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180405aAssociate Professor Salim Momtaz – Head of Discipline

Discipline of Environmental Science and Management
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
Faculty of Science and IT

R: SO E1.54 Science Offices Ourimbah Campas
P: 02 4348 4131
E: salim.momtaz@newcastle.edu.au

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  • Climate Change Adaptation
  • Community Resource Management
  • Development and Environment in Developing Countries
  • Environmental and Social Impact Assessment
  • Poverty and Development
  • Sustainable Development

My research focuses on impact of development in developed and developing countries, and development, environment and poverty in developing countries. I have special interests on community participation in environmental decision making and the role of non-governmental organizations in poverty alleviation. My development studies research naturally progressed into climate change adaptation.

Research Networks -University of Newcastle’s Centre for Urban and Regional Studies

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Anita.Chalmers@newcastle.edu.au-Dr Anita Chalmers

Discipline of Environmental Science and Management
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
Faculty of Science and IT

R: SO E147 Science Offices Ourimbah Campas
P: 02 4349 4462
E: anita.chalmers@newcastle.edu.au

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Dr Anita Chalmers has been teaching in the disciplines of Sustainable Resource Management and Environmental Science and Management since 1999. She has taught a wide range of courses resulting in a broad interdisciplinary understanding of ecosystems and their management. Her teaching expertise includes:

  • Vegetation assessment, botany and plant identification (ENVS2005 & SRMT3010);
  • Sustainable agriculture (SRMT3050)- including conservation cropping and grazing management;
  • Sustainable forestry (SRMT3050)– including silvicultural practices, impacts and management strategies and carbon abatement through revegetation;
  • Land/vegetation degradation (ENVS2005 & SRMT3050)- including fragmentation, weed invasion, altered fire regimes, altered hydrology, dryland salinity, threatened plant species and communities;
  • Restoration ecology (SRMT3060) – including restoration planning, revegetation/tree planting, river restoration and evaluating restoration projects;
  • Freshwater ecosystems (SRMT2030) – including water quality, water pollution, water quality assessment, aquatic habitat and environmental flows;
  • Environmental values and attitudes (SRMT2010) – including landscape preference, environmental behaviour, strategies to change land-use practices, designing and implementing community surveys.

My research is aimed at improving the management and conservation of vegetation through understanding its response to natural and human disturbances. *Threatened wetland plant communties – we have investigated woody wetland plant communities (Swamp Sclerophyll Forest and Parrammatta Red Gum woodland) on the Central Coast that may be impacted by increasing urbanisation of the surrounding catchment. *Riparian trees – we have investigated the role of Casuarina cunninghamiana (River She-oak) in channel contraction on Widden Brook in the Upper Hunter Valley, it’s mortality due to floods and whether it’s tree rings can be used to confirm the age of fluvial landforms. *Rare species – we have conducted research on a number of threatened species over the years, including Prostanthera junonis, Darwinia glaucophylla and Grevillea shiressii. *Restoration techniques – in collaboration with Gosford City Council and the Australian Plants Society (Central Coast Group), we established a field experiment in the edge of a rainforest edge at Katandra Reserve near Gosford to test how useful the long-stem planting technique (developed by Bill Hicks for riparian zones) is for rainforest restoration. *Tree hollows – we investigated the abundance and size of tree hollows in five native woodland species common on the Central Coast of NSW and also whether fire regime affects the abundance of tree hollows. *Soil disturbance and nutrient enrichment – a field experiment was established on the Northern Tablelands of NSW to investigate the response of grassland species to mechanical soil disturbance and nutrient enrichment. *Plant traits – comparisons of the traits of native and exotic grassland species showed that weeds have traits that enable them to avoid summer moisture stress and the impacts of grazing. The root morphology of grassland species has been investigated in root tubes and inter-specific differences can be explained by life-cycle, and the ability to access fertiliser and subsoil moisture. *Fire disturbance – we have investigated the effects of fire regime on plant diversity in Wallum Heath (dominated by Banksia aemula), response of Flannel flower (Actinotis helianthi) to fire regime and soil type and the effect of fire regime on the floristic composition of Hanging Swamps on the Central Coast of NSW.

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John.Clulow@newcastle.edu.au-Dr John Clulow

Discipline of Environmental Science and Management
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
Faculty of Science and IT

R: Biology Building BLG05
P: 02 4921 5721
E: john.clulow@newcastle.edu.au

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Since my appointment as a lecturer in 2002, I have taught in a number fields including: introductory zoology/animal structure and function; forensic biology; environmental biology and commercialisation and finance in biotechnology. The zoology/animal structure and function teaching was a contribution to the introductory biology causes for first year science students. These covered areas such as the phylogeny and taxonomic organisation within the animal kingdom, the evolution of tissue and organ systems in animals, and their adaptations to the environments of animals from marine to terrestrial evolution (evolution of the animal body plan). In the area of forensic science, I have been the principal lecturer from the biological sciences discipline responsible for teaching forensic biology into the forensic science degree which was established at Newcastle University in 2000. I was entirely responsible for developing the forensic biology content of lectures and practicals in courses in 2nd and 3rd Year in that degree. My topics covered in both practicals and lectures included DNA profiling, body fluid analysis (hematology, semenology), blood alcohol physiology and evidence, and forensic entomology. Since 2005, I have been the programme convenor for the undergraduate degree in forensic science, responsible for the academic administration of that degree. In addition to qualifications in science, I also have post-graduate qualifications in the field of finance (Graduate Diploma in Applied Finance). I have used this expertise to be the driver in establishing a 10 credit point course for 3rd Year biotechnology students that deals with the process of commercialising biotechnology. I have been entirely responsible for the creation and ongoing development of this course, and have been the course co-ordinator since its inception. I also am responsible for most of the teaching in the subject. I designed the assessment system based around participation in workshops, some direct examination, and a primary assessment item that involved a research project on an Australian biotechnology company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX). The reason for setting a project on ASX listed companies was the amount of publicly available information that must be released as a requirement of the ASX listing rules relating to public disclosure and the similar requirements of the Corporations ACT. This information resource allows students to explore much of the financial information and intellectual property of companies that is relevant to understanding how they operate in the commercial environment. Key topics covered in lectures include technological drivers in commercialising biotechnology, capital management structures and strategies in biotech companies (venture capital to mature companies), valuing biotech companies using discounted cash flow methodologies and the role of the IP portfolio and clinical trials in company business models. I also currently supervise honours and post-graduate students (Masters and PhDs), and have done so since the mid-1990s.

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Photo: http://blogs.newcastle.edu.au/blog/2013/04/22/newcastle-researchers-leapfrog-ahead-in-world-first/

My research expertise is at the interface of two primary areas: Conservation Biology and Reproductive Biology. My original background was in the area of reproductive physiology where I pursued interests in the physiology of the testis and the epididymis (the duct that drains sperm and fluid from the testis, and stores sperm until ejaculation). I took a comparative approach and investigated and published on the role of epididymis in birds, eutherian mammals and marsupials. My research had an emphasis on how the efferent ducts (the first ducts to leave the testis) reabsorb fluid, with published studies on the mechanisms of epithelial transport and the signal transduction systems that control that transport. My main discovery in this area was that reabsorption by the efferent ducts is controlled by down regulation through the cAMP system. I have also extensively characterised the processes of fluid transport by the efferent duct systems in both birds and mammals, and have shown amongst other things that the process is highly dependent on sodium transport, in particular the Na-H exchanger, and that the efferent duct epithelium is highly permeable to the diffusion of small molecules in both directions. My published studies concluded that the epithelium is both permeable and displays a high level of active solute transport across its walls; the physiological purpose of which is to concentrate and mature the sperm in the epididymis prior to ejaculation. This work was a collaboration with Assoc Prof RC Jones. Most of this work has been published between 1995 and 2005. Since the early 1990s, I have developed an interest in Conservation Biology which is an outgrowth of my research expertise in reproductive biology. Since the 1980s, it was becoming more obvious to herpetologists that there was an extinction crisis developing amongst the worlds amphibians (Australia was not spared, with around 10 extinctions from unknown causes, later shown to be due to a new global amphibian fungal pandemic, and many more species in decline). I recognised early in the 1990s that there were few tools to conserve amphibians when conservation actions in the wild were not successful, including a lack of reproduction tools such as assisted reproduction techniques, and especially a lack of cryopreservation procedures to retrievably store amphibians in the form of viable sperm, eggs and embryos. I formed a collaboration with Assoc Prof M Mahony from the early 1990s to use my expertise in reproduction to develop procedures to cryopreserve amphibian sperm, eggs and embryos, and have been continuing this research ever since. It has led to a number of papers published since 1998 in this area, particularly relating to the development of procedures for the successful cryopreservation of amphibian sperm (papers continue to be published in this area, including in press, 2007). The aim of this research is ultimately to contribute the required technologies to allow the establishment and functioning of an amphibian genome storage bank, that can act as a conservation management tool, and be used to insure amphibian species against extinction in the wild.

Dr John Clulow is a chief investigator for the Conservation Biology Research Group

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Craig_Evans3Dr Craig Evans

Discipline of Environmental Science and Management
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
Faculty of Science and IT

R: LS4.02 Life Sciences
P: 02 49215630
E: craig.evans@newcastle.edu.au

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  • Environmental Science and Management
  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Environmental Pollution
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Water quality
  • Aquatic microbial ecology
  • Probiotics

Member of UON’s Environmental Science Water Research Group
EnvironmentalWaterScienceGroup

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TroyDr Troy Gaston

Discipline of Environmental Science and Management
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
Faculty of Science and IT

R: E1.39 Science Offices Ourimbah Campas
P: 02 4349 4569
E: troy.gaston@newcastle.edu.au

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  • Bycatch Reduction in Fisheries
  • Ecosystem Health
  • Ecosystem Processes
  • Estuarine Ecology
  • Estuarine, Coastal and Marine Ecology
  • GIS and Remote Sensing
  • Human Disturbance
  • Marine Ecology
  • Oceanography
  • Trophic Interactions

Development of environmental monitoring programs addressing water quality, ecosystem health and ecosystem processes. nderstanding trophic interactions, tracking nutrient sources, elucidating food webs and stable isotope analysis in benthic, planktonic and pelagic estuarine, coastal and systems. Quantifying anthropogenic disturbances on estuarine and coastal ecosystems. Novel bycatch reduction methods in prawn trawl fisheries.

Member of the University of Newcastle’s Marine and Estuarine Research Group

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Phil.Geary@newcastle.edu.au-Associate Professor Phillip Geary

Discipline of Environmental Science and Management
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
Faculty of Science and IT

R: GG09 Earth Science (Geology)
P: 02 4921 6726
E: phil.geary@newcastle.edu.au

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Phillip has taught many undergraduate and postgraduate courses at The University of Newcastle since 1990. These courses are offered by the Disciplines of Earth Sciences and Environmental Science and Management to students enrolled in Bachelor of Science (Earth Science) and Bachelor of Environmental Science and Management programs. Current teaching is in courses in the fields of environmental site remediation, catchment and water resource management and river basin processes.

  • Constructed Wetlands
  • Contamination
  • Earth Science
  • Environmental Science
  • Groundwater
  • Hydrology
  • Pollutant Source Tracking
  • Soil Science
  • Wastewater
  • Water Quality

Phillip is an Associate Professor of Environmental Science in the School of Environmental and Life Sciences at The University of Newcastle, Australia. He holds Bachelor and Master of Science degrees from Newcastle and a PhD from the University of Western Sydney. Phillip has taught Earth and Environmental Science at The University of Newcastle since 1990 and was most recently, until 2014, Assistant Dean, International for the Faculty of Science & Information Technology.
Phillip’s research interests include the design and performance of small-scale on-site wastewater systems, including constructed wetlands, mounds and sand filters. His current specific interests are in tracking the fate of contaminants from human and agricultural waste sources in soil and groundwater systems. As well as University teaching, Phillip undertakes consulting assignments associated with wastewater, and has also been involved in developing Short Courses dealing with on-site domestic wastewater management and the land application of effluent.

Member of UON’s Environmental Science Water Research Group
EnvironmentalWaterScienceGroup

Most recent:

Monitoring and Tracking Contaminant Sources in Catchments and Estuaries

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Abstract

In managing water quality in catchments and estuaries, faecal contamination is typically assessed using microbial indicators, such as faecal coliform bacteria. Bacteriological indicators however cannot be used to distinguish whether the faecal contamination has been derived from human or animal sources. The ability to track contamination and distinguish between sources is particularly important where water is used for potable supply, recreational purposes and where commercial aquaculture for human consumption is undertaken. Various chemicals associated with human metabolism and activities which are present in faecal material (such as faecal sterol, pharmaceutical and fluorescent whitening compounds present in wastewaters) can be utilized to identify a human signal and therefore whether the faecal contamination in water is likely to have been derived from human sources. This paper demonstrates an approach and methodology for future work using a combination of these methods to distinguish human contaminant sources in stormwater runoff in an estuary where aquaculture is practised.

Monitoring and tracking contaminant sources in catchments and estuaries

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geoff.macfarlane@newcastle.edu.auDr Geoff MacFarlane

Discipline of Environmental Science and Management
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
Faculty of Science and IT

R: LS2-47 Life Sciences
P: 02 4921 7858
E: geoff.macfarlane@newcastle.edu.au

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Vice Chancellors Early Career Academic Teaching Excellence Award (2005) -Australian College of Educators and NSW Department of Education and Trainings Quality Teaching Award (2005) -NUPSA postgraduate supervisor of the year at the University of Newcastle(2006) -CARRICK institute of teaching and learning citation for outstanding contribution to student learning (2007)

  • Estuarine and Marine Ecotoxicology

My principal research interests fall broadly into two main areas -Estuarine and Marine Ecotoxicology -Behavioural Ecology & Animal Behaviour Research support through Australian Research Council Discovery and Linkage Grants 2004, 2004, 2006, 2009

Member of UON’s Environmental Science Water Research Group
EnvironmentalWaterScienceGroup

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Profile-Pic-MichaelMahonyProfessor Michael Mahony

Discipline of Environmental Science and Management
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
Faculty of Science and IT

R: BLG06 Biology
P: 02 4921 6014
E: michael.mahony@newcastle.edu.au

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  • Environmental Science and Management
  • Conservation Biology
  • Amphibians

Simon-and-Michael

Mr Simon Clulow and Professor Michael Mahony, with the no-longer-extinct gastric brooding frog.

During my time at Newcastle my research has focused on the conservation biology of Australian amphibians. This has involved studies in phylogenetics, ecology, behaviour and physiology.  Before I arrived at Newcastle I was vitally concerned with the dilemma of declining frog populations. Indeed I was one of the first Australian biologists to draw attention to this problem, mainly because one of the species that I described – the northern gastric brooding frog – had disappeared.  One of my first external research grants at Newcastle funded by the Wet Tropic World Heritage Authority was a translocation project designed to identify the cause of population declines in the sharp-snouted day frog Taudactylus acutirostris. This project led to a major finding – the first field evidence that declines of frogs in Australia was due to a disease.  At the time this was a major finding since the predominant view was that declines were either not real, due to UV-B radiation exposure or atmospheric pollution. During the experimental translocation that I was conducting with a colleague we observed sick and dying frogs and immediately contacted veterinary pathologists, and  that report resulted in specimens collected by myself being sent to pathologists who within two weeks had visited the field site. These specimens led to the first evidence that a disease was responsible for amphibian declines, and eventually to the identification of the causal organism by other laboratories.  Two decades later there is now widespread acceptance that the amphibian disease chytridiomycosis has been responsible for the extinction of some 9 Australian frogs and as many as 120 amphibian species worldwide.

After this breakthrough my research took two primary directions that aimed to prevent species extinctions and population loss. The first direction focused on a risk assessment of frogs in the region geographically closest to Newcastle and as part of a national team assessing species nationally.  The second direction was to face the question of what to do if it was not possible to prevent the spread of the disease and species extinction in the wild. I had experienced first-hand the decline and extinction of the sharp-snouted day frog over a relatively short time frame.  I was involved with promoting and achieving a captive husbandry program for this species from its last known population. The attempt failed and the species is now considered extinct.  My logical progression was to lament the fact that we had not stored any retrievable genetic material from this or other species that were facing extinction and this led to the development of an interest in genome banking.  Along with an academic colleague John Clulow we began to experiment with assisted reproductive technologies for endangered amphibians. This has been a very successful adventure; our lab was the first to publish effective protocols for the collection, freezing, thawing and use in IVF of amphibian sperm. We then focused on the difficult task of cryopreserving eggs and embryos and like many others found that it was not possible to freeze large yolky egg without ice crystal damage using current technologies. We have worked around this blockage to creating a usable genome bank for animals that produce large yolky eggs (amniotes) by successfully cryopreserving and retrieving totipotent diploid cells. Furthermore, as part of the Lazarus project we successfully used totipotent diploid cells in nuclear transplant experiments.  In 2013 work conducted in the Lazarus project (collaboration with Prof Michael Archer Uni NSW and Drs Andrew French and Jitong Gau) was reported internationally due to our success in injecting somatic cells from a frozen frog carcass of the extinct southern gastric brooding nto a recipient enucleated egg and having cell division and nuclear DNA replication (commonly referred to as de-extinction).  The project was listed by Time magazine (November 2013) as one of the 25 inventions of the year and was the only Australian invention to be listed.

Dealing with threatened amphibians has led to numerous other research projects and governance roles. I have been deeply involved in research to mitigate the impact of the amphibian disease and this involves large restoration projects for several species. Most obvious among these are a combination of laboratory and field habitat restoration for the endangered green and golden bell frog. Finally, I have a continued interest in the evolutionary ecology of rainforest frogs and have projects on climate change impacts on species of Assa and Philoria.

Professor Michael Mahony is a chief investigator for the Conservation Biology Research Group

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2BE7B505-18E6-394C-0DE0-3866642B728AAssociate Professor Natalie Moltschaniwskyj

Discipline of Environmental Science and Management
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
Faculty of Science and IT

R: SO E1.52 Science Offices Ourimbah Campass
P: 02 434 84123
E: natalie.moltschaniwskyj@newcastle.edu.au

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I have been involved in tertiary teaching for more than 15 years, during which time I have developed an approach that provides students with more than book learning. I recognise and understand that students need skills in using and applying the theory presented in lecture and books, including hands-on and problem solving skills. In all my classes there is a clear and explicit integration of lecture and laboratory material allowing students to use practical sessions as an opportunity to explore the ideas and concepts taught in lectures. I teach third year courses in Marine Fisheries Biology & Management and Estuarine Ecology both which have face-to-face delivery with field trips and laboratory components. I also provide guest lectures for Animal Behaviour and Environmental Science Concepts. I have experience in teaching in the the online environment with an elective course “The Marine Environment”. This requires very different approaches in motivating and stimulating students and also in the management of the course. I use a range of tools improve the quality of the interaction that students have with me and to ensure that I engage with students in a way that positively increasing their learning capacity and interest. I strongly support a philosophy to undergraduate teaching that includes a balance between pure and applied science and hands-on element. In all my teaching I provide a strong connection to the real world through photos, videos, and real practical exercises, so that students to look at the world beyond growth rates, test-tubes and standard error bars.

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Photo: From The Conversation – 7 October 2015

My area of research is marine invertebrate population and community ecology, my specific area of interest is in molluscs, with explicit expertise in squid biology and ecology. However, my skills and expertise are broader than this and I have worked with a number of marine species, including fish and corals. I am particularly interested in the relationships between different biological/ecological organisation levels, such that I seek to determine the connections between the ecology of a species, its whole organismal biology and its physiology. I have been instrumental in developing population and individual-based approaches to research questions that identify and quantify energy allocation and energetic trade-offs responsible for life history traits (growth and reproduction) in squid. The outcomes of my research have had implications in both pure research associated with understanding growth dynamics, which resulted in a review paper, and in fisheries management of squid species. My expertise in the area of allocation of energy to growth and reproduction in invertebrates has resulted in the development of productive collaborations with shellfish aquaculture industries in Tasmania, in particular the oyster and mussel industry. In particular, quantifying the allocation of energy to somatic and reproductive growth of selectively bred oysters in aquaculture. More recent interactions with the mussel industry have explored the reproductive biology and spat biology of blue mussels to allow controlled year-round production of juveniles. Collaborations at University of Tasmania are ongoing and currently include an industry funded project on the stress response in live abalone during the harvest and transport of animals to the processors.

Member of the University of Newcastle’s Marine and Estuarine Research Group

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1B7822A4-3417-7A8C-0DE0-EEDED6F8728AAssociate Professor John Rodger

Discipline of Environmental Science and Management
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
Faculty of Science and IT

R: SB304 Science Building
P: 0419 211 071
E: john.rodger@newcastle.edu.au

 

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UNDERGRADUATE 1986-1995 I was responsible for the development, presentation and examination of two courses offered by the then Department of Biological Sciences.Biology 100: Animal Diversity – Form & Function (average approx 400 students) As well as developing a new lecture course I significantly reorganised the practical course. This has involved new exercises and substantial revision and reorganisation of the laboratory manual. My aim in the course was to prepare those students proceeding to higher level study in biology and to provide an appreciation of the broad principles of animal function for those not planning a career as biologists.

With the increasing numbers of students enrolled in science courses and their lower standard of entry this course has required major reappraisal. Biology 300: Animal Development (average approx 40 students) This course, originally ‘Mammalian Development’, was new to Newcastle when I introduced it in 1986. It seeks to bring senior students to an understanding of the fundamental and applied aspects of this rapidly developing field. Practical work is project based and aims to give students hands on experience in some of the main techniques used and exposure to the practical problems faced by the experimental embryologist.

POST-GRADUATE COURSE IN INDONESIA (1989-1991) For three years I was a lecturer in biology for the second semester program of a year long upgrading program for young Indonesian science academics (a total of 40/year across Physics, Maths, Chemistry & Biology) organised by the International Development Program of the Australian Universities and Colleges (IDP). The ‘Basic Sciences Bridging Program’ operated at the premier science university in Indonesia the Institut Teknologi Bandung in Western Java. From this program around 20 students were selected to come to Australia for post-graduate training. This demanding exercise required the development of a lecture and laboratory program suitable for the English and science level of the students and the facilities available in Bandung.

Newcastle 2003 -2006 Since returning to a normal academic role in the School of Environmental & Life Sciences I have had an active teaching and leadership role in the area of Environmental Biology/Science. BIOL3190: Wetlands Ecology In 2003 I coordinated, lectured in and examined this course. BIOL2070: Ecology Commencing in Semester 2 2003 I presented and examined about 1/3 of the lecture content of this course in the area of animal population biology. This is a large class of approximately 90-100 students. As well as being a major offering in Environmental Biology the course forms part of the compulsory core of the B Env Sci program.

ENVS3020: Allied Environmental Science This course, offered for the first time in Semester 2, 2004, was developed by me to fill a need for more environmental management focused courses in Biology at the 3000 level. It has now developed into a core unit of the Env Sci & Mgt Program which seeks to bridge the University to workplace transition. Bachelor of Environmental Science & Management Program In October 2003 I took over responsibility for leading the Action Group appointed by the HoS SELs to develop the first school-based structure for this program. This has been completed and the revised program and related new courses began to role out in Semester 1 2005.

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Photo: http://www.newcastle.edu.au/newsroom/featured-news/innovative-breeding-technique-to-slow-extinction-rates

The broad area of my research is mammalian reproduction and development. The major emphasis has been marsupials and their use as model species to examine basic phenomena in developmental biology and the application of this basic biology for marsupial management. Involvement with marsupial reproduction dates from the late 1960s and has led to 89 refereed publications in journals and books of international standing. My early work dealt mainly with the male marsupial, the comparative anatomy of the reproductive tract and the biochemistry and physiology of semen. During my post doctoral years in the USA the focus shifted to a current major interest marsupial fertilization and the critical maturation events which lead to gamete interaction.

At ANU I began a second major research area early mammalian development and the immunology of reproduction. At the University of Newcastle I initiated a research program which exploited this background and moved into a very new area of marsupial biology practical manipulation of breeding. This applied task was initiated because it is an essential first step in my long term goal of studying the developmental biology of marsupials at the cellular and molecular level. In addition the ability to manipulate fertility and productivity has application in the conservation and management of marsupials.

This growing expertise is being recognised for its contribution to basic science and in the practical assessment of fertility and the manipulation of marsupial breeding. This work led to my major collaborations and funding from New Zealand and formed the basis for a large component of the successful application for a Cooperative Research Centre for the Conservation and Management of Marsupials of which I was Director. This role lead to a major interest in the management of science and its integration in interdisciplinary applied programs for environmental and conservation outcomes.

I have published in the area, chaired the committee overseeing the redevelopment of the Bachelor of Environmental Science degree at the University of Newcastle in line with this experience and have advised government agencies and commercial organisations on these issues. From 2005 I was Project Director leading the establishment of an Environmental Institute at the University of Newcastle.

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Maria.Schreider@newcastle.edu.auDr Maria Schreider

Discipline of Environmental Science and Management
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
Faculty of Science and IT

R: SO E1.41 Science Offices Ourimbah Campass
P: (02) 4348 4228
E: maria.schreider@newcastle.edu.au

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I am experienced in teaching a range of courses starting from general biology and zoology for first year, general ecology and marine biology, ecology of marine flora, marine ecology for second year and a range of more specific courses for senior years focussing on experimental design and statistical analysis for ecology, estuarine ecology, independent projects. I have supervised Ph.D., M.Sc. and honours students.

  • Algae
  • Bioindicators
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Impacts
  • Estuarine
  • Experimental Design
  • Invasive Species
  • Invertebrates
  • Marine
  • Population Structure
  • Research Methods
  • Seagrass
  • Zoology

I am a marine ecologist with broad interests in the ecology of estuarine habitats. I studied effects of anthropogenic impacts in estuaries, in particular, on epifaunal assemblages in seagrasses. My more recent research interests focussed on ecological effects of invasive species in estuaries and on the dynamics of algal blooms in small coastal lagoons. I am also studying population ecology of ghost shrimps with the view of their potential use for aquaculture.

Member of the University of Newcastle’s Marine and Estuarine Research Group

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B19C3ADA-DC57-C17B-0DE0-149A8F211728Dr Richard Yu

Discipline of Environmental Science and Management
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
Faculty of Science and IT

R: LS2-45
P: (02) 4921 6990
E: richard.yu@newcastle.edu.au

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BIOL1003 Professional Skills for Biological Sciences, ENVS2004 Ecology, ENVS3004 Ecotoxicology, SCIT2500 Project and Advanced Studies, SCIT3500 Project and Advanced Studies II

My primary research interests are in the Molecular Toxicology of Environmental Stressors and Chemicals.

In particular, I am interested in (1) understanding the molecular mechanisms of endocrine disruption caused by hypoxia and environmental chemicals and (2) developing cell- and animal-based assays for the screening and detection of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Overall, my research covers both basic science aimed at understanding the fundamental mechanisms of environmental toxicity and applied science concerned with the development of diagnostic tools for assessing and monitoring environmental toxicity. Outlined below is a summary of my recent research activities and findings:

1. Environmental Obesogens

The prevalence of obesity has been dramatically increasing worldwide during the last several decades. In recent years, there is growing epidemiological evidence indicating a positive correlation between the exposure of human population to EDCs and body weight, suggesting a possible role of EDCs in increasing obesity rates. The “obesogen hypothesis” is an emerging view proposing that exposure to a subset of these chemicals (obesogens) disrupts the weight-control mechanisms and ultimately increases obesity. To date, most of the known obesogens are those directly increasing adipogenesis and lipid accumulation, while the ones that contribute to diet-induced obesity (DIO) are understudied.

Leptin is an adipocyte-derived hormone that represses appetite and increases energy expenditure. Leptin inhibits appetite by decreasing the activity of the orexigenic NPY/AgRP/GABA neurons and increasing the activity of the anorexigenic POMC/CART neurons in the hypothalamus. Leptin action is exerted through its binding to the leptin receptor (OB-R) expressed on the surface of these neurons. Recent research showed that the disruption of OB-R activation (after treatment with leptin antagonists) during early development can lead to adult leptin resistance. Leptin resistance is a medical condition in which individuals are weakly responsive or unresponsive to high circulating levels of leptin and regarded as an important predisposing factor for DIO. Based on this existing knowledge, we hypothesise that early-life exposure to environmental chemicals that act as leptin antagonists can enhance the development of leptin-resistance and DIO in adults.

In collaboration with my co-worker Dr Richard Kong at City University of Hong Kong, a pilot screening program was recently initiated to identify environmental chemicals that act as leptin antagonists using biophysical and cell-based assays. Further effort will be made to assess the ability of the identified candidates to induce the developmental programming of adult leptin resistance and DIO using zebrafish (an important human disease model). This project is anticipated to provide important information regarding the contribution of developmental programming to the obesity epidemic, through assessing the role of early-life exposure of environmental chemicals in the development of adult leptin resistance and obesity. Since the rising prevalence of obesity has been recently noticed in livestock, pets, and wild animals, the knowledge about the mechanism of action of environmental obesogens and the technologies developed in this research could also be applied to a much broader range of biota beyond humans. Eventually, the outcome of this research may aid in devising new regulations on the safety of animal feed and the release of obesogenic chemicals to the environment.

2. Estrogen-mediated Vitellogenesis in Oysters

Oysters respond to EDC mixtures with the induction of the female egg yolk protein, vitellogenin (Vtg), availing a biomarker which indicates the presence of estrogenic contaminants in sewage effluent receiving waters. Despite this, the precise mechanism through which estrogens exert their action to induce vitellogenesis is unknown. Estrogen receptors (ERs) with homology to vertebrate ERs have been identified in selected molluscan taxa, yet those found to date do not bind or are unresponsive to estrogen. We hypothesise that estrogens may bind to receptors yet to be identified in Mollusca, with lower structural similarity to vertebrate-like ERs, and such receptors act as estrogen-dependent transcriptional regulators of vitellogenin expression. In an effort to investigate this possibility, Dr Geoff MacFarlane (UoN) and I initiated a project to isolate and characterise novel “functional” ERs from the native Sydney rock oyster (Saccostrea glomerata). Our recent progress indicated that an invertebrate-like ER isolated from the Sydney rock oyster ovarian tissues shares a similar ligand (estrogen) binding pocket with that of the human ER and is expressed in response to estrogenic compounds. Further effort will be directed at clarifying its functional roles in mediating vitellogenesis and gonadal development and its epigenetic regulation in response to the exposure to estrogenic compounds. At the application level, this research will provide important information (an ER pathway specific to invertebrates) for the development of bioassays for screening xenoestrogens with ecotoxicological relevance to molluscs.

3. Fish Hypoxia

Previously, my co-workers and I have demonstrated for the first time that hypoxia can disrupt sex differentiation via modulation of gene expression for estrogen biosynthesis, leading to a male-biased sex ratio in zebrafish (Shang et al. 2006). This work has highlighted the alarming impacts of aquatic hypoxia on fish reproduction and sustainability, and thus attracted worldwide attention, as exemplified by cover stories written by Science and Nature as well as reports by CNN and ABC. This study has been cited 60 times since its publication in 2006. Later studies also provided scientific evidence that the transcription factor hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) regulates a number of genes involved in fish growth and reproduction in response to hypoxia (Yu et al. 2006a, 2008; Chu et al. 2010). To assess the applicability and specificity of HIF-1-regulated gene expression as biomarkers for monitoring aquatic hypoxia, we also made efforts to decipher the crosstalk between the xenobiotic transformation pathway and the HIF-1 pathway. Intriguingly, we demonstrated that the existence of xenobiotics can enhance HIF-1-mediated gene expression via increasing the cellular levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS), indicating that the presence of environmental xenobiotics must be considered when interpreting HIF-1-based hypoxia biomarker results (Yu et al. 2008). In 2012, my co-workers (Kong & Wu) and I obtained a seed fund ($US 115,384) from the State Key Laboratory in Marine Pollution, China to study the interactive effects of climate change and hypoxia on fish sex determination.

4. Fish Leptin

The study of obesity and appetite control in fish models is an emerging field of research. In the last few years, my co-workers and I highlighted striking similarities in the function and regulation of leptin between fish and mammals. Our recent work suggests that leptin elevation under hypoxic conditions is a pathophysiological response common to both zebrafish and mammalian models (Chu et al. 2010). In another prior study, we reported for the first time the characterization of a fish long-form leptin receptor that contains all the signature motifs and domains found in the mammalian leptin receptors (Wong, Yu et al. 2007), implying the function of leptin receptor is conserved in both fish and mammals. Recently, using gain-or-loss gene function techniques, we demonstrated that leptin is the molecular link between hypoxia and endocrine disruption, leading to the suppression of the aromatase gene (cyp19a) and hence estrogen production in fish (Yu et al. 2012). Taken together, these findings provide novel insights into the molecular mechanism of endocrine disruption under hypoxia. This research successfully attracted $US 108,974 funding from Hong Kong General Research Fund (GRF) in 2011.

5. In-vitro bioassays for EDCs

For years, I have been collaborating with Prof. John Giesy (Canada Research Chair in Environmental Toxicology, University of Saskatchewan) on the development and validation of a H295R cell line screening test to evaluate toxicant-induced effects on steroid biosynthesis (steroidogenesis)—the H295R Steroidogenesis Assay (Gracia et al. 2004; Zhang et al. 2005; Gracia et al. 2006; Xu et al. 2006; Gracia et al. 2007; He et al. 2008; Song et al. 2008). This assay has been successfully used to assess the endocrine-disrupting potential and the mechanisms of action of various chemicals and environmental samples. This assay is currently being developed as part of Tier 1 of the US EPA Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program and an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) test method validation program.

6. In-vivo bioassays for EDCs

We recently demonstrated that induction of hepatic choriogenin H (ChgH, a fish egg-shell protein precursor) mRNA expression in male marine medaka can serve as a highly sensitive biomarker for environmental estrogens (its sensitivity is even better than vitellogenin) (Yu et al. 2006b; Cheng et al. 2008). This novel discovery led us to develop a ChgH-GFP transgenic marine medaka for monitoring environmental estrogens in marine water. Our recent progress indicated that this sentinel fish can detect 17β-estradiol (E2) at nominal concentrations as low as 1 μg/L. To make quantification of in vivo GFP expressed in developing fish embryos feasible, we previously developed an automatic 4D (3D plus time) acquisition system and the imaging processes of deconvolution and thresholding (Yu et al. 2006c). This 4D imaging system provides a simple but powerful means to quantify in vivo gene expression in a developmental toxicology context. The technologies have been successfully commercialised as environmental and food safety consultancy service in Hong Kong (Vitargent (International) Biotechnology Ltd).

Research Expertise
Ecotoxicology Molecular toxicology Obesogen screening Embryotoxicity assays Development of bioassays for EDC screening and detection

Member of UON’s Environmental Science Water Research Group
EnvironmentalWaterScienceGroup

ContactTeaching and ResearchPublications
kenneth.zimmerman@newcastle.edu.auDr Ken Zimmerman

Discipline of Environmental Science and Management
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
Faculty of Science and IT

R: SO E1.09 Science Offices Ourimbah Campass
P: 02 4348 4127
E: kenneth.zimmerman@newcastle.edu.au

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  • Ecology
  • Environmental Management
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Fisheries Sciences