Plenary Presentation Australian Society for Fish Biology Conference 2022

Environmental disturbances and their dynamic impacts on the social behaviour of marine and freshwater fishes (#45)

Marian Wong 1
  1. University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Human activities have profoundly changed the environment, which in many cases has resulted in the deterioration of natural ecosystems. This ongoing global problem requires collaborative efforts between academics, managers and local communities if we are to preserve the remaining biodiversity. Here I will discuss the application of behavioral ecology to the conservation of social fishes in the face of environmental disturbances. In particular, by melding both pure and applied research questions related to sociality, my lab has shown that the modulation of individual-level social traits caused by environmental stressors could act as useful indicators of the impact of human activities on aquatic ecosystems. Further, by applying entrenched behavioural theory, scientists may be able to predict how sociality is related to the responses, resilience and recovery of species to environmental challenges. While most of my work has focused on coral-dwelling fishes that have been severely impacted by multiple cyclone and coral bleaching events, I will also discuss ongoing work on freshwater fishes, namely how abiotic factors and sociality can mediate the impact of invasive species on natives. Finally, I will highlight our ongoing collaboration with the NSW Department of Primary Industries and Local Land Services NSW, aimed at protecting the very last population of a critically endangered freshwater crayfish. This research mission demonstrates the importance of maintaining external partnerships for the implementation of research findings and successful long-term protection of endangered aquatic species.