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Current Lab Members


Prof. David Bellwood - Chief Investigator    SCholar    RG    CV

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.



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. @ArunOakleyCogan


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.


Robert Streit - PhD Candidate     Scholar     RG

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. @robert_p_streit


Renato Morais - PhD Candidate     Scholar     RG 

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.

Victor Huertas - PhD candidate     Scholar     RG

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. @victorhm21

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Chris Hemingson - PhD Candidate     Scholar     RG     CV

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. @thehemi65


Alexandre Siqueira - PhD candidate     Scholar     RG     CV

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. @SiqueiraAleC

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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. @MikeMihalitsis



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. @SB_Tebbett

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.


Bellwood Lab reunion at ICRS 2016, Hawaii.

Bellwood Lab reunion at ICRS 2016, Hawaii.

Where we have come from.

Where we have come from.

The biogeography of the Bellwood Lab.

The biogeography of the Bellwood Lab.

PhD Graduates


James T. Kerry - PhD & Masters

PhD (2016): The role of tabular structure in the ecology of large reef fishes.

MSc (2011): The role of coral morphology in shelter selection by coral reef fishes.

Current/recent position: Senior Research Officer, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia.

Michael Kramer - PHD & Honours

PhD (2016): Crustacea on coral reefs: Habitat associations and trophic relationships.

Honours (2011): The ecology of crustacea in the epilithic algal matrix.

Current/recent position: Researcher New Zealand.

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Simon J. Brandl - PHD & Postgraduate Diploma

PhD (2016): Functional niche partitioning in herbivorous coral reef fishes.

PG Dip. (2011): Why do fishes pair? A functional evaluation of pair-forming rabbitfishes Siganus doliatus.

Current/recent position: Banting Postdoctoral Fellow, Dept. of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada.


PhD (2016): Recreational spearfishing: an historical, ecological, and sociological perspective.

Honours (2009): Sea urchin predation on the Great Barrier Reef. 

Current/recent position: Online science communications consultant, Sydney, Australia.

Justin Welsh - PHD & HONOURS

PhD (2014): The spatial ecology of coral reef fishes.

Honours (2010): Evaluation of the home range size, movement patterns and site fidelity of Chlorurus microrhinos through active acoustic tracking.

Current/recent position: General Manager at Harvest Road Group, Western Australia.

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Jennifer Hodge - PHD

PhD (2014): Biogeography and evolution of coral reef fish species.

Current/recent position: Scientific Associate, Institute of Evolution and Ecology, University of Tübingen, Germany.


Christopher Goatley - PHD, MASTERS, Lab Manager & postdoc

PhD (2013): The ecological role of sediments on coral reefs.

MASc (2008): Morphological structure in a reef fish assemblage.

Current/recent position: Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Function, Evolution and Anatomy Research Lab. University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia.

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Kirsty Nash - PHD & Masters

PhD (2014): Assessment of scale dependent function in reef fish, and application to the evaluation of coral reef resilience.

Current/recent position: Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Marine Socioecology in the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies. University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia.



Karen Chong-Seng - PHD

PhD (2014): Ecological structure and processes on disturbed coral reefs.

Current/recent position: Visiting Research Fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Townsville, Australia; and Research Consultant, Seychelles Islands Foundation, Seychelles.

Charlotte johansson - PHD

PhD (2012): A functional analysis of herbivory on Ningaloo Reef, Australia.

Current/recent position: Research Scientist at Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Australia.

Jacob Johansen - PHD & Masters

PhD (2012): Energetics of habitat use in planktivorous coral reef fishes: does specialisation confer sensitivity to changing environmental conditions?

MSc (2007): Flow refuging by coral reef fishes in wave-swept habitats.

Current/recent position: Assistant Research Professor, University Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology

Rebecca Fox - PHD & HONOURS

PhD (2012): The trophic and spatial ecology of rabbitfishes (Perciformes, Siganidae) on coral reefs.

Honours (2006): Quantifying the impacts of roving herbivorous fishes across a reef gradient.

Current/recent position: Visiting Fellow, Division of Evolution, Ecology and Genetics, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.


Peter F. Cowman - PHD & Masters

PhD (2011): Dating the evolutionary origins of coral reef fishes.

Current/recent position: Research Fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia.

Andrew S. Hoey - PHD & Lab Manager

PhD (2010): The ecosystem role of macroalgal browsing fishes on coral reefs.

Current/recent position: Principal Research Fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia.

Roberta Bonaldo - PHD

PhD (2010): The ecosystem roles of parrotfishes on coral reefs.

Current/recent position: Associate researcher, Grupo de História Natural de Vertebrados, Unicamp. Campinas, SP, Brazil

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Martial depczynski - PHD & Honours

PhD (2006): Small cryptic fishes on coral reefs: a new perspective on reef fish ecology and life histories.

Honours (2001): The role of cryptobenthic fishes on coral reefs.

Current/recent position: Research Scientist, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Western Australia.


Nicolai Konow - PHD

PhD (2005): Feeding ecomorphology in angelfishes, f. Pomacanthidae: the implications of functional innovations on prey-dislodgement in biting reef fishes.

Current/recent position: Assistant Professor, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Harvard University, USA.

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Christopher J. Fulton - PHD, Honours & Lab Manager

PhD (2005): Wave energy and the role of swimming in reef fish ecology.

Honours (2000): The relationship between swimming ability and habitat use in wrasses (Labridae).

Current/recent position: Associate Professor, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.


morgan pratchett - postdoc

Postdoc (2004-2008): ARC Linkage Project - Environmental management of coral reef resilience

Current/recent position: Acting Assistant Director, Professorial Research Fellow and Chief Investigator at ARC Centre of Excelle for Coral Reef Studies

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Rebecca Fisher - PHD & Honours

PhD (2002): The Functional capabilities of reef fish larvae, implications for dispersal during the pelagic phase.

Honours (1998): The development of swimming abilities in reef fish larvae.

Current/recent position: Ecological Risk Assessment Modeller and quantitative ecologist, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Western Australia.


Geoffrey G. Wilson - PHD

PhD (2001): Early post settlement life history in Lethrinus species (Pisces: Lethrinidae): taxonomy, distribution and development.

Current/recent position: Lecturer, University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia.


Shaun K. Wilson - PHD

PhD (2001): An investigation into the trophic nature of small reef fish from the Tribe Salariini, Family Blenniidae.

Honours (1995): The cryptic dietary components of territorial damselfish.

Current/recent position: Principal Research Scientist, Department of Parks and Wildlife, Western Australia.

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Michael J. Marnane - PHD & Honours

PhD (2001): The trophic role of cardinal fishes (Family Apogonidae) on coral reefs.

Honours (1995): The development of a marker technique for determining gut throughput rates in coral reef fishes. 

Current/recent position: Environmental Evaluations Manager, Perth, Australia.

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Paul r. armsworth - PHD

PhD (2000): The mathematical ecology of dispersal and recruitment in reef fishes.

Current/recent position: Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, USA.

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Michael Arvedlund - PHD

PhD (1999): Host recognition and possible imprinting in the anemonefish Amphiprion melanopus (Pisces: Pomacentridae).

Current/recent position: Executive director, Reef Consultants, Denmark.


Suresh D. Job - PHD

PhD (1999): The functional visual capabilities of coral reef fish larvae.

Current/recent position: Director, Batavia Coast Maritime Institute, Western Australia.


Li-shu Chen - PHD

PhD (1999): Ontogenetic development in post-settlement scarids (Pisces: Scaridae): transition in feeding modes.

Current/recent position: Researcher, Academia Sinica, Taiwan.

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ilona c. stobutzki - PHD, Honours & Lab Manager

PhD (1997): Swimming abilities and orientation behaviour of pre-settlement coral reef fishes.

Honours (1992): A methodological approach to estimating the sustained swimming speeds of juvenile reef fishes.

Current/recent position: Minister Counsellor, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Australian Embassy, Bangkok, Thailand.

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Steven w. Purcell - PHD & HONOURS

PhD (1997): The role of sediments in epilithic algal communities on coral reefs.

Honours (1991): A comparative study of the functional morphology feeding behaviour of Ctenochaetus striatus and Acanthurus nigrofuscus (family Acanthuridae).

Current/recent position: Senior Research Fellow, Sourthern Cross University, Lismore, Australia.


Kathryn D. Kavanagh - PHD 

PhD (1996): The early life history of the brooding damselfish Acanthochromis polyacanthus: effects of environment and ancestry.

Current/recent position: Assistant Professor, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, USA.


Vachira Lheknin - PHD 

PhD (1995): An evaluation of the relative nursery value of sandy surf zones and estuary mouths in tropical north Queensland, Australia.

Current/recent position: Lecturer, Prince of Songkla University, Thailand.


Alexa Grutter - PHD 

PhD (1995): Parasites in the cleaning interactions between the cleaner wrasse Labroides dimidiatus and fish.

Current/recent position: Honorary Senior Lecturer, University of Queensland, Australia.


Honours, Masters, etc.


François X. Latrille - Masters

Masters (2018): Sediment dynamics on an inshore reef: putting algal turfs in perspective.

Current/recent position: On vacation in France.

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Joanna A. Khan - Honours 

Honours (2016): Shelter use and spatial ecology of large reef fishes: evidence from acoustic telemetry.

Current/recent position: Producer, Australian Broadcasting Corporation


Carine D. Lefevre - Masters & HONOURS 

MPhil (2015): Small cryptic fishes on coral reefs: consequences of extreme life history traits on community structure.

Honours (2008): Temporal variation in algal-herbivore interactions: fish predation on Sargassum on an inner-shelf reef.

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Sophie E. Gordon - HONOURS 

Honours (2014): The ecological effects of sediment on grazing herbivorous fishes.

Current/recent position: PhD Candidate, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia.

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Zoe Loffler - HONOURS 

Honours (2013): The role of browsing fishes on coral reefs: influence of macroalgal identity and associations among taxa.

Current/recent position: PhD candidate, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Townsville, Australia.

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Christopher J. Heckathorn - HONOURS 

Honours (2013): Drivers of spatial and temporal variation in macroalgal browsing on an inshore reef.

Current/recent position: Wildlife Ranger, Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Queensland, Australia.


Michelle Condy - HONOURS 

Honours (2012): Projections of the impacts of gear-modification on the recovery of fish catches and ecosystem function in an impoverished fishery.

Current/recent position: Western Australian Government, Perth, Australia.


Luke C. Dickens - HONOURS 

Honours (2009): Quantifying diver effects in underwater visual censuses.

Current/recent position: Victorian Marine Pollution Unit, Australia.


Scott Bennett - HONOURS 

Honours (2009): Regional scale patterns in reef processes: algal-herbivore interactions on the Great Barrier Reef.

Current/recent position: Marie Curie Research Fellow, Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies, Spain.

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Chris Cvitanovic - HONOURS 

Honours (2007): Within-reef variability in herbivory on an inshore fringing reef of the Great Barrier Reef.

Current/recent position: Research Fellow, Centre for Marine Socioecology, University of Tasmania, Australia.

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Claire a farnsworth - HONOURS 

Honours (2007): The implications of extreme life history traits for phylogenetic and population genetic structure in the genus Eviota.

Current/recent position: Scientist, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, University of Queensland, Australia.


Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle - HONOURS 

Honours (2006): A direct evaluation of macroalgal removal and selectivity by herbivorous reef fishes.

Current/recent position: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Saskatchewan, Canada.


Siti Maryam Yakkub - HONOURS 

Honours (2005): Hybridization in coral reef fishes: an example from Thalassoma (Family Labridae).

Current/recent position: Head of Department, Ecological Habitats and Processes, DHI Water and Environment, Singapore.

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Adam barnett - HONOURS 

Honours (2004): Feeding and mouthbrooding: an example of functional coupling in the Apogonidae.

Current/recent position: Research Fellow, Estuary and Coastal Wetland Ecology Research Group, James Cook University, Australia.



Honours (2002): The role of clearwater mangroves in the ecology of reef fishes on the Great Barrier Reef.

Current/recent position: Cardno, Gold Coast, Water and Environment, Australia.


Jason Elliot - HONOURS 

Honours (1998): The relationship between gut morphology and diet in reef fishes. 

Current/recent position: Museum of Tropical Queensland, Townsville, Australia.


O. Selma Klanten - HONOURS 

Honours (1998): Does morphology predict ecology in coral reef fishes.

Current/recent position: Research Scientist, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia.

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John l. Ackerman - HONOURS 

Honours (1997): A description of the reef fish assemblage at Orpheus Island, Great Barrier Reef. 

Current/recent position: Australian Government, Indonesia.

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Vikki Hall - HONOURS 

Honours (1995): Trophic biology of damselfish: an ecomorphological survey.

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Adrian A. Newton - HONOURS 

Honours (1994): Ranching versus farming in Stegastes nigricans Lacepede (PISCES: Pomacentridae), a territorial herbivore.

Brendan Ebner - HONOURS 

Honours (1993): The feeding biology of Istiblennius meleagris (family: Blenniidae).

Current/recent position: Senior Research Officer, TropWATER, James Cook University, Australia.



Honours (1993): The functional significance of phyllodont pharyngeal dentition within the labridae.


Karina Hall - HONOURS 

Honours (1993): The histopathological effects of cyanide, stress and starvation on Pomacentrus coelestis a marine aquarium fish species.

Current/recent position: Resource Assessment Scientist, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Australia.


potchana Boonyanatae - Masters

MSc (1992): The age, growth and reproductive biology of the three spotted damselfish, Pomacentrus tripunctatus (Cuvier, 1830) at Nelly Bay, Magnetic Island, Townsville, North Queensland.

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Sheryl fitzpatrick - HONOURS 

Honours (1992): Pomacentrid intrafamial relationships: a cladistic approach.


Matthew J. Galetto - HONOURS 

Honours (1991): Digestive physiology of Stegastes nigricans and Amphiprion akindynos (Family: Pomacentridae).


Lab Managers

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Jennifer (Tanner) Cowman

Current/recent position: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Australia.


Sharon Wismer

Current/recent position: Visiting Postdoc, Reef Fish Ecology and Evolution Lab, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia.