globally, many bivalve species serve a vital role as key ‘bioindicator’ species that reflect not only the level of contamination, but also the overall ecosystem health of their local aquatic environment.
John’s research was an Australian first to utilise the gamma-emitting radioisotope 65Zn to study the uptake and depuration of Zn (an important heavy metal contaminant) from dissolved and dietary sources for a native bivalve species. John’s other major interest lies in incorporating GIS techniques and Python programming to spatially map and model contaminants in aquatic environments including Sydney Harbour. John has recently begun a new endeavour in industry as a Spatial Data Analyst at Lotsearch Pty Ltd in Sydney.