Heron Island Reef sits at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, and is renowned for its high levels of marine biodiversity. From the island, it is a short walk across the reef flat at low tide to a range of reef flat and reef crest communities that support diverse representatives of nearly all animal phyla.  Three species in particular have been points of focus of our research - the demosponge Amphimedon queenslandica, the abalone Haliotis asinina and the ascidian Herdmania momus - although we continually find new and interesting animals that grab our attention. When on Heron Island, we stay at the UQ Heron Island Research Station.


North Stradbroke Island is just a short ferry ride from Brisbane, and is one of three islands that forms the eastern boundary of Moreton Bay.  Locally known as Straddie, it is one of the largest sand islands in the world, and the glorious beaches are complemented by strikingly beautiful rocky headlands and some awesome mudflats. We appreciate it also because its home to a small population of Herdmania momus, native to coral reefs but a biofouling pest species in Hawaii and the Mediterranean Sea. This provides us with a local comparative population living in a very different habitat.  Straddie is also where we go to collect pygmy squid, which live in close contact with the seagrass beds on the bay side of the island. When on Straddie we often visit UQ’s Moreton Bay Research Station.

Broome is a town on the north west coast of Western Australia.  It’s a major hub of the South Sea pearl industry and a launch point to our industry partner’s farms off the WA coast.  Framed by white sand beaches and influenced by the major Indonesian flow-through current from the north,  the waters off Broome teem with life and make an ideal place to seed, grow and harvest pearl oysters.  Working in this pristine environment, we are seeking to understand how genetics and environment work together in Pinctada maxima to create the perfect pearl.