2012 winner of The Nature Conservancy Applied Conservation Award

The 2012 winner of the TNC Applied Conservation Award was Matthew Rees from University of Wollongong.

Matthew's research topic is “Developing seascape models for pelagic and demersal fish assemblages"

"Patchily distributed taxa represent a significant challenge to adequately census. Near-shore pelagic fishes fit this description; they are fast swimmers capable of avoiding conventional survey gear, occupy challenging habitats and display high spatial and temporal variation. My research is directed at better understanding the ecology of these animals.

I will first establish the most appropriate attractant (sight, sound or scent) for pelagic fishes to Remote Underwater Video Stations (RUVs). Knowledge of the most successful attractant for sampling pelagic fish with RUVs will provide a foundation for future ecological studies examining such species, which is important as pelagic fish are heavily exploited by commercial and recreational fishers.

The second component of my research will be to apply a landscape approach to understand the spatial ecology of reef associated pelagic and demersal fish assemblages. This will be conducted at 1) a seascape scale; which will examine landscape/patch metrics such as reef size, reef shape, edge effects, reef context (adjacency to other habitat types), etc. and 2) a habitat scale (habitat complexity); which will examine fine-scale habitat variation such as reef structural complexity. Understanding the relationship between habitat and fish assemblages will aid in the design and development of Marine Protected Areas."

Matthew’s award was presented at ESA12 in Melbourne, December 4-7, 2012.and he presented the 2013 The Nature Conservancy address at EcoTas13 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Congratulations Matthew!

Two Highly Commended awards were also given to Casey O’Brien (ANU) ‘Examining the effectiveness of non-lethal management techniques in resolving conflicts between Southern hairy-nosed wombats (Lasiorhinus latifrons) and the agricultural sector’ and Lachlan Fetterplace (UoW) ‘The vast unknown: assessing the conservation of soft sediment fish diversity’. and both will receive a complimentary annual subscription to ESA.


ESA gratefully acknowledges the ongoing support of The Nature Conservancy and the Thomas Foundation in generously funding this significant applied student award.