Meet our team - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Meet our team

Paul Southgate, Professor of Tropical Aquaculture – based in Australia

Sustainable aquaculture opportunities

Paul is a specialist in the field of tropical aquaculture with particular expertise in the biology and culture of pearl oysters and other molluscs, marine invertebrates and marine ornamental species. The development of sustainable tropical aquaculture industries and aquaculture-based livelihood opportunities in coastal communities are among his major research interests. Paul and his research team have a long track record of successful projects in Pacific island and South-East Asian countries, and in East Africa and Central America. Paul co-edited and co-authored the best-selling undergraduate textbook ‘Aquaculture: Farming Aquatic Animals and Plants’ (Lucas and Southgate), and the first monograph on the biology and culture of pearl oysters ‘The Pearl Oyster’ (Southgate & Lucas). He has more than 150 peer-reviewed journal publications.

Research areas: tropical aquaculture; biology and culture of pearl oysters and other marine invertebrates; nutrition of cultured aquatic animals; larval development and energetics (marine invertebrates); and developing aquaculture-based livelihoods.

Paul Southgate

Nicholas Paul, Associate Professor of Aquaculture - based in Australia

Sustainable aquaculture in the Indo-Pacific

Nick Paul joined our team in early 2017. His research and development interests focus on creating high-value seaweed products, including functional food and nutraceuticals for human health and applications in animal feed and health for agriculture. Nick is project leader on ACIAR-funded projects ‘Improving seaweed production and processing opportunities in Indonesia' and 'Diversification of seaweed industries in Pacific Island countries'. His work aims to foster industry partnerships and develop new species, culture techniques and bio-products for farmed seaweed in the Indo-Pacific region. Nick is a councillor for the Asian Fisheries Society and, through national taskforces and direct government advice, contributes to ideas and policy regarding seaweed aquaculture in Pacific islands and Indonesia. In 2015, he won the United Nations Association of Australia World Environment Day Award for 'Excellence in Sustainable Water Management'.

Research areas: seaweed production and new product development; seaweed as functional food and nutraceuticals; environmental roles of seaweed farming; bioremediation of wastewater using algae; waste-to-resource technologies.

Nicholas Paul

Michael Rimmer, Senior Research Fellow - based in Indonesia and Australia

Sustainable aquaculture development in Indonesia

Mike joined our team in early 2017 to manage elements of the ACIAR-funded project ‘Improving seaweed production and processing opportunities in Indonesia', and to develop a new project linking mariculture development in Cambodia with Indonesia. Mike's impressive professional experience includes over 30 years of developing aquaculture and stock enhancement techniques for Australian native marine and freshwater fish, and extensive collaborative research partnerships with countries across the Indo-Pacific. He has led two ACIAR projects to improve hatchery and grow-out technology for grouper and other high-value marine finfish. From 2006 to 2015, he was based in Indonesia and managed Australian-funded projects on post-tsunami reconstruction in Aceh, diversification of coastal smallholder aquaculture in South Sulawesi and Aceh, and the impacts of disease in grouper aquaculture.

Research areas: Seaweed production and product development; stock enhancement techniques for native marine and freshwater fish; hatchery and grow-out technology for marine finfish; sustainable coastal aquaculture and mariculture development; role of aquaculture in alleviating poverty in coastal communities in Asia.

Mike Rimmer

Cathy Hair, Principal Research Scientist – based in Australia and Papua New Guinea

A stronger future for mariculture industries

Cathy's research focuses on the development of the commercial sea cucumber, Holothuria scabra (known as sandfish), in New Ireland, PNG. This species has been over-exploited due to its high value as bêche-de-mer. Her work is highlighting that H. scabra is an ideal candidate for aquaculture development. Production and release of cultured juveniles into traditional marine tenure areas holds great promise as a livelihood opportunity for rural, coastal and island communities. These communities can harvest and sell sea cucumbers commercially when they attain a suitable size. Cathy works with locals to develop appropriate community-based farming methods and identify the best release habitat for optimal sandfish survival and growth. She also investigates how traditional fishing communities who fished the wild sea cucumber resource will respond to this new mariculture activity.

Research areas: mariculture; sea cucumbers; community-based farming methods; and sustainable mariculture development.

Cathy Hair

Max Wingfield, Senior Project Scientist – based in Australia

Capacity building to strengthen livelihoods

Max is a specialist in fisheries biology and aquaculture and has extensive experience in the private and public sectors. He is passionate about the opportunities for aquaculture and the ensuing community benefits. Max is well versed on the science and processes needed to achieve best-practice aquaculture outcomes and is specialised in industry capacity building. His approach is to communicate and work within the framework of government legislation to advance the development of environmentally and economically-sustainable aquaculture industries. He has a broad skill set with proficiency in associated office, field, hatchery, laboratory, pond and sea-based duties. His current research includes oversight of research supporting hatchery production and development of the mabé pearl industry in Tonga and Vietnam.

Research areas: fisheries biology; best-practice aquaculture; pearl culture; sustainable farming; handicraft industry development; and supply-chain education and support.

Max Wingfield

Pranesh Kishore, Post-Doctoral Project Scientist – based in Fiji

Development of high-quality pearl production

Pranesh researches pearl oyster culture with particular emphasis on improving culture methods for high-quality round pearl production. He leads the development of a national spat collection program in Fiji which involved local coastal communities collecting pearl-oyster spat and selling them to pearl farmers to generate income. One of his priorities is to gradually convert some of these spat collection communities into high-quality mabѐ farms. He develops and runs community half-pearl (mabѐ) production and business skills training and leads a team which sets up community-based mabѐ farms. He is also researching the optimum conditions needed for pearl oyster growth and quality pearl production. His oversight of the team’s research activities in Fiji requires strong partnership with government, industry and community partners.

Research areas: pearl-oyster culture and biology; round and half-pearl (mabѐ) production; pearl-oyster spat collection; and sustainable community livelihood development.

Pranesh Kishore

Thane Militz, Post-Doctoral Project Scientist – based in Kavieng, PNG

Sustainable marine aquarium trade

Thane's research focuses on the sustainable development of the Papua New Guinea (PNG) marine aquarium trade. This encompasses identifying areas of oversight in historic management of marine aquarium fisheries and making recommendations for improvement. A key aspect of his work is consumer empowerment to improve trade sustainability through their purchases. Thane also develops PNG capacity to produce marine aquarium species through aquaculture. He is working at the Nago Island Mariculture and Research Facility in Kavieng, where he instructs PNG fishery staff and students on the production of clownfish and giant clams. This extends to the development of ideal culture methodologies.

Research areas: sustainability in the marine aquarium trade; marine aquarium fisheries; culture of giant clams; and culture of aquarium fish species.

Thane Militz

De'arne Kershler, Project Scientist – based in Australia

Prosperous Pacific pearl handicraft industries

De’arne works with coastal communities in PNG, Tonga and Vietnam to develop pearl-based livelihood opportunities. Her research includes consumer and market surveys that provide a better understanding of current and potential demand for pearl and mother-of-pearl (MOP) handicraft products, and inform training programs and extension activities for local artisans and women's groups. Her research requires strong engagement with communities and community groups, government agencies and non-government organisations.

Research areas: livelihood opportunities in coastal communities; empowerment of women through handicraft production; consumer assessment of pearl jewellery and MOP products; and market development for pearl-based products.

De'arne Kershler

Monal Lal, Post-Doctoral Project Scientist – based in Fiji

Understanding pearl oyster genetics

Monal’s research supports wider efforts to boost the South Pacific region’s cultured pearl industries. Cultured pearls produced by the black-lip pearl oyster are the most valuable aquaculture commodity in the region. To help ensure sustainability, Monal’s research addresses the management of wild and farmed populations through generating a broader understanding of the genetic diversity of oyster populations and their relatedness. His research encompasses the Fiji Islands, the broader Pacific and the Indo-Pacific region as a whole. Understanding their genetic status will enable fisheries managers and pearl farmers to manage wild and domesticated pearl-oyster resources.

Research areas: cultured pearl industries; management of wild and farmed oyster populations; and genetic diversity of pearl-oyster and sea cucumber populations.

Monal Lal

Samantha Nowland, Aquaculture Research Officer – based at the Darwin Aquaculture Centre

Tropical rock oyster culture in remote communities

Samantha has a background in marine biology and aquaculture. Her particular areas of research interest include tropical rock oyster and sea cucumber aquaculture to support Indigenous economic development. Samantha is leading projects for both species to support the establishment of small-scale farms within Indigenous communities. This will enable communities to provide local jobs for local people. Samantha is also undertaking a PhD on ‘Developing hatchery culture techniques for black-lip rock oysters to support Indigenous economic development in remote Northern Territory’.

Research areas: tropical aquaculture; sustainable development of fisheries-aquaculture; community empowerment through economic development; sea cucumbers; and tropical oysters.

Samantha Nowland

Bill Johnston, Agricultural Economist –  based in Australia

Pearl farming economics

Bill's research focuses on developing economic models for round pearl and mabé pearl farms in Fiji and Tonga and for spat collection in these countries. His work helps aquaculture groups identify solutions and pathways for future development and generates greater awareness of the industry's economic and social opportunities. These include boosting rural economies; improving business development and management skills; optimal husbandry practices; financial independence; and utilising the tourism market.

Research areas: aquaculture economics; development of economic models for pearl farming and associated activities; business profitability assessments; and development of viable pathways
and solutions.

Bill Johnston

Jay R Gorospe, PhD candidate - based in Australia

Developing sea cucumber nursery culture

Jay R is from the Philippines where she completed her MSc research on developing hatchery and nursery culture methodology for sea cucumbers at the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI). Her PhD research focuses on factors that influence growth and survival of cultured juvenile sea cucumbers (Sandfish, Holothuria scabra) during the critical early nursery phase that is a current bottleneck for industry development. She is supported by a DFAT John Allwright Fellowship and her research is supported within the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) project ‘Increasing technical skills for sea cucumber production in Vietnam, the Philippines, and Northern Australia’. Jay R's research is conducted in Australia and in the Philippines in collaboration with UP-MSI who are major collaborators on the ACIAR project.

Research areas: tropical aquaculture; sea cucumber culture; community-based sea cucumber culture; and nutritional and environmental influences on juvenile sea cucumber performance.

Jay R Gorospe

Sophie Gordon, PhD candidate - based in Australia 

Spatio-temporal influences on pearl culture in Tonga

Sophie's research is based in Tonga and focuses on determining the major factors that influence growth and survival of pearl oysters and the production and quality of the pearls they produce. Results of her research will provide a basis for further sustainable development of the Tongan cultured pearl industry that supports vital export income and supports livelihoods in coastal communities. She is supported by a USC Scholarship and works within the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) project ‘Half-pearl industry development in Tonga and Vietnam’. Much of Sophie's research is field based in Tonga where she works collaboratively with Tonga Fisheries and partner communities and pearl farms.

Research areas: tropical aquaculture; pearl oyster culture; cultured half pearl production; community-based sea pearl culture; and environmental and husbandry influences on pearl oyster performance and pearl production

Sophie Gordon

Greg Dobson, PhD candidate - based in Australia

Developing co-culture systems for sea cucumbers

Greg's research focuses on development of pond-based co-culture systems for sea cucumbers (Sandfish, Holothuria scabra) in Vietnam. Key components of his research include the effects of stocking density and food availability on the performance of sandfish and co-culture organisms, and the potential of co-culture systems to increase production form mariculture ponds and support bioremediation of aquaculture effluent. Greg is supported by a USC Scholarship and works within the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) project ‘Increasing technical skills for sea cucumber production in Vietnam, the Philippines, and Northern Australia’. Much of Greg's research is based in Vietnam where he works collaboratively with the Research Institute for Aquaculture #3 (RIA3) in Nha Trang, and with partner communities and farmers.

Research areas: tropical aquaculture; sea cucumber aquaculture; co-culture systems; community aquaculture; and multi-trophic aquaculture systems.

Greg Dobson