Karina Jones (PhD Candidate)
Environmental influences on the epidemiology of fibropapillomatosis in green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) and consequences for management of inshore areas of the Great Barrier Reef.
Fibropapillomatosis is a tumour-forming disease in marine turtles. Despite being discovered in 1938, the origin and mode of transmission of this disease is still unclear. However, current research suggests that it is likely to be caused by chelonid herpesvirus 5. This project aims to identify variants of this virus on the Great Barrier Reef using molecular methods. This work may help provide clues as to how this virus spreads from one population to the other. Karina is also looking at links between this disease and environmental factors as the virus seems to require co-factors in order to develop full scale lesions and disease.
Md. Shamim Ahasan (PhD Candidate)
A survey of the bacterial gut communities of healthy and compromised green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and investigation into the cause and treatment for gastrointestinal disorders
Shamim’s research focuses on investigating bacterial gut flora (normal and pathogenic) in healthy and compromised green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) using both traditional culture dependent and independent diversity profiling techniques. Green sea turtles are hind gut fermenters which means they rely on ‘good’ bacteria in their gut for digestion. Shamim’s ultimate goal is to trial a new method for treating pathogenic bacteria that is highly targeted, so the ‘good’ bacteria will survive and benefit the turtles. This method is called bacteriophage therapy and could be an effective alternative to antibiotics and can be applied in both animal and human diseases.
Narges Mashkour (PhD Candidate)
Presence and impact of viruses in green turtles (Chelonia mydas) from the Northern Great Barrier Reef
Green sea turtles are listed as endangered animals and although Australian turtle biology research is very well established, little is known about the prevalence/incidence and impacts of viral infection on the general health of turtles. In order to fill some of these knowledge gaps, Narges aims to examine green sea turtles of the Great Barrier Reef for the presence and impacts of viruses recorded in other regions or terrestrial turtles. Samples will be screened by traditional and molecular techniques. By comparing the viro-biome of healthy, sick and dead turtles she hopes to find a correlation between the identified viruses and potential diseases.
Duan March (PhD Candidate)
Clinical health assessments of green turtles (Chelonia mydas).
Duan is a veterinarian at Dolphin Marine Magic, a marine park in Coffs Harbour that rescues and rehabilitates marine megafauna, including sea turtles. After 8 years of seeing the same presentation in hundreds of turtles and continually battling to identify reliable prognostic indicators or diagnose a primary cause of disease, he decided to enrol in a PhD specifically investigating sea turtle health. His project will investigate blood and tissue changes in rehabilitation animals as well as wild healthy populations in an attempt to describe the pathophysiological changes that are occurring in stranded marine turtles. Hopefully the characterisation of these processes will enable the development of more targeted treatment regimes and create a diagnostic pathway that is capable of identifying the primary disease processes.
Wytamma Wirth (PhD Candidate)
The pathogenesis and epidemiology of ranavirus in northern Queensland freshwater turtles.
Wytamma completed a bachelor of biochemistry and molecular biology and honours in microbiology and immunology at JCU. Wytamma’s research focuses on Australian freshwater turtle health. In his PhD Wytamma is using molecular methods to characterise freshwater turtle host-pathogen interactions and ranavirus epidemiology. Wytamma’s PhD project will expand on his previous work and integrate new areas of research while focusing on community engagement to create a nexus of research and learning, and ultimately improve the lives of our native freshwater turtle species.
Alicia Maclaine (PhD Candidate)
Viruses of Australian reptiles
Alicia’s PhD project investigates the prevalence of virus in wild and captive Australian lizards with a special emphasis on the native eastern water dragon. She is also interviewing herpetologists in the region to learn more about the current practices regarding reptilian health and management of captive lizards.
Adam Wilkinson (PhD Candidate)
The identification of potential links between Fibropapillomatosis prevalence in Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) and heavy metal contamination along the Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Adam’s research aims to investigate the negative impacts of toxic metal element contamination on Green sea turtles. Fibropapillomatosis (FP) susceptibility has been suggested to be partially affected by metal exposure, and thus this project will measure the potential influence of such environmental factors on FP prevalence in a number of Green turtle populations along the Great Barrier Reef.
Rebecca Hall (MSc Candidate)
Green turtle hatchlings (Chelonia mydas): do they have a favourite colour?
Rebecca’s project aims to determine if green turtles can differentiate colour and if they have a preference. One possible use for understanding colour vision in green turtles could be finding one particular colour that elicits negative behaviour, for example swimming away from an object or refusing to interact with it.
Danielle Riethmiller (MSc Candidate)
Establishing baseline behaviour and responses to environmental enrichment with post-hatchling green turtles (Chelonia mydas)
This project aims to produce an ethogram of behaviours for captive post-hatchling green turtles and measure responses to various environmental enrichment techniques. This data will allow us to measure responses to introduced enrichment items.