Reef fish population dynamics

Quantifying the distribution of reef fishes across gradients in environmental condition and fishing intensity

Degree type


Closing date

6 March 2023



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

Reef fishes support some of the most productive commercial fishing operations within the Tasmanian Scalefish Fishery (TSF). The three most important target species are Banded Morwong (Cheilodactylus spectabilis), Bluethroat Wrasse (Notolabrus tetricus) and Purple Wrasse (Notolabrus fucicola), with a combined annual commercial catch of approximately 120 tonnes over recent years. Populations of all three species are assumed to be sustainably fished. However, uncertainty remains about (1) the extent of potential localised population depletion, and (2) the exchange of individuals between heavily and lightly fished areas, which together has raised concerns over the long-term sustainability of local fishing operations. Better knowledge on small-scale reef fish population dynamics is of fundamental importance to the management of the commercial fisheries sector, given that current large-scale assessments of trends in catch, effort and catch rates are insensitive to potential changes in abundance at the level of individual reefs, which is the putative scale at which the fishery impacts populations. Moreover, there is a lack of empirical data to determine the appropriate structure and parameterisation of current stock assessment models to represent fish population biomass and exchange across shallow and deeper-water (>30 m) reef habitats. Thus, better knowledge on the severity of localised population depletion and on the distribution of individuals across reefs and depth gradients have been flagged as research priorities of high importance to the TSF. This PhD project aims to address these research priorities by collating all existing data from various projects on Tasmanian reef fishes, mapping and characterising reef habitats across state waters, and initiating targeted field surveys on the distribution of reef fishes across identified gradients in environmental condition and fishing intensity. The project will thereby help improve the accuracy of and confidence in stock assessments. It will further help to inform options for future reef fish monitoring.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Nils Krueck


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 $28,854 per annum (2022 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.


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

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Applicants must be able to undertake the project on-campus.

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:

  • Strong interest in quantitative data analysis
  • Strong interest in spatial data analysis
  • Boating and diving experience
  • Background in marine science, fishery science or related discipline
  • Ability to communicate research findings to a non-specialist audience

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Demonstrated skills in spatial data analysis
  • Strong interest in fish stock assessments and time series data analysis
  • Scientific diver qualification
  • Publications in scientific journals
  • Experience with marine field work

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Nils Krueck to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. Submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • 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.
    • As part of your application, you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including 2 x referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application 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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