The movement of animals shapes their population dynamics and influences community and ecosystem structure. Animal movement patterns are therefore fundamental to our understanding of ecological systems and the processes, such as foraging, migration and dispersal, which shape these systems. The observational challenges imposed by aquatic environments, however, mean that we still have only limited knowledge of the movements of fishes and, by extension, the processes underpinned by these movement patterns. Methods of radio tracking - the stalwart of terrestrial and freshwater ecologists - are ruled out for marine ecologists, because of the attenuation of radio signals in salt water. Over the last ten years, however, advances in the field of electronic tagging, such as acoustic telemetry (which instead relies on transmission of pressure waves through water) and archival data loggers, have enabled us to start applying methods of tracking to marine fishes. The ability to locate and follow individuals through space and time is now revealing some surprising aspects of the lives of these fishes. In this seminar I will present some of my research findings based on tagging and tracking of coral reef fishes, including unexpected expressions of behavioural plasticity, challenges to our preconceptions about the relative mobility of fishes on reefs, and insights into their sex lives and social systems.
Becky completed her PhD in Marine Biology at James Cook University in 2013. After taking a break from research to have a family, she found herself in the role of EA to Prof. Andrew Cockburn during his final year of internment as Dean of CMBE. A little too much time was spent discussing evolutionary biology rather than processing administrative paperwork during that year, however the experience did convince her to return to research. Becky currently holds a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and is also a Visiting Fellow with the Jennions lab in EE Division, at the ANU.