Finding and assessing new fish stocks

Improving understanding of the biology and developing assessment methods for emerging fish stocks in south eastern Australia

Degree type


Closing date

25 September 2023



Citizenship requirement

Domestic / International

About the research project

South eastern Australia is a hotspot of global warming with this warming expected to be causing changes in the biological processes of fish species within the region, including growth rates, age at maturity, fecundity and natural mortality, all of which influence the productivity of fish stocks. Many fish stocks on the continental shelf and slope of the region have experienced declines in production over the past two decades. Ecosystem change is likely to result in new species emerging in importance for existing fisheries as food webs shift and productivity of species changes.

These changes are already apparent in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF) which spans Commonwealth waters from southern Queensland to Western Australia with catches of frostfish, jack mackerel and ocean jackets increasing substantially in recent years. Identifying these emerging species, developing data collection frameworks and robust assessment methodologies based on good understanding of the biology of these species will support the management of stocks. The outputs from this project will ensure that these species can be sustainably fished as they transition from emerging to target species and that management is proactive and responsive to the fishery under changing conditions.

1.Identify emerging fish stocks on the continental shelf and slope of south eastern Australia.
2.Determine the essential biological parameters for stock assessments for those emerging species identified.
3.Develop and test robust assessment methodologies for data poor to data moderate species for uptake into current fisheries management processes.

The initial phase of the project will use clustering methods to identify emerging fish stocks in the SESSF. Data collection focusing on these species will be facilitated through the AFMA Observer Program and via RV Investigator voyages undertaken as part of the South East Australia Marine Ecosystem Study (SEA-MES). The applicant will have the opportunity to both design and participate in sampling work onboard the RV Investigator.

Key biological parameters associated with age, maturity and growth will be determined via a laboratory component. Spatio-temporal variability in biological parameters will be quantified using novel methods (e.g. GAMs). Data-poor to data-moderate assessments will be developed and tested using simulation and management strategy evaluation. The student will develop skills in field sampling design and execution, reproductive biology and ageing methodology and development and application of stock assessment methods.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Katie Cresswell


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $31,500 per annum (2023 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.

Additional funding

If successful, applicants will also receive a top-up scholarship of $6,000 per annum for 3.5 years. This scholarship is funded from the Quantitative Marine Science (QMS) Program.

If successful, international applicants will receive single Overseas Health Cover (OSHC), funded by the QMS Program.

Other funding opportunities and fees

For further information regarding other scholarships on offer, and the various fees of undertaking a research degree, please visit our Scholarships and fees on research degrees page.


Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Ensure your eligibility for the scholarship round by referring to our Key Dates.

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Degree in a relevant discipline, such as fisheries science, marine biology, statistics, population dynamics or resource modelling
  • Experience and proficiency in in statistical methods and techniques, particularly in the application of Generalized Linear Models (GLMs), Generalized Additive Models (GAMs) and clustering methods (e.g. K-Means)
  • Experience using a programming language such as R, MATLAB, or Python
  • Ability to communicate (orally and in writing) research results and their implications to other scientists, industry stakeholders, government and the public

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Experience working at sea
  • Familiarity with stock assessment models, including age-structured models, surplus production models, and Bayesian modelling techniques

Application process

  1. Select your project, and check that you meet the eligibility and selection criteria, including citizenship;
  2. Contact Dr Katie Cresswell to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. In your application:
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • Submit a signed supervisory support form, a CV including contact details of 2 referees and your project research proposal.
  4. Apply prior to 25 September 2023.

Full details of the application process can be found under the 'How to apply' section of the Research Degrees website.

Following the closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email by the advertised outcome date.

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