Student Projects on Offer

We have a number of different research programs, and an active group of Honours and postgraduate students. Some possible projects are listed below, but they are by no means all we have to offer. Feel free to contact us to discuss any of these projects or any ideas you may have.


Climate Change: Thermal Physiology of Endemic Freshwater Fishes

We are seeking a motivated Honours student to help characterize the metabolic physiology of some of South West Australia’s iconic freshwater fishes.  The SW is a region of global significance for its extraordinary Biodiversity, yet it is also one of the areas most threatened by climate change. The student will be taking advantage of a brand new cutting-edge respirometry system and swim tunnel funded by the School of Veterinary Science to quantify metabolic rates in freshwater cobbler and Pygmy Perch.  The project will be a “hands-on” experience and include the student both working with fish in the field and the lab. The work will suit a student with an interest in the fields of eco-physiology and equip the successful applicant with the necessary skills to investigate climate change effects in fishes and other ectothermic vertebrates. 

For more information contact Stephen Beatty (

Parasites and changing climates: quantifying the threats by multiple stressors

Changing climates are not just changing temperatures, but are also set to change many other biotic and abiotic factors which will impact organisms. Parasites in particular can have substantial impacts on the biology of their hosts, including reduced growth and slower reproductive output. Much like Australia’s terrestrial ecosystems, aquatic systems are increasingly being invaded by exotic species, including parasites. Lernaea cyprinacea, an anchor-worm, has been found in numerous native fishes. We are seeking a student with interests in either parasitology and/or ecophysiology to investigate the interactive effects of climate change and parasite presence in native fish, using a state of the art respirometry system. The project will be a “hands-on” experience and include the student both working with fish in the field and the lab.

For more information contact Stephen Beatty (

How well do fish swim?

River barriers, such as dams and weirs, are a major threat to the unique freshwater fish fauna of Western Australia, because they prevent feeding and spawning migrations and may lead to disconnected populations. Fishways are structures which may enable fishes to negotiate these barriers and we are involved in a number of projects to design and construct fishways throughout the state. Effective fishway design, however, requires knowledge of the swimming performance of the target fishes and this information is currently very limited for native freshwater fishes in Western Australia.

This study will use a swim tunnel, recently installed in our laboratory, to measure the swimming performance of freshwater fishes and relate swimming performance to parameters such as fish age, size and sex, water temperature and parasitic infection. The data that are obtained will have immediate applications because they will be related to water flow measurements from current fishways and used to design improved fishways in the future.

For more information contact Stephen Beatty (

Freshwater Crocodiles: habitat use in small riverine pools of the Kimberley

The freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus johnstoni) is an iconic species in the rivers of northern Australia. There is much concern that freshwater crocodiles will be severely impacted in the Kimberley by the invasion of the introduced cane toad (Bufo marinus). This project will assess the habitat ulitisation, home range and movement patterns of this large freshwater predator in pools of the Fitzroy River. This will be achieved through acoustic tracking and mark-recapture of the species. The project will suit a candidate that likes field work in remote areas and will involve Indigenous Ranger groups.

For more information contact David Morgan (

Dwarf Sawfish: recruitment and movement patterns in the Kimberley

The dwarf sawfish (Pristis clavata) is critically endangered (IUCN) and is considered to be one of the world’s rarest species. The Kimberley is a hotspot for the species, yet very little is known about its biology. The candidate will be assisting in developing an acoustic tracking (passive) study in the Fitzroy River estuary and King Sound to examine the movement patterns and habitat usage of the species, and will also determine likely conservation threats. The project will suit a candidate that likes field work in remote areas and will involve Indigenous Ranger groups.

For more information contact David Morgan (

Study the healing process in fish gills after toxic insults

Water has 30,000x less oxygen than air. Hence, fast swimming fish are very susceptible to gill damage. Algae blooms may produce substances toxic to tissues including gills.  Algae blooms can be very transient, with clinical signs presenting in affected fish only 1-2days after the blooms have been washed away by currents or tides. This often makes the diagnosis of the cause of gill damage difficult without a good understanding of how gills response and heal in the period following toxic insults. Surprisingly while many published papers report on the gill damage caused by various toxic chemicals, none could be found describing the healing process that follows. The question remains: do fish gills response to toxic damage much like lung tissues in mammals and birds?

This study will require you to:

•      Design live fish experiments to study the healing process in fish gills post exposure to toxic compounds

•      Carry out histopathological evaluation of gills sampled over time

•      Undertake ultrastructural evaluation using electron microscopy

For more information contact Susan Kueh (

Evaluation of in-feed essentials oils as a control for ‘Big Belly’, a gut bacterial disease of Lates calcarifer (barramundi)

‘Big Belly’ (aka Pot Belly) is a significant bacterial disease of barramundi fry at the hatchery level in Southeast Asia. ‘Big Belly’ can cause mortalities of 80 to 100%. It is caused by intracellular coccobacilli and is difficult to treat. The disease may persist as a chronic gut infection in grow-out barramundi.

In this study, we are interested in incorporating the essential oils extracted from garlic, ginger, clove or cinnamon into feed as a potential means of controlling ‘Big Belly’. Similar trials carried out in rainbow trout and tilapia have shown beneficial effects including better resistance to disease.

You will be involved in the following: field & laboratory trials based in Singapore; design of experimental field trials to evaluate in-feed essential oils; evaluate the effects of these supplements via examination of test versus control fish tissues.

For more information contact Susan Kueh (

How many freshwater mussels do we have in south-western Australia?

Only one species of freshwater mussel, Carter’s freshwater mussel or Westralunio carteri, is thought to occur in the south-west of Western Australia. A recently completed PhD project by Dr Michael Klunzinger found that W. carteri has undergone a massive reduction in range over the last 50 years, principally because of salinization and drying of rivers. The same project found some tantalizing evidence that certain populations of these mussels are genetically differentiated, to the extent that they may not belong to the same species.

The aim of this study is to use molecular genetic and morphological analyses to determine whether there are one or more species of freshwater mussels in the south-west of Western Australia. Answering this question will have important consequences for conservation management, because it will affect both the conservation status and future management plans for freshwater mussels in the region.

For more information contact Alan Lymbery (

Are mussels keystone species for freshwater ecosystems?

Mussels play important roles in the functioning of freshwater ecosystems throughout the world, particularly because their filter feeding activities influence water chemistry and clarity, and the amount and kind of suspended particles in the water. Nothing is known, however, of the extent to which Carter’s freshwater mussel influences water quality in Western Australian rivers.

Mussel densities can be very high (³ 100 m-2) in pools which form over summer in many of the ephemeral rivers in the south-west. These pools are important refuge sites for native freshwater fishes and we hypothesise that mussels contribute to the survival of fishes in the pools through their filter feeding activities, which may reduce algal density, enhance water quality and prevent lethal deoxygenation. The aim of this study is to test this hypothesis using a combination of field observations and manipulation of mussel and fish densities in experimental ponds.

For more information contact Alan Lymbery (


Current Honours Students

Leah Botton

Critical environmental factors influencing the distribution of freshwater fishes in the south-west of Australia.

James Laolada

The habitat ecology of the Bull Shark (Carchahinus leucas) in the Fitzroy River, Western Australia.

Jacquie Morgan

The taxonomy of Cryptosporidium spp, found in ornamental fishes in Australia.

Gary Ogston

Implications of climate change on the aestivating Salamanderfish, Lepidogalaxias salamandroides Mees and the Black-stripe                           Minnow, Galaxiella nigrostriata Mees.


Current PhD and MPhil Students

Mark Allen

Sustaining threatening fishes in regulated systems.

Erin Kelly

The health of Australian plotosid and ariid catfishes.

Brad Norman

Whale Shark sustainability using citizen science in Western Australia.

Le Ma

An ecological examination of a threatened, endemic freshwater mussel in Western Australia.

Mikayla Morine

Impact of introduced parasites on native fishes.

Shuting Pan

Genetic variation in Toxoplasma gondii in Australia.

Tom Ryan

The impacts of temperature on freshwater fishes in a changing climate.

Completed Honours Students (2000-present)

Stephen Beatty

The reproductive biology and ecological role, using stable carbon isotope analysis, of marron, Cherax tenuimanus (Smith, 1912), in Lake Navarino, south-western Australia. (2000)

Caroline Lever

Evaluation of three potential production systems for the inland saline aquaculture of rainbow trout in Western Australia. (2000)

Mark Starcevich

Environmental management of rainbow trout aquaculture in inland Western Australia. (2000)

Karen Hoddy

Experimental assessment of the response of terrestrial macroinvertebrates to secondary salinity in the south west of Western Australia. (2001)

Mark Allen

Distribution and biology of the Murchison River hardyhead, Craterocephalus cuneiceps Whitley (Pisces: Atherinidae). (2002)

Mark Pagano

Genetic population structure of barramundi (Lates calcarifer) in Western Australia, using microsatellite analysis, and implications for fisheries management. (2002)

Tom Bennett

Measuring and mitigating nutrient outflow from rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) aquaculture in the south west of Western Australia. (2003)

Mark Maddern

The distribution, biology and ecological impacts of three introduced freshwater teleosts in Western Australia. (2003).

Andrew Rowland

The fish fauna of Lake Kununurra, including dietary comparisons, and aspects of the biology of the lesser salmon catfish Arius graeffei. (2003)

Farhan Bokhari

Measures of riparian ecosystem function along an experimental salinity gradient. (2004)

S.K .Chan

Genetic and environmental factors that influence growth and sex-related traits in sub-adult black bream Acanthopagrus butcheri. (2004)

Michelle Ingram

Assessment and mitigation of ammonia and aluminium in mine lake aquaculture. (2004)

Fiona McAleer

Larval development and ontogenetic changes in the diet of the Trout Minnow (Galaxias truttaceus Valenciennes, 1846) in south-western Western Australia. (2005)

Michelle Tay

The diet of wild and cultured rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in Western Australia. (2005)

Faan Yang Cheah

Molecular and biological characterisation of anisakids in Western Australia. (2006)

Gavin Kay

Remediation of inland saline aquaculture waste utilising sub-surface flow wetlands vegetated with NyPa Forage (Distichlis sp.). (2006)

Nicole Phillips

Development of genetic and morphological methods for the study of sawfish (Pristidae) populations via analysis of old rostra. (2006)

Rob Michael

Investigations into the potential use of Artemia (brine shrimp) to control microalgal blooms within inland saline aquaculture ponds. (2008)

Anna Reid

Cryptosporidium and Giardia in cultured and wild finfish in Australia. (2008)

Jon Murphy

Defining the genetic structure of freshwater fishes in the south west of Western Australia: implications for conservation. (2010)

James Keleher

The effectiveness of current fishway designs in Australia’s south west to accommodate endemic freshwater fish species. (2010)

Stefania Basile

Ecological impacts of the introduced parasite Lernaea cyprinacea L. on native fishes of south-western Australia. (2011)

Lisa West

Diurnal variation in zooplankton communities and its relationship to whale shark (Rhincodon typus) movements at Ningaloo Marine Park, Western Australia. (2013)


Completed PhD and MPhil Students (2000-present)

Andrew Chapman

Biology of the spotted minnow Galaxias maculatus (Jenyns 1842) (Pisces: Galaxiidae) on the south coast of Western Australia. (2003).

Rob Doupé

Selection for faster growing black bream. (2004)

Stephen Beatty

Translocation of freshwater crayfish, contributions from life history, trophic relations and diseases of three species in Western Australia. (2005)

Carina Marshall

Evolutionary genetics of barramundi (Lates calcarifer) in the Australian region. (2005)

Dean Thorburn

Biology, ecology and trophic interactions of elasmobranchs and other fishes in riverine waters of northern Australia. (2006)

Gavin Partridge

Inland saline aquaculture: overcoming biological and technical constraints to the development of an industry. (2008)

Marina Hassan

Parasites of native and introduced freshwater fishes in the south-west of Western Australia. (2008)

Doug Bearham

Parasitic protozoa in the genus Haplosporidium occurring within the north west pearling industry. (2008)

Zoe Spiers

Ciliate protozoa in pearl oysters. (2009) 

Susan Kueh

Diseases of Asian seabass (or barramundi), Lates calcarifer Bloch. (2012)

Nicole Phillips

Genetic relationships of Australian pristids. (2012)

Mahmoud Rashnavadi

The impact of secondary salinisation on freshwater fishes in south-western Australia. (2012)

Jeff Whitty

Tracking endangered sawfishes and river sharks in the Kimberley. (2013)

Michael Klunzinger

Ecology and life history of the freshwater mussel Westralunio carteri (Iredale 1934) in the south-west of Western Australia. (2013)

Michelle Ingram

The effect of salinity on the resilience of riparian ecosystems. (2014)

Melanie Koinari

Prevalence and molecular characterization of gastrointestinal parasites in cultured fish and livestock from Papua New Guinea. (2014)

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