Variability in shellcraft products | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Variability in shellcraft products

Project background:

Shellcraft, an activity producing ornamental and decorative products from seashells, is an increasingly important means of income generation for coastal communities throughout the Indo-Pacific region and further expansion of this activity is anticipated. With this growth, there is concern that an influx of new entrants to shellcraft foreshadows challenges in maintaining local and/or regional reputations for quality and craftsmanship. Understanding how an individual’s experience in shellcraft influences product variability is critical for anticipating impacts.

For this Project, individuals (from Lavongai, Papua New Guinea) with varying experience in shellcraft were commissioned to produce a product (called mis) that consists of a strand of shell beads. The SRS student, Inali Lutschini, was part of a research team examining these strands to evaluate intra- and inter-individual variability in shellcraft production.

Primary supervisor: Prof. Paul Southgate

Prof. Southgate leads the Tropical Aquaculture research team at USC. Paul’s research focuses on development of sustainable tropical aquaculture industries within the Asia-Pacific region, with emphasis on marine invertebrates (including pearl oysters and other molluscs). Paul has co-edited and co-authored the best-selling undergraduate textbook for Aquaculture (Lucas & Southgate, ‘Aquaculture: Farming Aquatic Animals and Plants’) and the first monograph on the biology and culture of pearl oysters (Southgate & Lucas, ‘The Pearl Oyster’).

Secondary supervisor: Dr Thane Militz

Dr Militz is a postdoctoral scientist within the Tropical Aquaculture research team at USC. Thane’s research focuses on development of farming protocols appropriate for supporting aquaculture production in rural coastal areas of the Pacific and he contributes to several projects in this field.

HDR student mentor: Ms Nittya Simard

Ms Simard is a PhD Candidate and has a Bachelor of Science (Honours). Nittya’s research is focused on social, ecological, and economic dimensions of shellcraft-based livelihoods in the Pacific and she contributes to several projects in this field.

Please contact Dr Thane Militz via email ( with any questions.

Students will be asked to assist on this project in several ways, with tasks such as:

  • Review of relevant literature
  • Photography of shellcraft products
  • Cataloguing shellcraft products
  • Collection of primary data from shellcraft products
  • Data management


Deliverables will include

  • Contribution to data collection
  • Contribution to a draft manuscript
  • A final presentation of the work undertaken

This project would suit a student with background understanding of, and/or an interest in shellcraft, anthropology, conchology, collection management.

In addition to the general ACPIR SRS eligibility criteria, undergraduate students would preferably be in or entering the second half of their degree in a relevant field (e.g. marine science / coastal ecology) and have a GPA of 6. Students enrolled in a relevant Honours program are also welcome to apply.

Desirable attributes/skills:

  •      Experience handling and cataloguing objects in a museum/library/archive

The student will be interacting with an experienced group of collaborators and external stakeholders, and therefore collegiality, integrity, teamwork and reliability are important attributes for this project. In return, the student will have an opportunity to develop their networks and learn from a range of experienced professionals. The student will be expected to work as part of a team and independently. As the project will use systematic processes, the student should also be able to pay attention to detail, be a critical thinker and show initiative.

Applicants are required to submit a resume and a brief statement outlining their interest in the project and how this fits with their career/research aspirations. Please note that applicants may be invited to take part in an interview as part of the selection process.