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Fish researcher wins The Nature Conservancy’s 2012 Applied Conservation Award

Award to further our understanding of the ecology of pelagic fish

Melbourne | December 03, 2012

Fish researcher Matthew Rees has won The Nature Conservancy’s prestigious 2012 Applied Conservation Award to further his work into understanding more about the ecology of pelagic fish. The award, now in its fifth year, is presented jointly by The Nature Conservancy and the Ecological Society of Australia to fund a $6,000 postgraduate scholarship in the field of applied conservation science.

Dr. James Fitzsimons, Director of Conservation for The Nature Conservancy’s Australia Program, said today that the award would go toward an experiment involving sound, sight and scent in sampling these fast swimming fishes.

“Pelagic fish are highly exploited by commercial and recreational fishers," he said. "This study will use techniques that have not been used before in a bid to learn about their ecology as well as habitat."

“This focus on a poorly understood system has direct implications for marine conservation and management."

Dr Fitzsimons said the research fills a substantial gap as there are currently no techniques, ecological models or publications that relate sound or visual cues to the sampling of pelagic fish. It also has potentially important implications for the placement and monitoring of marine protected areas.

“The findings have international importance regardless of the outcomes, either in understanding of marine protected areas or sampling of these fish,” he added.

Mr. Rees, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wollongong, will use the award to conduct his experiment along the open coast within the Jervis Bay Marine Park.

He will use an underwater video system to record and obtain data. This will include using sounds of distressed baitfish and reflective flashing light which mimic baitfish. The aim is to compare the relative importance of sound, sight and smell in attracting these predatory fish.

The Nature Conservancy’s Applied Conservation Award is made possible thanks to a generous donation from The Thomas Foundation.

The Thomas Foundation was established in 1998 by David Thomas and his wife, Barbara. The conservation of biodiversity has always been part of the Foundation’s focus. The Foundation adopts a strategic planning approach to its grant making and considers its grants to be investments in forming social capital. The Foundation’s mission is “Arresting the decline of biodiversity in Australia and encouraging others to do likewise.”

The Nature Conservancy has, since 2000, collaborated with a wide array of partners to support conservation efforts across more than 120 million hectares of Australia’s lands and waters. This includes securing 29 high priority additions to the National Reserve System, including some of the largest private protected areas in Australia. The Nature Conservancy has also assisted Indigenous groups with the protection of 13 million hectares of Indigenous Protected Areas across northern and central Australia, and we’re working to conserve the Great Western Woodlands, the world’s largest intact temperate woodland. Visit The Nature Conservancy in Australia at

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at

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Penny Underwood
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