Sydney Harbour Research Program Staff

Prof Emma Johnston – Director


My research encompasses the ecology and ecotoxicology of estuarine and near shore coastal areas. I am particularly interested in how humans interact with these diverse and valuable ecosystems. I use field and laboratory experimentation, modelling, chemistry and molecular approaches to understand the structure and processes affecting the health and stability of near-shore and estuarine communities. Using such approaches I have investigated how invasive species colonise new environments, the fate and effect of historical and contemporary contaminants, the impact of artificial structures, and more recently, the effects of a changing climate. I research processes from an ecological perspective, relying on rigorous experimental design and strong theoretical underpinnings. I collaborate closely with analytical chemists, microbial biologists, mathematical modellers, and evolutionary biologists. Understanding the basic processes and their interactions in near-shore and coastal areas will allow us to develop more targeted and effective management strategies to conserve biodiversity in these systems.

I completed my post graduate studies at the University of Melbourne in 2002 before taking a lectureship position in the Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies at the University of New South Wales (UNSW Australia). I remain a faculty member at UNSW, and am now an Associate Professor in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences. In 2010 I was awarded an Australian Research Fellowship and took up a position as a Deputy Director of the Evolution and Ecology Research Centre. In 2012 I became the inaugural Director of the Sydney Harbour Research Program at the Sydney Institute of Marine Sciences (SIMS). I remain an active member of UNSW faculty and divide my time between UNSW and SIMS.

I continue to publish across many facets of marine science and lead a large research group of post-doctoral staff, research assistants and research students. I hold editorial positions with the international journals Ecotoxicology and Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry; I consult for industry and have received over $4 m in external research funding.

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A/Prof Paul Gribben – Deputy Director


I am fundamentally interested in the ecology of marine invertebrates and seaweed, the sustainable use of aquatic resources and issues regarding aquatic pests. I use of both applied and fundamental research to help inform conservation strategies. My research is conducted across a wide range of coastal ecosystems including intertidal and subtidal rocky shores, mangrove forests, seagrasses, and estuaries. A major component of my current research integrates often disparate research fields such as community ecology, life-history theory, behavioral ecology, chemical ecology, larval and recruitment, and reproductive ecology to provide a holistic understanding of how marine communities respond to environmental change. I am using this approach to investigate impacts and spread of invasive species, how coastal pollution affects coastal ecosystems and the development of sustainable invertebrate aquaculture and fisheries. I collaborate closely with plant physiologists, microbial ecologists, evolutionary ecologists, ecotoxicologists and biogeochemists.

I completed my PhD in 2003 at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, before taking up an interactional Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Centre for Bio-Innovation (CMB), University of New South Wales (UNSW Australia). I am currently a Australian Research Council Future Fellow. I was a core founder of the Sydney Harbour Research Program, and as Deputy Director I am an active member of the Program and SIMS.

My research is published across a diverse range fields including Ecology, Fisheries and Aquaculture, and Environmental Policy. I maintain close ties with government agencies such as New South Wales Department of Primary Industries and the Office for Environment and Heritage to promote the transfer of information to coastal managers and aid the develop coastal management strategies. My research students work on a broad range of environmental issues such as the effects of coastal pollution and invasive species on the resilience of marine ecosystems and biodiversity.

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Dr William Figueira – Deputy Director


My research spans a diverse range of topics within the area of fish ecology and fishery dynamics and management. I conduct field and lab studies on the behavior and demographics of reef fishes in tropical and temperate habitats with a strong focus on factors driving local and large scale metapopulation dynamics and how these interact to affect distributional range shifts in response to climate change. Much of my work is highly quantitative and includes biophysical transport modeling to understand metapopulation connectivity and source-sink dynamics as well as statisticalmodeling to evaluate factors driving larval supply to coastal reefs from near and off shore oceanographic features. I also conduct research in the area of recreational fishery assessment and management as well as marine park design, monitoring and effectiveness.

I completed my PhD in 2003 at Duke University in the USA and held a post doctoral research position there for 1 year before moving to the University of Technology, Sydney in 2004 to take up a post doctoral position. In 2009 I took up a position at the University of Sydney where I am currently a senior lecturer. I supervise a diverse range of students, post-docs and technicians and publish results in a variety of high impact international peer reviewed journals.

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Scientific Advisory Committee

Research Staff