Current Lab Members
David's research interests encompass the evolution and ecology of reef fishes. The central theme of his research is to understand the role that fishes play on coral reefs; from the origins of herbivory in the Cenozoic to the role of fishes in maintaining reef resilience. The approach is largely based on ecology, although it encompasses functional morphology, molecular phylogenetics, and palaeontology. At larger scales, David's interests include global biogeography and the conservation of coral reefs, particularly the role of biodiversity in ecosystem processes. David has maintained a research lab at James Cook University since 1991, supervising over 60 postgraduate students and teaching 3 undergraduate classes each year.
ARUN OAKLEY-COGAN - HONOURS & Lab manager CV
Having spent most of his life living near the beaches of Sydney, Australia, the ocean has held a special place in Arun’s heart since early childhood. After 10 years in the IT industry, Arun completed his BSc in Marine Biology @ JCU in 2017 and undertook his Honours in 2018 under the supervision of Professors David Bellwood and Sean Connolly. His Honours research focused on using 3D photogrammetric techniques to explore the relationship between habitat zonation, complexity and the distribution of herbivorous reef fishes.
Arun is now the Lab Manager for the Bellwood Lab.
Sharon Wismer - Postdoctoral Fellow Scholar
Sharon spent her childhood between the Swiss Alps and the shores of Durban, South Africa, where exploring local rock pools ignited her passion for marine life. After completing her BSc in Marine Biology at James Cook University in 2007, she happily managed The Bellwood Lab for next 2.5 years. Sharon subsequently moved home to Switzerland and finished her MSc and PhD under the supervision of Prof. Redouan Bshary, at the University of Zürich and The University of Neuchatel, respectively, where she investigated the decision strategies and cognitive abilities of cleaner fish (Labroides dimidiatus) on the Great Barrier Reef. During this time, she also became a mother – twice! Sharon was awarded a SNF postdoctoral mobility fellowship and has come full circle, she is based back at JCU in The Bellwood Lab, and her collaborative project investigates the impact of the recent mass bleaching event on fish biodiversity.
Already as a child Robert (Bert) enjoyed poking around in reef flat rock pools while growing up on the shores of the Indian Ocean in Kenya. After he had finished school and his undergraduate studies in biology in Munich, Germany, that early interest for reefs and the tropics washed back to the surface and lead him to study his Master’s degree at JCU in Townsville. He completed his postgraduate research on browsing herbivorous fishes in the Bellwood Lab in 2014 and started his PhD Candidature in early 2016. In his research, supervised by David Bellwood and Graeme Cumming, Bert is focusing on larger scale patterns of movement and space use in herbivorous reef fish - basically trying to understand how fishes move around their home and how this influences reef resilience.
A quick glance at Renato's "pre-settlement" life in inland Brazil would not suggest any particular involvement with the ocean. Yet, he tortuously traced his path to coastal southern Brazil, where he undertook his Bachelor in Biological Sciences and Masters in Ecology at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina. He studied the patterns and drivers of reef fish biomass along Brazilian reefs, supervised by Profs. Sergio Floeter and Carlos Ferreira. In June 2016 he joined Prof. Bellwood's lab to start his PhD focusing in the energetics of coral reef ecosystems. He is developing an approach to enhance estimates of fish biomass production in these ecosystems. He believes that, as far as coral reefs are concerned, no meal comes for free.
As a kid growing up in Barcelona, Spain, the Mediterranean Sea was Víctor's playground. Spending hours snorkeling in the northwestern Mediterranean, he quickly developed an appreciation for the marine environment. After earning his undergraduate degree in Spain, he moved overseas and spent five years in the western Caribbean, where he combined field research with conservation activities. In 2016, he completed his Masters Degree in Marine Biology and Ecology at James Cook University. In his MSc thesis, supervised by Prof. Bellwood, Víctor described an unusual lip adaptation in tubelip wrasses that enables them to feed on corals. In his PhD, he is investigating the effects of coral-feeding fishes on coral reef resilience under a range of scenarios.
Christopher grew up on the coast of Texas, in the United States. His love for the ocean started at a very young age when his family would frequently vacation to the Gulf of Mexico during the summer months. He received a Bachelor's of Science in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences at Texas A&M University (gig 'em!) but his interest in coral reef ecosystems brought him to James Cook University (JCU). He recently completed his Masters of Science at JCU under the supervision of Prof. David Bellwood. His Minor Project thesis involved identifying the taxonomic and functional composition of fish assemblages within reefs, seagrass and mangroves, and how this differs between the Caribbean and the Indo-Pacific regions.
Being born where the Brazilian savannah meets the rainforest, Alexandre has always been fascinated with biological diversity. This fascination led him to study Biological Sciences, and during his degree he started working with freshwater fishes. Although these fishes taught him a lot, he decided to fulfill a passion for the sea and went on a search for salty marine environments. In the southern Brazilian coast, he undertook a Masters in Ecology examining evolutionary processes related to the latitudinal distribution of reef fish diversity. Then, to dive deeper into the evolution of reefs, he decided to make a move far from home and is now doing his PhD in Australia under the supervision of Peter Cowman and David Bellwood. Motivated by the belief that there are always good stories behind biodiversity, he intends to disentangle the historical process of functional and phylogenetic diversification in space and time on coral reefs.
Michalis' (Mike) is half Greek and half Danish. He grew up next to the Mediterranean Sea where he developed a passion for fish. After completing high school in Greece he moved to Denmark to study Biology at the University of Copenhagen. There, he studied population genetics in deep-sea sharks. He just completed a Masters degree at James Cook University. His Minor Project at JCU was supervised by Prof. David Bellwood and focused on evaluating the maximum prey size piscivorous fishes can ingest. He is interested in the ecomorphology and functional roles of predatory fishes on coral reefs.
Sterling grew up on Australia’s Sunshine Coast where he became interested in the marine environment and fishes, from a young age. He has been at JCU since 2012 and completed a BSc in Marine Biology in 2014 and an Honours in 2016, under the supervision of David Bellwood and Chris Goatley. His honours examined how sediments mediated interactions between surgeonfishes and algal turfs on coral reefs. Since completing his honours he worked as the lab manager in the Bellwood Lab up until the end of 2018. In 2019 he started his PhD candidature under the supervision of David Bellwood. Sterling’s research is now building on his earlier honours research to understand how fishes, sediments and productivity will interact to sustain the functioning of future coral reef configurations.
Casey bowden - honours
Casey put on her first snorkel mask at the age of 4 on the Great Barrier Reef and immediately fell in love with the ocean. She grew up in the heart of Melbourne and loved all activities in and around the water. She really discovered her passion for all things marine whilst travelling Australia as a child, particularly on the western coastline. Casey has been scuba diving since she was 12 years old and has worked towards a career in the marine world ever since.
Casey will complete her Bachelor of Advanced Science degree, majoring in Marine Biology at James Cook University, Townsville in 2019 and commence her honours, under the supervision of David Bellwood, in 2020.
WILLIAM Collins - honours
Will was born in England and first found his passion for fish whilst fishing for Pike with his Father in the freshwater rivers and canals of Yorkshire. When Will was 11 he moved to Australia with his parents and younger sister. The move gave him the ability to fish in saltwater systems which really developed his passion and interest in the marine ecosystem and particularly the fish which live within it. This interest caused him to top his Marine Biology subject in grade 12 and drove him to move to Townsville in order to study the Bachelor of Advanced Science majoring in Marine Biology at James Cook University. Will is very excited to begin his honours with David Bellwood in 2020.
Jess Valenzuela - Masters
Growing up in the landlocked region of north Texas in the United States, Jessica's passion for marine biology arose from her father's love for marine life and David Attenborough documentaries. Determined to explore the ocean for herself, she moved to southern California, where she completed her undergraduate degree in Organismal Biology at Claremont McKenna College.
Under the supervision of Prof. Lars Schmitz, she completed her senior thesis comparing techniques for quantifying the distribution of ganglion cells in the retinas of damselfish (family Pomacentridae) with the aim of developing a more precise way to study the evolution of eyes and diet in reef fishes on the cellular level. She began her Masters of Science at JCU earlier this year and is looking forward to completing her minor project under the supervision of Prof. David Bellwood.