Quantitative Aquatic Ecosystem Laboratory
Staff and Students
Professor Rebecca Lester
I am an ecologist with experience in freshwater, estuarine and marine systems. I have wide-ranging research interests, but am primarily focused on the management of aquatic ecosystems and in achieving good ecological outcomes in systems that involve multiple uses and commercial industries. I combine my expertise in ecology with a solid background in hydrology and erosional processes and actively collaborate across biological and other disciplines. I have a broad range of analytical and modelling skills and specialise in combining data about a range of physical and biological processes into a broader understanding at an ecosystem scale. My current research includes modelling plausible future trajectories of condition for key biota, the impact of environmental flows on food webs, identifying species coexistence mechanisms in stream biota and using fractals to explicitly describe spatial and temporal heterogeneity of stream assemblages.
Dr Jan Barton
I am aquatic ecologist with eighteen years’ experience in State government agencies and academia. I provide evidence based solutions to environmental issues in coastal catchments, rivers and estuaries. My major focus has been on how these ecosystems respond to change, both natural and human-induced (eg altered land use and hydrology). I have extensive experience developing and testing environmental metrics for use in management and resource allocation and in developing mechanisms for combining scoring elements within decision-support tools. The results of my research have been used to improve codes of practice in forestry, in state water legislation and monitoring, and to develop national reporting frameworks.
I am passionate about the contribution of science to public decision-making, particularly with regard to environmental matters. Sound, informed specialist input is essential for a positive, sustainable environmental future. Such input is also critical for assessing and dealing with current problems accurately and responsibly. I hope that my contributions in some small way will improve our human interactions with the rest of the aquatic environment.
Dr Ty Matthews
My research focuses on the importance of river flow regimes for aquatic biota and spans across freshwater, estuarine and marine ecosystems. This work began by describing the influence of high (i.e. flooding) and low flows (induced by drought) on the population dynamics of estuarine, benthic invertebrates. This then expanded into freshwater ecosystems, and has involved testing the influence of varying flow regimes on benthic algae, macroinvertebrates and fish. These tests have involved comparisons of plant and animal assemblages in unregulated and regulated streams, together with perennial and intermittent streams. I have supervised PhD research that assessed the importance of estuarine outflow on the productivity of near-shore coastal environments. Another major theme of my research includes assessing the importance of drought refuges for the persistence of biota in aquatic ecosystems. These projects test important ecological theory and are also strongly applied, so this research is providing new ecological knowledge and guiding environmental management.
Dr Ashley Macqueen
I am an aquatic ecologist and a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at QAEL. I received a rigorous training in pure, empirical ecology, working on insect population ecology in freshwaters within the Downes Lab at the Universuty of Melbourne. Since joining QAEL, I have expanded my scope to include work on estuarine systems and the use of modelling to complement empirical data and inform management decision-making.
Dr Galen Holt
I study the large-scale outcomes of interactions between environmental conditions and life history. Specifically, I am interested in how species’ responses to and dispersal through variable environmental conditions affect local interactions, and how those interactions scale up to affect the dynamics of ecological communities. I study these issues using a combination of empirical studies, community dynamics models and coexistence theory. My recent projects include theoretical investigations of the maintenance of diversity at regional scales in stream networks, and modelling studies to identify targets for conservation and restoration actions dependent on connectivity patterns, environmental conditions, and invasive species. I am excited to extend my research as a member of QAEL, where I will collaborate on projects to connect coexistence theory to the real world in a community of aquatic insects and develop modelling approaches connecting environmental conditions and biological responses to management actions.
Dr Georgia Dwyer
I joined the team at QAEL as a senior research assistant in 2019. My prior research has centred on improving our understanding of the behavioural and physiological responses of freshwater fishes to environmental disturbances, such as hypoxia (low oxygen concentrations) and alterations in nutrient availability. This research has given me opportunities to work with researchers from a wide range of disciplines including fish and macroinvertebrate ecologists, statisticians, chemists, and geneticists. This has allowed me to gain skills in these areas and expand the scope of my research.
I am a PhD student and Research Assistant within QAEL. My current research project is looking into the environmental variables that influence the macroinvertebrate assemblages within Lakes Alexandrina and Albert in South Australia, then modelling how these assemblages may change as the current condition of these ecosystems changes.
Dr Dan Yuantt
I am an Alfred postdoctoral research fellow at QAEL. Based on the micro-nano devices, I was doing interdisciplinary research of mechatronics, chemistry, physics, optics and biomedical application. My research area includes microfluidics, development of lab-on-a-chip devices and biomedical applications, microfabrication, single-cell imaging, and development of intelligent image-based cell sorting. By joining the team at QAEL, I have the opportunities to work with ecologists and expand my research to quantitative aquatic ecology enabled by microfluidics. By collaborating with other researchers, I look forward to developing an integrated microfluidic platform technology that will enable high-throughput and high-resolution separation of objects based on their size and shape, and apply it for continuously separating aquatic insects for automated quantitative assessment of biodiversity in aquatic ecosystems.
I joined QAEL in 2021 as a PhD candidate. My project looks at evaluating riparian buffer zones in temperate streams, and my research questions seek to contribute an understanding of what influences the efficacy of riparian restoration in Australian rivers. I am broadly passionate about the intersection and balance of human and environmental water needs.
I joined the team at QAEL as a PhD student in 2020. In my prior experience, I worked as an aquatic ecologist across several industries including universities, private consultancies, NGO’s and government, where I’ve worked with a broad range of aquatic fauna that span freshwater ecosystems throughout South-eastern Australia. In these roles I have provided sound ecological advice to government and industry decision makers and have had the opportunity to develop a broad range of skills and understanding of the environmental industry at large.
In my PhD research I will be focusing on aquatic food webs. Specifically, my research aims to quantify the relationship between primary producers and consumers using a modelling approach, with a specific focus on lower trophic levels, and how those relationships change during algal blooms in the Pengxi River, a major tributary of the Three Gorges Reservoir, China.
I am an honours student within QAEL. My project is looking at determining the effects of temperature on infectious disease in aquatic insects using caddisflies. I will also be looking at how temperature determines hatching rates and maturity of caddisflies. As part of my research I have had the opportunity to complete both fieldwork in Marysville, Vic and lab work in which I have gained many skills and increased my knowledge.
I am an honours student studying the effect of different riparian vegetation on macrophyte and macroinvertebrate assemblages within the upper Barwon river and its tributaries.
I completed my honours project with QAEL in 2020. Previously, I studied Marine Biology as my bachelor’s degree and through the QAEL team I have been able to expand into freshwater ecology. My honours project was looking into the infection and spread of an emerging disease in caddisfly eggs and the factors that drive their interaction. This opportunity allowed me to work with an incredible team who have helped me to develop my skills as a professional and dive into my research career.