Abby Hine

Towards better fish conservation

I have a great passion for wildlife and conservation.. From a young age I have been drawn to the ocean and its inhabitants, snorkelling before I could swim and exploring this ‘new world’. Throughout the years I have been fortunate enough to snorkel and dive in a range of ecosystems, encountering a vast array of species. This has fuelled my desire to study marine organisms and ensure their survival in times of increased human disturbance. My research “super power”: I have a passion to use science to make better-designed marine reserves; I’m also easily super excited.

It seems a trivial observation that “fish are not everywhere”. Yet, despite considerable research effort, we still don’t know exactly why that is the case. In other words – we don’t know what forces are at play to make “fish maps”; I have started to solve this puzzle.

During my undergraduate studies towards the Bachelor of Animal Ecology I undertook a number of smaller projects that examined how fishes in estuaries respond to changes in the type of habitat and how that habitat sits within the broader landscape (referred to as ‘seascape context’).

Now during my Honours project, I am taking this one step further, investigating how functional diversity, the diversity of traits within a population, varies with three main factors: 1.) “ecosystem type” (aka what habitat fishes are in); 2.) the “seascape context” (aka where those habitats sit in the broader coastal setting); and 3.) “conservation status” (aka whether habitats occur inside or outside of marine protected areas). Surprisingly, this is the first study of its kind globally, which makes me very optimistic that it can be useful for conservation. In particular, once we know which habitat in which location gives us the best return for our conservation investment, we can make better decisions on how to invest in the future.

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