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CMERC Team

Emma Jackson

Associate Professor Emma Jackson - CMERC Director

Associate Professor Emma Jackson is the Director of the Coastal Marine Ecosystems Research Centre and a Research Fellow in Marine Ecology. She has 19 years of research expertise in the areas of fisheries ecology, seagrass landscape and restoration ecology, impacts on marine species, coastal marine habitats and ecosystem health indicators. Her research is driven by the idea that coastal development is an ever-increasing human activity, but that there are ways in which this development can work with nature rather than against it to maintain ecosystem health, in turn supporting our health and wellbeing as humans.

Currently, Emma leads a research program on the construction of a science-based framework for seagrass restoration in Queensland, but her past and present research areas include marine conservation management, ecosystem services, marine ecology and marine angiosperm.

Nicole Flint

Dr Nicole Flint - Research Fellow

Dr Nicole Flint is a Research Fellow in the Coastal Marine Ecosystems Research Centre at CQUniversity. Her current research is primarily in the fields of monitoring, assessment and management of aquatic environments, environmental report cards and fisheries management.

Nicole's PhD in freshwater fish biology was conferred in 2007. She worked in the Australian Public Service in fisheries and marine environmental management roles for five years, before commencing at CQUniversity in 2011. Nicole’s research aims to improve our understanding and management of human impacts on aquatic species and ecosystems. She is particularly interested in the diverse waterways and land uses of Central Queensland's catchments, rivers, estuaries and coastal zones, and in the interactions between various industries and aquatic resources.

Nicole has been awarded $2M in external research funding as Chief Investigator, and more than $4.5M in total, since 2011. Some current and recently completed projects include: knowledge to improve the assessment and management of Queensland mud crabs, developing a mud crab indicator and a fish health indicator for the Gladstone Harbour Report Card, developing the Ecosystem Health Index for the Fitzroy Basin Report Card, developing effective monitoring programs for rivers and river infrastructure, and conducting a port water quality synthesis for the Fitzroy Water Quality Improvement Plan.

Nicole is a member of the Independent Science Panel for the Fitzroy Partnership for River Health and has been involved with the Partnership since 2012, providing scientific advice to support the annual Fitzroy Basin Report Card.

Dr Angela Capper

Dr Angela Capper - Research Fellow

Dr Angela Capper has 20 years’ experience in marine ecotoxicology, with strong interests in pollutants and contaminants and their fate in the environment, biological matrices and risks to human health. Her research focuses on: impacts of anthropogenic contaminants (microplastics, PFAS, heavy metals); co-existence of aquaculture and fisheries (impacts of chemical therapeutants to non-target organisms); seafood security (ciguatera fish poisoning - CFP); and marine chemical ecology (Harmful Algal Blooms - HABs).She has worked in multidisciplinary teams around the globe, liaised with government agencies, scientific institutions, health-based institutes, non-profit organisations, stakeholders, fishermen and community groups.

Chris Aiken

Dr Christopher Aiken - Physical Oceanographer

Since obtaining his PhD in Physical Oceanography from the University of New South Wales, Australia, in 2001, Dr Chris Aiken has worked in Australia, USA and Chile, as a researcher and university lecturer in the fields of oceanography, ecology and climate. His research interests include state estimation and forecasting, numerical ocean modelling, stability theory, ocean observing systems, climate variability, fjord/estuarine circulation, metapopulation dynamics, marine reserve design, and issues related to seawater desalination. He has acted as principal investigator on numerous competitive research grants and has led collaborative research with the shipping and fishing industries.

Amie Anastasi

Dr Amie Anastasi - Lecturer in Environmental Science

Dr Amie Anastasi’s research is focussed on understanding risk to the environment from natural and anthropogenic source pollutants. She specialises in the management, design and implementation of water quality monitoring and environmental risk assessment studies. Her research in this area has encompassed physical and chemical impacts of pollutants from urban, industrial, agricultural and geological sources. Amie has more than 12 years of research experience in ecotoxicology, chemistry and water quality. Amie has been involved with the Port Curtis Integrated Monitoring Program (PCIMP) since its inception in 2007 and is a member of the PCIMP Technical Sub-Committee. Amie has authored numerous peer reviewed scientific publications and industry reports, while also maintaining a heavy university teaching schedule that allows her to expose students to current best-practice methodologies for the monitoring and management of aquatic environments. She is passionate about Central Queensland Ecosystems and enjoys using science to inform sustainable use of local environments. Amie has a BSc (Chem), BBioMedSc (Hons) and a PhD.

Andrew Irving

Associate Professor Andrew Irving - Marine Ecologist

Andrew Irving joined CQUniversity in 2013 as a senior lecturer specialising in marine and environmental ecology, evolution, experimental design, and statistical analysis. His research interests primarily focus on the ecology of marine habitats, particularly marine plants such as seagrass meadows, salt marshes, and kelp forests. How such habitats are maintained, how humans disrupt them, how they might recover naturally, and what humans can do to facilitate their recovery (e.g. through habitat restoration) are all central themes to his research. He has published 37 international peer-reviewed manuscripts and four book chapters.

Guy Carton

Dr Guy Carton - Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science

Dr Guy Carton’s research interests are highly varied and include aquaculture, conservation physiology, and sensory physiology and ecology. A central question to his research program is how aquatic organisms respond to unprecedented environmental change. He employs a range of techniques to understand how aquatic animals respond to current and forecasted environmental changes. Of particular interest are increases in temperature (climate warming), and shortages in oxygen availability (hypoxia). He is also interested in determining whether physiological attributes may differ between sub-populations of the same species. This research contributes to a knowledge base that is required to make informed future management decisions within a sustainability framework.

John Rolfe

Professor John Rolfe - Professor of Resource Economics

Professor John Rolfe is a resource economist who is Professor of Regional Economic Development in the School of Business and Law at the CQUniversity Rockhampton, and a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. John was one of the leaders of the 2013 and 2018 Great Barrier Reef Science Consensus Statements, and currently Chairs the Independent Science Panel for the Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership. He was Editor-in-Chief of the Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics from 2013-17 and is President of the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society in 2019.

Jeremy De Valck

Dr Jeremy De Valck - Environmental Economist

Jeremy De Valck is a transdisciplinary environmental economist (PhD, KU Leuven, Belgium), with strong research interests in natural resource management (MSc NRM, Cranfield Uni., UK) and geographic information systems (MSc Bioscience Eng., Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech, Belgium). Jeremy applies non-market valuation techniques to the study of environmental assets, ecosystem services and biodiversity. Since joining CQUniversity in 2016, he has led or been involved in research projects related to the assessment of socio-cultural, economic and environmental impacts in the Great Barrier Reef region. Jeremy's current research relates to the application of revealed and stated preference techniques to value the environment.

Michael Hewson

Dr Michael Hewson - Environmental Geographer

Dr Michael Hewson is an environmental geographer, whose research revolves around earth monitoring using satellite remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems. A current research project documents satellite image analysis processes applied to varying climate koala habitat health. Previous research projects include: numerical weather modelling of aerosol transport (environment, energy and health impacts); land surface temperature mapping; and land-use change mapping. His work also explores issues of weather and climate using spatial science techniques. The prime motivation for Michael's academic interest is the Earth System Science imperative – the anthropogenic impact on the inter-connectedness of nature.

Nathan Brooks-English

Dr Nathan Brooks-English - Head of Course for Environmental Science

Through the career of Dr Nathan Brooks-English the consistent theme of research has been the study of how environmental variables affect Earth-surface processes (climate, transport, etc.) and natural materials (biota, earth and water) over multiple scales of time and distance. Currently, he is using dendrochronology, stable isotopes, and ancient kauri pines of North Queensland to reconstruct past rainfall, as well as model the response of drought and floods to El Niño Southern Oscillation and other multidecadal climate phenomena (Indian Ocean Dipole, Pacific Decadal Oscillation). In the past, he and his colleagues have investigated the link between ecophysiology, climate, and isotopic variation in the spines of columnar cactuses, including the tropical species Trichocereus pasacana in Bolivia. This research develops and explains a novel climate proxy that yields high-resolution information about plant ecology, water relations and past climate that will be useful in tropical and subtropical regions.

Ziyad Abunada

Dr Ziyad Abunada - Environmental Engineer

Dr Ziyad Abunada obtained his PhD degree from Cambridge University, UK, in Civil and Environmental Engineering in sustainable remediation and contaminated land management. His PhD was part of the largest collaborative project between academia and industry in the form of the Soil Mix Remediation Technology (SMiRT) project. He has more than 12 years of industrial experience working on civil engineering and construction projects in developing countries. His research addresses civil and environmental engineering applications including project management, contaminated land and waste management, water and wastewater treatment materials and technologies, as well as engineering for sustainable development and decision support system. In 2017, Dr Abunada’s research was ranked first and awarded the best research prize by ISESCO in the theme of environmental management. He is also the winner of the best paper award during AINAC conference in 2012 in UAE. He is currently a member of the Institute of Civil Engineering (ICE) and Royal Society of Chemistry UK.

Dr Catherine Jones

Catherine Jones - Lecturer in Chemistry

Catherine Jones is a Lecturer in Chemistry and an active researcher with externally funded projects in the fields of Water Chemistry and Aquatic-Ecosystem Management. Catherine has been employed by CQUniversity since 2011; her previous employment includes Menzies School of Health Research and environmental consulting and quality control laboratories. Catherine is skilled in the collection and analysis of water, particulate and sediment samples from water sources used for recreational, environmental, or industrial purposes. She is proficient in method development, validation and measurement of analytes using numerous analytical techniques. She has extensive experience in managing and interpreting large water chemistry datasets. During her employment, she has fostered relationships with the Fitzroy Basin Association, the Fitzroy Partnership for River Health and the Central Queensland Mining Rehabilitation Group.

David Vaughan

Dr David Vaughan - Marine Parasitologist

Dr David Vaughan's fields of research include marine parasitology, parasite taxonomy, cleaning symbioses, biocontrol and the investigation of novel methods of reducing problematic parasites in aquaculture. David worked extensively in public aquaria and aquaculture for many years in southern Africa supporting aquatic animal health in large public exhibition collections of fishes and farmed fishes and abalone before moving to Australia in 2015. He received his BSc (Hons) and MSc from the University of the Western Cape in South Africa, and PhD from James Cook University, Australia. David is also a professionally registered scientist with the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions.

Head shot of Bennan Chen

Dr Bennan Chen – Research Operations & Aquaria Support Officer

Dr Bennan Chen has over 30 years of R&D experience in aquaculture, fish reproduction and husbandry, aquaculture system designs and construction. Bennan obtained his PhD in Marine Biology and Aquaculture from the Flinders University of South Australia in 2006. When working as the Hatchery Manager at Clean Seas Seafood Ltd, Bennan was responsible for both R&D and commercial production of yellowtail kingfish fingerlings. Bennan has led the hatchery research projects focused on improving kingfish hatchery production efficiency and significantly reduced the production cost. Before joining CMERC, Bennan worked as the Aquaculture Operations Manager and has overseen the use and development of the aquaculture and seawater facilities at the National Marine Science Centre (Southern Cross University) and contributed to research and teaching outcomes through the provision of expert advice and training to staff and students.

Head shot of Joana Ferreira Costa

Dr Joana Ferreira Costa - Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr Joana Ferreira Costa is a marine botanist and joined the CMERC team in July 2021. Joana has a PhD in marine macroalgae evolution awarded by The University of Melbourne. With a strong background in seaweed ecology and taxonomy, Joana has extensive experience with marine flora from Australia, and with temperate and tropical Atlantic and Indian oceans. Joana is experienced in subtidal and intertidal fieldwork, biological samples processing, molecular biology techniques, data analysis, interpretation of marine ecological and evolutionary data and science communication.

Heat shot of John McGrath

Dr John McGrath - Research Officer

Dr John McGrath has a PhD in microbiology and immunology and has worked on developing vaccines for cancer, middle ear infection and chronic bronchitis, and preparing a HIV vaccine for clinical trials. His passion is nature though and in recent years, as well as endless hours volunteering, he has worked on Great Barrier Reef management, as a national parks ranger, wildlife ranger, Green Army team leader in Byfield National Park, and managed to keep all limbs during 4 years as a tour guide and farm hand working intimately with saltwater crocodiles. Now with CMERC in his 2nd stint at CQUniversity, he’s loving working with fish and crabs and great passionate people.

Rory Mulloy

Rory Mulloy - Research Worker

Before embarking on a career in Marine Science, Rory had a background in Communications and Languages. He has spent time studying and working, overseas in Spain, Mexico, Argentina, China, and Egypt, before coming to Australia in 2014. Since coming to Australia Rory has developed extensive marine fieldwork experience, assisting and leading various research projects, as well as completing a Master of Science from James Cook University. He has led expeditions to tag, study, and document great white sharks in South Australia, coordinated reef monitoring programs throughout South East Queensland, and worked as a Marine Scientist onboard National Geographic Expeditions to various destinations worldwide including the South Pacific, the Arctic, and Antarctica. Rory has a passion for the marine environment has been fortunate enough to have dived in all of the world’s oceans.

Head shot of Hannah Russel

Hannah Russell - Research Worker

Hannah Russell is a part-time Research Worker at CQUniversity’s CMERC, working on the project Integrated Habitat Restoration for the Discovery Coast. Having always had a passion for Australia’s ecosystems and natural environment, Hannah has a background of applied science, coral propagation, laboratory work, administration and project delivery. Recently, she led the project Testing Today’s Technology for Sugar Research Australia, which utilised electromagnetic mapping technology to improve the sustainability and water quality of farmers, whilst increasing farm productivity.

Her enthusiasm for marine life grew as she started diving the reefs and wrecks along Australia’s east coast, and her passion has only strengthened since joining the CMERC team. Hannah also works part-time for collaborating organisation Burnett Mary Regional Group for Natural Resource Management.

Head shot of Matt Pfeiffer

Matt Pfeiffer - Research Worker/Technician

Matt is a Dual Trade Electrical Fitter Mechanic and Electronics Technician. He has over 20 years’ experience in water management systems and industrial electrical systems. Matt is a CQUni alumni having completed the Graduate Certificate in Asset and Maintenance Management. He has completed a Certificate II in Maritime Operations giving him a Coxswain qualification.  Matt has extensive local boating knowledge and experience and a passion for coastal marine ecosystems.

Mr Michael Thomson

Michael Thomson - Communications and Stakeholder Engagement

Michael Thomson works specifically with CQUniversity’s agriculture, environment and science teams to promote research and engage industry participants. Prior to joining CQUniversity in 2016, Michael worked for 5½ years as a senior consultant for Australia’s largest agribusiness public relations agency, Cox Inall Communications, leading projects for clients including the Beef Australia expo, Meat & Livestock Australia, Woolworths, the Sheep CRC, Grains Research & Development Corporation, the Livestock Biosecurity Network, the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy, and RIRDC’s National Weeds Research Program. His career began as a journalist, starting out as a cadet reporter in Sydney for NSW’s The Land newspaper. He later worked for titles including the Northern Star in Lismore, and for the Queensland Country Life based in Rockhampton, and progressed to roles including Fairfax Agricultural Media’s national political reporter based at Parliament House, Canberra, and national online editor for Fairfax’s FarmOnline group of news sites.