Thesis: Spatio-temporal distribution of Indo-Pacific marine predators
The distribution of marine predators requires urgent investigation given the current decline of many populations, particularly sharks, and the limited understanding of their habitat requirements. As many species are migratory, data covering large geographical areas are necessary to understand their habitat needs. For my research I use publicly available datasets and a set of marine environmental parameters (such as depth, water temperature) to develop statistical models identifying where and when sharks occur across Australian waters, and predict on a broad-scale where they may occur across the entire Indian Ocean. Such species distribution models have value in suggesting the locations of preferred shark habitats, and are likely to be particularly useful for the future management of marine protected areas. By incorporating a range of climate change scenarios, I assess the effect of increasing temperature on shark distribution as well. Also, as datasets are often either open-access or traditional restricted-access, I review how data availability influences publication outcomes, and discuss the best way for both scientists to make their data freely available and for the public to access scientific data.
Why my research is important
Whilst marine predators, typically sharks, have been radically reduced in much of our oceans, a better understanding of their distribution and suitable habitats can aid conservation efforts. By understanding their preferred habitats we can understand the level of protection sharks are receiving from current marine protected areas and assist with developing future marine parks. We can also look to the future and aid future conservation by examining the potential impact of climate change on shark distribution and habitat across the Indian Ocean, the least studied and understood of our global oceans. The large spatial extent of my analysis is only possible through the use of previously collected open-access data, and because datasets are often either open-access and traditional restricted-access, I compare the influence of these competing data management practices on where scientific papers get published.