Mr Owen Burnell

Mr Owen Burnell
  • Biography/ Background

    Prior to commencing my PhD I worked for a project management and environmental management consultancy, working on environmental improvement projects in aquatic systems. In early 2010 I began my PhD at The University of Adelaide under the supervision of Prof. Sean Connell, Dr Bayden Russell and Dr Andrew Irving thanks to an APA Scholarship.

  • Qualifications

    • PhD Candidature 2010 – present, The University of Adelaide.
    • Bachelor of Science (Marine Biology, Zoology & Psychology) with First Class Honours in Environmental Biology (Marine Biology) 2003 – 2008, The University of Adelaide.
    • Honours thesis title – The interdependent effect of ocean acidification and temperature rise on a calcifying organism (Haliotis laevigata).
    • ADAS Part 1 & 2 Occupational Diver.


  • Research Interests

    My research interests are focussed around both global- and local-scale anthropogenic impacts and how these are likely to affect the health of seagrass ecosystems. Of particular interest to me is how changes in top-down and bottom-up control in seagrass meadows can be driven by global- (e.g. temperature rise and CO2/ocean acidification) and local-scale factors (e.g. nutrient enrichment and fishing). More specifically I have recently been working on

    Sea urchin grazing in local and future seagrass meadows

    Sea urchins can play a significant role in controlling seagrass habitats, particularly when in high abundance. My current research is focussed on how the structure of different seagrass species and the nutrient status of meadows can modify vulnerability to urchin grazing. Further to this, I have been using this plant herbivore interaction as a model ecosystem to determine how forecasted global-scale changes could modify grazing rates (i.e. temperature and ocean acidification).

    Inorganic carbon usage and future growth of seagrasses

    Global-scale change in CO2 could have profound effects on the growth of marine primary producers. It is well established that seagrasses may benefit from future CO2 concentrations. However, these benefits are likely to be modified dependent upon the carbon acquisition mode of plants and competition with other primary producers, such as algal epiphytes. Recently, I have been working to determine the carbon acquisition strategies in a number of seagrass species and what implications these could have for future growth and interactions with other primary producers (i.e. algal epiphytes).

    Invertebrate growth in a high temperature and CO2 world

    I am interested in how ocean acidification and temperature rise could modify the growth and health of calcifying marine invertebrates.


  • Research Funding

    • 2012 - Lirabenda Endowment Fund Research Grant - $3,000
    • 2011 - Lirabenda Endowment Fund Research Grant - $3,000
    • 2010 - Nature Foundation of South Australia Research Grant - $2,000
  • Publications

    §  Burnell OW, Russell BD, Irving AD, Connell SD (2013) Eutrophication offsets increased sea urchin grazing on seagrass caused by ocean warming and acidification. Marine Ecology-Progress Series, 485: 37-46. doi:10.3354/meps10323.

    § Burnell OW, Connell SD, Irving AD, Russell BD (2013) Asymmetric patterns of recovery in two habitat forming seagrass species following simulated overgrazing by urchins. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 488: 114-120. 

    §  Russell BD, Connell SD, Mellin C, Brook BW, Burnell OW, Fordham DA (2012) Predicting the distribution of commercially viable invertebrate stocks under future climate. PLoS ONE, 7(12): e46554. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046554.

    §  Falkenberg LJ, Burnell OW, Connell SD, Russell BD (2010) Sustainability in Near-shore Marine Systems: Promoting Natural Resilience. Sustainability 2: 2593-2600.


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Entry last updated: Thursday, 9 Oct 2014