Research opportunities

  • Ecotoxicology: sublethal effects of urban runoff on the behaviour of aquatic organisms
  • Population genetics of Port Jackson sharks
  • Frog cognition
  • Rainbowfish conservation biology

Contact culum.brown@mq.edu.au for information

BEEF Lab word cloud based on titles from about 40 recent papers.

Current projects

Movement and migrations of Port Jackson sharks in NSW Australia

This work involves acoustic tagging of Port Jackson sharks (PJs) in Eastern Autralia to investigate their movement patterns, site fidelity, migratory routes and social interactions. This work forms the basis of Nathan's PhD.

Social networks in wild Port Jackson shark populations

Johann has joined Nathan to investigate social structure of PJs in Jervis Bay using acoustic tags.

Genetic and population structure of Port Jackson sharks in Jervis Bay, NSW Australia

We have been tagging and collecting DNA samples of PJ sharks in Jervis Bay since 2012. Jenna, Jo and Pascal have been isolating specific markers to look at the genetic and population structure of the sharks in this area. This work was part of Jenna's masters. We are now planning to collect samples in other regions of Australia to obtain a broader picture. There's still plenty to do!

Personality and cerebral lateralization of captive and wild Port Jackson sharks

Contrary to what most people think, primates are not the only animals that show cerebral lateralization (e.g. handedness), or that have individual personality traits. During his masters, Evan was investigating laterality and personality in PJ sharks, and how observed lateralization differences might be linked to sharks’ personality traits.

Spatial and social learning in Port Jackson sharks

From our research on PJ shark site fidelity and social networks, we know the sharks spend most of the breeding season in specific reefs within Jervis Bay, and come back to those locations every year. They also show consistent social interactions with particular individuals. Catarina and Sherrie are interested in the mechanisms behind these behaviours. They will investigate possible cues for orientation and navigation between known locations, factors behind social recognition and aspects of social cognition and learning.

Daily activity patterns and behaviour in captive and wild sharks

Julianna is working on a project focused on the biotelemetry of the Port Jackson shark. Accelerometers attached to captive sharks gather data while they are performing behaviours like resting, swimming, foraging, or mating. By looking at this accelerometry data we can create signatures of what each of these behaviours looks like. Later on this information can be applied to sharks in the wild so we can find out more about their physiology and habits. In the future, applying accelerometry data to Port Jackson social interactions can be used to reveal more about this species.

Smooth stingrays population and behaviour in the Jervis Bay Marine Park

Joni is studying the smooth stingray population of Jervis Bay with relation to their use of the Woollamia Boat ramp area where fishermen have been provisioning the stingrays for over 30 years. Research suggests provisioning can cause changes to natural behaviours and habituation, improper nutrition and overfeeding, and changes to population structure and trophic balance. No population assessment for the smooth stingrays of Jervis Bay has been conducted as yet, and Joni aims to achieve this. Additionally, assessment of the stingrays’ reliance on the provisioning site will be assessed, along with the social interactions between conspecifics in response to a food stimulus.

Social behaviour and network analysis of reef manta rays

Rob is studying sociality in a population of reef manta rays in Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia. This remote, near-pristine area provides great opportunities to study the natural social behaviour and structure of a large manta ray population. Rob will conduct social network analysis using photo-ID data from over 600 identified manta ray individuals. He will also use aerial UAV videography and acoustic telemetry to study social dynamics. The project is in collaboration with Marine Megafauna Foundation.

Spatial learning in intertidal gobies

This work is part of Penelope's PhD project.

Personality and stress in zebrafinches

Larissa is studying zebrafinches during her PhD.

Sexual harassment in guppies

For her masters, Michelle was studying the direct energetic costs of sexual harassment in feral guppies.

Spatial dynamics of Australian bass in the Lane Cove river, Sydney

We are using acoustic tags to track the movements of Australian bass in the Lane Cove river.

Pain perception and sentience in fish

Culum is a champion of fish intelligence and sentience. He has been actively involved in the debate about awareness and pain perception in fish, which has big ethical considerations, and has been trying to change public perception of fish intelligence.