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Jean-Paul Hobbs

Year of Award: 2014 Award State: Western Australia None > Fishing And Aquaculture
To assess the impact of noise pollution on Australia's fisheries species - UK

Project description: Hearing is important to marine organisms because it helps them find prey, mates and suitable habitat, as well as avoid predators. Increasing human activities, such as boating, dredging, seismic surveys and coastal development can interfere with the way marine organisms hear their environment. This noise pollution could affect key processes (locating prey, mates, shelter and avoiding predators), which reduces the abundance of marine organisms. Given Australia's commercial fisheries are worth more than 2 billion dollars annually, and millions of Australians enjoy fishing, there is a critical need to assess how increasing noise pollution affects Australia's most valuable and popular fisheries species.

Highlights: The Churchill Fellowship has enabled me to travel to the United Kingdom and work with Dr. Steven Simpson – a world expert in assessing the impact of noise on marine organisms. Dr. Simpson and his research group at the University of Exeter and University of Bristol use an array of cutting edge approaches to understand the complexities associated with underwater sound propagation and how this interacts with hearing in marine organisms. By visiting Dr. Simpson’s research group and laboratory facilities I was able to learn these approaches and how they could be applied across a range of situations. The biggest highlight for me was conducted a research project on British shore crabs because it is the hands-on experience that really cements the learning and application of new skills. Through this experience, I am now confident that I can apply what I have learnt and done in the United Kingdom to research on marine organisms in Australia.

 Conclusions, dissemination and implementation: Through the guidance of Dr. Simpson and his research group, I was able to design a suitable system for conducting experimental field studies on the impact of noise on benthic marine organisms. This system uses different stimuli for in situ testing of responses across multiple senses (vision, auditory, olfactory). Using shore crabs as a study species, field trials confirmed the suitability of the system. I will now use this system in Australia to test the impact of noise pollution on Australia’s fisheries resources. The new skills I learnt will be disseminated through seminars to colleagues and students and transferred to post-graduate students through hands-on training during their research projects. I have applied for further funding to conduct collaborative work with Dr. Simpson in Australia. I will also be working collaboratively within the Western Australia Marine Science Institute to do the research (e.g. identify critical processes, ecological windows and tolerance thresholds) that underpins management plans developed by government agencies (EPA, DPaW and WA Fisheries).

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