Members of MUCRU work on both applied and fundamental research projects, all of which support conservation and management objectives.
Studies addressing anthropogenic impacts focus on the quantification of the specific effects and overall biological significance of human activities on cetaceans, and the development of appropriate mitigation approaches and management strategies.
Research on cetacean population dynamics and behaviour involve efforts to assess population connectivity and identify appropriate units for management, to estimate abundance at local and regional scales and assess spatial and temporal patterns in abundance, and to measure and quantify individual behaviour, in order to examine social structures.
Analyses of ecosystem interactions integrate cetacean research with studies of the biological and environmental features of their habitat, in order to identify prey species, assess the structure of the food webs and fish assemblages they are linked to, and to examine exposure pathways for contaminants.
Work on marine mammal health draws on the extensive epidemiological and pathological research capacity of Murdoch’s veterinary school and its network of collaborating scientists, and involves post-mortem examinations, tissue sampling and archiving, contaminants analyses, and disease surveillance.
Research into new approaches includes the development of methods for: remote observation and survey of marine fauna, analysing biochemical and physiological processes using metabolomics, and the analysis of capture-recapture data through models that allow for misidentification of individuals.
Implementing citizen science projects involves the collaborative development of smartphone “apps” (Coastal Walkabout) to facilitate and encourage the collection of data on coastal, marine and estuarine environments by members of the public.
Current Major Research Projects
South West Marine Research Program
This is a multi-faceted research program focusing on dolphin population abundance, habitat use, conservation genetics and prey species. Founded on an initial partnership between the Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre, the South West Development Commission and Murdoch University, the SWMRP is composed of partners from industry, government, research and the community.
Marine Mammal Health Program
The program strives to assess and monitor the health of marine mammals. It aims to support the early detection of adverse impacts from natural and anthropogenic pressures. The program has three themes: investigation of mortality events, bio-monitoring and tissue-bank development.
Mandurah Dolphin Research Project
This research project, commenced in 2016, aims to greater understanding of the dolphins using the Peel-Harvey and adjacent coastal waters in Western Australia. A population assessment will be conducted, including investigations of population size and structure, habitat use and genetic connectivity between the dolphins using the estuarine and coastal areas.
Mitigation of Fisheries Impacts on Dolphins
This research is funded by the Australian Marine Mammal Centre and aims to quantify the impacts of commercial trawl fisheries on dolphin populations and to mitigate against further impacts.
Coastal and Estuarine Dolphin Project (Perth Metropolitan Waters)
This program aims to improve the scientific basis for dolphin conservation in the Swan-Canning River Park and adjacent coastal waters, by collecting health, behavioural, and ecological data through field study, pathology investigations, and providing support for community-based monitoring programs.
Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to Survey Marine Mammal Populations
This project aims to develop a new method for assessing the distribution and abundance using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).