Fish biologists win research recognition

August 16, 2012

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From left to right, Jon Murphy, Adrian Hordyk and Elena Sulin

Murdoch postgraduate students have come away from a prestigious conference on fish biology with awards for their presentations and praise for their research.

Adrian Hordyk, Elena Sulin and Jon Murphy from Murdoch’s Centre for Fish, Fisheries and Aquatic Ecosystems Research, took home three of the nine awards on offer from the Australian Society for Fish Biology’s annual conference in Adelaide. Mr Hordyk and Ms Sulin were also successful in gaining travel awards to participate in the conference.

Mr Murphy, 32, from Kingsley, who is exploring the nature of South-West Australia’s freshwater fish species and populations in terms of their genetic make-up, said winning the Barry Jonassen Award would help to bring attention to the threatened freshwater fish of the region.

“As record breaking numbers of alien fish and increased river salinity have threatened to exterminate native freshwater fishes, it has been imperative to conduct the genetic surveys of these understudied native fish. These will help us to plan their conservation,” he said.

“Already I have found that the number of described native species underestimates the true number of species that occur in the South-West. My research has also shown that certain river basins, such as the Margaret River, have a collection of unique species and thus require special protection.”

The award, worth $2000, will help Mr Murphy fund field trips to a huge study area, which encompasses rivers located north of Moore River to east of Albany.

“The award not only directly funds field trips to sample areas, it brings extra prestige and recognition to both me and the Freshwater Fish Group within Murdoch,” he said.

Awards of $600 each were also presented to Mr Hordyk, 29, and from Warnbro, and Ms Sulin, 28, who is originally from Finland but now lives in Scarborough.

Mr Hordyk, who is in the third year of his PhD, is studying patterns in life history strategies for a range of marine species. He hopes to use this knowledge to develop cost effective techniques to assess the reproductive status of exploited species.

“This is important because many of the modern tools that are used to assess fish stocks require too much data, expertise and expense to be readily applied to many of the world's small-scale and data-poor fisheries,” he said.

“It has been very encouraging receiving the Gilbert P Whitley Memorial Award for best student talk. It has given me extra encouragement to continue with my research and keep going when times get tough.”

Ms Sulin, a Masters student, won the Victorian Marine Consortium Award for her oral presentation on how the growth of the King George Whiting, a popular food fish, can be impacted by movements between habitats and water temperature.

“It is a great honour to be able to win an award like this,” said Ms Sulin. “It is a real boost to know that people appreciate your work and are interested in it.”

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