Marine biologist gets fresh with media
Tuesday, 20 August 2002
A University of Adelaide marine biologist is among the top young scientists chosen Australia-wide for the Fresh Science event this week in Melbourne.
The Fresh Scientists are among the best young researchers in their fields, chosen because of the high quality of their work. Each of the young scientists is taught how to communicate their science to the media, and today (Tuesday, August 20) Adelaide PhD student Paris Goodsell has her turn in the spotlight.
Ms Goodsell, from the Department of Environmental Biology, has used marine forests to show how rare species can be maintained when habitats are broken up and destroyed.
She has studied the diverse communities of marine animals that live inside the "holdfasts" where marine plants attach to rock.
Ms Goodsell found that rare species were most at risk when the number of habitat patches around them dwindled. Species were extra- sensitive to this "habitat fragmentation", and as the number of remaining habitat patches decreased the negative impact on rare species increased.
"The holdfast at the base of each plant forms a discrete mini- habitat, which can be easily and cheaply manipulated.
"Reducing the number of habitats dramatically changed the patterns of diversity, but this effect was not as great when neighbouring habitats were close together. And the differences in diversity were mostly because of the reaction of rare species rather than the common ones," Ms Goodsell says.
Habitat fragmentation is a significant cause of species loss and extinction, but is hard to study scientifically because of the ethical and practical issues of deliberately destroying habitats for the purposes of an experiment. By using small-scale systems, Ms Goodsell was able to observe how communities reacted to habitat fragmentation, without causing irreversible damage.
Her work is just one example of how the University of Adelaide is leading the field of marine biology research in South Australia, according to Professor Russell Baudinette, Head of the Department of Environmental Biology.
"The University of Adelaide has a unique position, as the strongest research university in the State, to provide students with real learning opportunities in marine biology. It is one of the areas that we do very well, but surprisingly is little known in the community," he says.
Department of Environmental Biology
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Professor Russell Baudinette
The University of Adelaide
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Associate Professor Barbara Pocock
Queen Elizabeth II Fellow in Labour Studies
School of Social Sciences
University of Adelaide.
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