Assessing health and survival of juvenile sharks in the Galapagos Islands

Health and survival of juvenile sharks are highly dependent on the conditions they experience in nursery habitats


The Galapagos Islands are an important nursery habitat for blacktip and scalloped hammerhead sharks but environmental conditions are variable, what can affect health and survival of sharks.

The main goal of this project is to understand how variations in nursery habitat conditions contribute to the movement, health and survival of juvenile sharks in the Galapagos Islands.

This exciting project will be building on a collaboration among Alex Hearn (Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador), Neil Hammerschlag (University of Miami) and Ana Sequeira (University of Western Australia).

The degree will be based at the University of Western Australia, under the supervising of Ana Sequeira and Charitha Pattiaratchi. However, fieldwork will take place in the Galapagos under the supervision of Alex Hearn, with guidance from Neil Hammerschlag.

This will be a collaborative project, involving various team members, including other students. In addition to conducting the field work, the PhD applicant will analyse these data with advanced quantitative statistical approaches.

For more background information see the suggested readings below.

Project goals

Evaluate nursery function to juvenile shark movement, health and survival using advanced quantitative statistical approaches

Use drone surveys to identify shark nursery areas and assess abundance

Acoustically tag and take physiological samples of sharks to investigate intra- and inter- variation in nursery habitat use

As part of this project the successful PhD applicant will:

  • Conduct fieldwork in the Galapagos Islands using drones and deploying acoustic tags for data collection and then use advanced quantitative approaches to analyze the data
  • The applicant will be expected to write a minimum of three peer-reviewed publications

Research team leaders: Dr Ana Sequeira and Prof Charitha Pattiaratchi

Ana’s research interests lie in the development of models to assist understanding the marine environment in support of marine spatial planning and conservation. She likes to explore the utility of different modelling tools (statistical models, GIS, complex systems approaches) to address specific questions of relevance for the conservation of marine species and their environment. Her current focus is on the analysis of movement tracking data of marine vertebrates and on understanding how they move and what drives their movement.

Collaborations and funding

Current funding:

  • National Marine Aquarium UK ($5000 - runs to August 2019, round 2 expected)

External collaborators:

  • Alex Hearn (Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador)
  • Neil Hammerschlag (University of Miami)


How to apply

Interested in becoming part of this project? Complete the following steps to submit your expression of interest:

Step 1 - Check criteria

General UWA PhD entrance requirements can be found on the Future Students website.

Requirements specific to this project include:

  • The candidate will need to have completed a Honours or Masters degree at time of admission
  • Quantitative skills are essential - having a degree in Engineering, Maths or Physics will present an advantage, whilst a keen interest in ecological questions is desirable
  • Proficiency in using GIS (e.g., ArcGIS) and knowledge of programming languages (such as R, Matlab, SAS, python or C++) is desirable
  • Fieldwork experience using biotelemetry and/or physiological sampling is desirable
  • Leadership skills and the ability to work in a team is a requirement
  • Good understanding of statistics and statistical models is preferable
  • Applicants having already published in a scientific journal will be highly considered
  • The accepted PhD student will be expected to apply for extramural grants to support their project during their degree
  • The student should be comfortable with long-distance travel and field work over extended periods of time.

Step 2 - Submit enquiry to research team leader

Step 3 - Lodge application

After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, you should be in a position to proceed to the next step of the UWA application process: Lodge an applicationDifferent application procedures apply to domestic and international students.