Three MFL students have been awarded funds for travel and research. Carolina Vargas-Caro and Safia Maher received Student Travel Awards to attend the upcoming conference of the New Zealand Marine Sciences Society and Oceania Chondrichthyan Society at the University of Auckland 6 - 9th July 2015. Carolina will speak about her work on the population genetics of Long-nose Skates and Safia Maher will present a poster on Tiger shark genetics. Samuel Williams has received two awards from the Australian Society of Fish Biology. The Michael Hall Student Award will support Sam's research on the global population genetics of Black Marlin and the John Glover Award will support Sam's attendance at the ASFB conference in Sydney in 2015. An MFL photo shows Sam Williams (left), Carolina Vargas-Caro (top row, left) and Safia Maher (top, right) along with Mike Bennett, Carlos Bustamante, Einar Nielsen, Jenny Ovenden, Kate Burgess and Deb Bowden (left to right). Kate also received a travel award to the New Zealand conference to present her work on the ecology of the Giant Manta Ray (supervisor: Mike Bennett).
Members of Game Fishing Clubs in Queensland and New South Wales are helping MFL researchers at the University of Queensland. In April 2015, visiting Danish research scientist Professor Einar Nielsen and pelagic fish expert Dr Julian Pepperell visited clubs in eastern Australia. Following considerable detective work to locate old jaws, many fishers and club officials were kind enough to allow a small hole to be drilled into their tiger shark jaws. The dust or bio-swarf from the drilling was collected in a small tube. Back at MFL at the University of Queensland, DNA was extracted from the bio-swarf [Photo 2015 Honours student Safia Maher with tube of bio-swarf]. A jaw-set belonging to David Tubman of the Newcastle Port Stephens Game Fish Club gave 44 nanograms of DNA per milligram of jaw swarf, which is more than sufficient for genetic analysis. This jaw was from a shark caught in 1988 from Seal Rocks near Port Stephens. [Photo of jaw-set and owner David Tubman (left), Peter Silcock, Einar Eg Nielsen (right)]. Happily, jaws considerably older than this have also given good DNA . In the 1930s, a large tiger shark was captured at Bondi Beach in Sydney. The jaw-set is now in the Waverley Library in Sydney [Photo Sophia Smiley, Local Studies Librarian (top) with Einar (bottom)]. This jaw yielded 19 nanograms of DNA per milligram of jaw swarf. Innovative genetic tests will be done on old compared to recently collected DNA to determine if tiger sharks are adapting in response to changes in the environment. If you have old tiger shark jaws in your possession and would like to be involved in this research, please contact Julian Pepperell (email@example.com). We are urgently looking for jaws from Western Australia, especially from sharks caught before 1995, so any help would be much appreciated.
MFL welcomes Safia Maher to study for her honours degree at the University of Queensland. Safia recently completed a Bachelor of Bioscience at La Trobe University with a double major in Ecological and Evolutionary Genetics and Zoology. Safia will be working on Project Tiger to understand the population structure and dynamics of tiger sharks around Australia. Einar Nielsen (left) and Safia Maher (right) weigh out tissue samples for DNA extraction.
Professor Einar Nielsen has arrived to work at MFL during 2015. Einar is the Research Coordinator of the Section for Marine Living Resources, National Institute of Aquatic Resources at the Technical University of Denmark. He is interested in
- Identification of genetic population structure in freshwater, anadromous and marine fish and the environmental and ecological drivers responsible for population divergence.
- Understanding the genomic basis of adaptation and micro-evolution in marine fish in space and time in response to environmental change and exploitation.
- Development of genomic tools for DNA and RNA analysis of fish, including DNA analysis of historical archived scale and otolith collections.
- Application of genetic methods in fisheries management.