Catchments to Coast

Node Leader: Dr Stephen Beatty (

Our members are leaders in the field of freshwater, estuarine and coastal aquatic system research. Our researchers specialise in estuarine health, threatened fishes, impact of introduced species, climate change and habitat condition. Our research spans the entire Western Australian state, from the rivers and macrotidal areas of the remote Kimberley, to the arid rivers and mangrove systems of the Pilbara and the world's largest fringing reef at Ningaloo, to the spectacular stream, lakes, estuaries and islands of the south-west. 

Current Research

Freshwater Fish Research

Healthy Rivers

Freshwater Mussels

Pilbara Fish documentary

Some of our recent research outputs can be found below:

Ebner, B.C., Millington, M., Holmes, B.J., Wilson, D., Sydes, T., Bickel, T.O., Power, T., Hammer, M., Lach, L., Schaffer, J., Lymbery, A. & Morgan, D.L. (2020). Scoping the biosecurity risks and appropriate management relating to the freshwater ornamental aquarium trade across northern Australia. Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER) Publication 20/17, James Cook University, Cairns.

Allen, M.G., Morgan, D.L., Close, P.G., & Beatty, S.J. (2020). Too little but not too late? Biology of a recently discovered and imperiled freshwater fish in a drying temperate region and comparison with sympatric fishes. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 30: 1412-1423.

Beatty, S.J., Ramsay, A., Pinder, A.M. & Morgan, D.L. (2020). Reservoirs act as footholds for an invasive freshwater crayfish. Pacific Conservation Biology 26, 78-83.

Byrnes, E., Lear, K., Morgan, D. & Gleiss, A. (2020). Respirometer in a box: development and use of a portable field respirometer for estimating oxygen consumption of large-bodied fishes. Journal of Fish Biology.

Donaldson, J.A., Drews Jr, P., Bradley, M.J, Morgan, D.L., Baker, R. & Ebner, B.C. (2020). Countering low visibility in video survey of an estuarine fish assemblage. Pacific Conservation Biology 26: 190-200.

Emery-Butcher, H., Beatty, S., Robson, B. (2020). The effects of invasive ecosystem engineers on freshwater ecosystems: A review. Freshwater Biology. 65, 999-1015.

Feutry, P., Devloo-Delva, F., Tran Lu Y, A., Mona, S., Gunasekera, R.M., Johnson, G., Pillans, R.D., Jaccoud, D., Kilian, A., Morgan, D.L., Saunders, T., Bax, N., & Kyne, P.M. (2020). One panel to rule them all: DArTcap genotyping for population structure, historical demography, and kinship analyses, and its application to a threatened shark. Molecular Ecology Resources

Lintermans, M., Geyle, H.M., Beatty, S., Brown, C., Ebner, B., Freeman, R., Hammer, M., Humphreys, W.F., Kennard, M.J., Kern, P., Martin, K., Morgan, D., Raadik, T.A., Unmack, P.J., Wager, R., Woinarski, J.C.Z. & Garnett, S.T. (2020). Big trouble for little fish: Australian freshwater fish in imminent risk of extinction. Pacific Conservation Biology.

Lymbery, A.J., Ma, L., Lymbery, S.J., Klunzinger, M.W., Beatty, S.J. & Morgan, D.L. (2020). Burrowing behaviour protects a threatened freshwater mussel in drying rivers. Hydrobiologia.

Beatty, S.J. & Morgan, D.L. (2019). A “cray-zy” dam solution for an iconic species. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 17: 184.

Chan, F.T., Beatty, S.J., Gilles, A.S.Jr., Hill, J.E., Kozic, S., Luo, D., Morgan, D.L., Pavia, R.T.B.Jr., Therriault, T.W., Verreycken, H., Vilizzi, L., Wei, H., Yeo, D.C.J., Zeng, Y., Zięba, G. & Copp, G.H. (2019). Leaving the fish bowl: the ornamental trade as a global vector for freshwater fish invasions. Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management 22: 417-439.

Lear, K.O., Gleiss, A.C., Whitty, J.M., Fazeldean, T., Albert, J., Green, N., Ebner, B.C., Thorburn, D.C., Beatty, S.J., and Morgan, D.L. (2019). Recruitment of a critically endangered sawfish into a riverine nursery is dependent on natural flow regimes. Scientific Reports 9: 17071.

Lear, K.O., Whitney, N.M., Morgan, D.L., Brewster, L.R., Whitty, J.M., Poulakis, G.R., Scharer, R.M., Guttridge, T.L. & Gleiss, A.C. (2019). Thermal performance responses in free-ranging elasmobranchs depend on habitat use and body size. Oecologia 191: 829-842.

Roberts, B.H., Morrongiello, J.R., King, A.J., Morgan, D. Saunders, T.M., Woodhead, J. & Crook, D.A. (2019). Migration to freshwater increases growth rates in a facultatively catadromous tropical fish. Oceologia 191: 253-260.

Santoro A., Chambers, J., Robson, B., Beatty, S. (2020). Land use surrounding wetlands influences urban populations of a freshwater turtle. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. 30: 1050-1060.


Infectious diseases and changing climates

PhD candidate: Siew Mee Bong

South-western Australia has highly endemic freshwater fish fauna that is threatened by anthropogenic stressors such as secondary salinisation, eutrophication and river regulation. Climate change poses an additional existential threat to these unique fishes, both directly through increased water temperatures and reduced flow, and indirectly, by exacerbating the impacts of other stressors. My project is investigating how increased water temperature may influence the effects of infectious bacterial diseases in freshwater fish. I have found that the virulence of Photobacterium damselae subspecies damselae (Pdd) to western pygmy perch (Nannoperca vittata) increases with increasing water temperatures. There is a strong positive relationship between temperature and the in vitro growth rate of Pdd, but no discernible effect of temperature on the aerobic scope (metabolic capacity) of N. vittata, suggesting that the increased virulence at higher temperatures is principally due to a greater pathogen replication rate. Interestingly, I also found that exposure to Pdd increased both resting metabolic rate and maximum metabolic rate in N. vittata, so that aerobic scope of fish was not compromised by bacterial infection.

Exposure to infectious disease, metabolic rate and personality in fishes

PhD candidate: Nuwandi Pathirana

The pace of life syndrome hypothesis posits that correlations exist, both within and between species, among life history, physiological and behavioural traits, such that organisms can be aligned on a fast to slow pace of life axis. While this hypothesis provides a theoretically satisfying framework to integrate animal personality studies with life history theory, empirical support for its predictions is weak and recent studies suggest that the emergence of correlations among pace of life traits depends on ecological context. I am investigating the role of exposure to infectious disease in determining the correlations among personality, metabolic rate and immune function traits in fishes.


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