Working with students on an abalone diver’s boat, recording data from an experiment
I am passionately curious about how the world works, especially the marine world.
I grew up in South Africa – my undergraduate training was at the University of Cape Town, a centre for Marine Biology and Oceanography (and a great place for diving).
After a year in the navy, studying the sessile animals that slow down ships, I came to Australia to do a PhD under Charles Birch, on the ecology of sessile animals on the Great Barrier Reef. From there I moved to a post-doc, with Joe Connell, at the University of California at Santa Barbara. I worked on the effects on sessile animals of the hot water from a nuclear power station, and also began studying abalone -seeding hatchery reared abalone to see if this would enhance the abalone fishery.
When I joined the University of Melbourne I found abalone were a wonderful model species for ecological field experiments as well as work on sustainable management – they are commercially important, the fishers know a lot about them as they search for them underwater, and abalone don’t move around much!
Also, as abalone farming has grown, there has been a demand for information and thus opportunities for research on their physiology – feeding, growth, reproduction, and immune system. As there are abalone species all around the world, knowledge about them has accumulated fast – more so than other marine animals.
In addition, I have supervised projects on other fishery species – shark species, rock-lobsters, Trochus snails and fin-fish. My students have used their PhD experience to move into work on abalone farms, in government fisheries agencies, and also starting their own companies.