PhD (University of Queensland)
Position: Education Officer (MBRS) / Lecturer

Building: MBRS Moreton Bay Research Station
Phone: +61 7 3346 3045
Email: kathy.townsend@uq.edu.au


Research Interests

Ecology, biology and human impacts on Queensland's marine environments and organisms

Elasmobranch Biology and Ecology:
I have a long standing interest all aspects of Elasmobranch ecology and biology. I have worked on shark tagging programs and have investigated the embryological development of the egg laying catsharks Chiloscyllium punctatum and Hemiscyllium ocellatum.

Project Manta:

My most recent interest is in the population dynamics and habitat usage of mobulids such as the manta ray Manta birostris off of east Australia. Although manta rays are commonly seen and dived with at popular dive sites, there is relatively little is known about most aspects of the biology and ecology of manta rays (including population size, migration patterns, growth rates, size at maturity, reproductive biology, longevity and age at maturity) and there is no scientific data available on the Australian east coast population. A longer-term goal of the study is to use manta rays as an indicator species to assist in monitoring the effects of environmental change. Global warming has caused marked changes to the global oceanic conditions. Changes in water temperature, current patterns, and ocean acidification are all effects that may have dramatic consequences on the distribution, movements and behaviours of manta rays. Correlating large-scale oceanographic variables with manta ray distributions and movements may make them the perfect candidate as an easily spotted bio-indicator of global oceanic health.

Impact of ingested marine rubbish on sea turtles
I have been investigating the lethal and sub lethal effects of particulate plastic on endangered marine turtles with the overall aim to provide information for policy makers on sea discharge of waste disposal and pollution legislation (i.e. Annex V of MARPOL). While information is available on the impact of marine debris on turtles in other parts of the world, currently no peer reviewed information is available on the impact of the ingestion of marine debris on turtles found in Australian waters. Urgent measures are required to address the problems of marine pollution, particularly since the impact of human rubbish has spread far beyond our immediate shores. I am addressing this lack of information in Australian waters and work closely with interested industry partners such as Underwater World, Mooloolaba and Queensland Parks and Wildlife (EPA).

Coral Reef Ecology:

The triangular relationship between corals, algae and grazing organims is complex and important in understanding how coral reef ecosystems exist. With increased pressures being places on the worlds remaining coral reef systems, it is important to understand how relatively healthy systems work. How do natural systems respond to stress and is this response predictable? I attempt to address these and many more questions in my research.

Ecology of Inconspicuous Fish:

Fish from the Families Blennidae and Gobidae are two numerically large and relatively understudied groups. Individuals from both families are generally small in size, inconspicuous and difficult to catch. My research interests covers behaviour, feeding ecology and distribution of the tropical relatives of both these groups.


Selected Publications

Couturier, L.I.E., Jaine, F.R.A, Townsend, K.A., Weeks, S.J., Richardson, A.J. And Bennett, M.B. (2011) Distribution, site affinity and regional movements of the manta ray, Manta alfredi (Krefft, 1968) along the east coast of Australia. Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research. 62: 1-10

Chargulaf, C.A, Townsend, K.A, & Tibbetts, I.R (2011). Community structure of soft sediment pool fishes in Moreton Bay, Australia. Journal of Fish Biology 78(2): 479-494

Tibbetts, I.R. & Townsend, K.A. (2010). The abundance, biomass and size of macrograzers on reefs in Moreton Bay, Queensland. In, Davie, P.J.F. & Phillips, J.A. (Eds), Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Marine Biological Workshop, The Marine Fauna and Flora of Moreton Bay, Queensland. Memoirs of the Queensland MuseumNature 54(3): 373-384

Townsend, K.A. and Kyne, P.M. (2010). New records of the Japanese devilray Mobula japanica (Muller & Henie 1841) for Australian waters. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum: Nature 55:225-230

Logan, D, Townsend, K.A., Townsend, K. & Tibbetts I.R. (2008). Meiofauna sediment relations in leeward slope turf algae of Heron Island reef. Hydrobiol. 610:269-276
 

Awards

  • Peter Doherty Award for Excellence in Science and Science Education - Oct 2010

  • Nominated for “Australian Day Award” for services to the Environment - Feb 2010

  • Goldring Marine Emerging Scientist Fellowship - awarded January 2010

  • NAIDOC Award - awarded 2007

  • UQ General Staff Award - awarded 2005

 

Professional Associations

  • Council member Oceania Chondrichthyan Society

  • President and founding member of the Oceania Research Station Network

  • CSIRO Scientists in Schools Member

  • American Elasmobranch Society

  • Australian Marine Science Association

  • Australian Society for Fish Biology

  • Australian Coral Reef Society

  • Marine Education Society of Australasia

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