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Targeted Research Projects

A Targeted Research Project is an integral and required part of the Australia program. The University of Queensland faculty members will mentor individuals or groups of students in research projects on topics of interest proposed by the students within designated disciplinary areas. Students will describe an initial topic in their application and later submit a final proposal, revised with guidance from a UQ academic advisor. Further refinement of research projects will occur during the first weeks in Australia. Research will be undertaken at specific times during the quarter and will culminate in a final written report, as well as a presentation to other program participants and faculty.

Below are some examples of projects undertaken in Autumn Quarter 2003-04. These will provide a general idea of the size and scope of research projects students may undertake.

Gobiidae Fish: Burrow Distribution and Basic Behavior

(Student: Ivan Tzvetanov)

“I had been interested in studying the symbiotic relationship between the snapping shrimp Alpheus sp. and the goby Cryptocentrus cinctus, which are found in large numbers in Shark Bay, Heron Island. The gobies and the shrimp live in the same burrows, which the shrimp excavates while the goby acts as a sentinel, warning the nearly blind shrimp when danger approaches.”

“The Australia program offered me the opportunity to do field research of special interest to me that I would not otherwise have been able to do while on the Stanford campus. My research, in this instance, yielded some really interesting, previously unknown, information about the distribution of goby-shrimp burrows and the specific behavior responses of goby to threats.”

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Energy Production, Consumption, and Renewable Alternatives for small island stations

(Student: Joshua Traube)

“For my research, I wanted to examine how emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur, and nitrogen from power plants contribute to global climate change and ecosystem imbalance. I began to better understand the relationship between energy demand and generation in small communities and how it offers insight into the design of future power systems for human settlements.”

“Heron Island (off the coast of northern Australia) was the perfect real-life lab for conducting my research. The island is remote but significantly inhabited (400+ guests and residents), and currently all electricity is produced by diesel generation. I discovered that current local negative impacts include nitrogen emissions from the generators which are likely to encourage coral decline on the nearby reef. I assessed alternative technologies and an alternative energy plan in order to soften this impact and to set a precedent for adapting renewable technologies to larger operations.”

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The Effect of Coral Health on Herbivory in the Great Barrier Reef

(Student: Sarah Israel)

“For my study, I examined the effects of a low coral cover environment on herbivory at the Great Barrier Reef, which is important in the context of rapid losses of coral cover on reefs around the world. I hypothesized that the amount of herbivorous grazing Scarids would increase at the low coral cover site due to a larger amount of algal growth. I collected data using stationary video recording and analyzed the amount and species of fish feeding in both high coral cover and low coral cover environments.”

“My results suggested secondary factors affecting the composition of feeding fish on these parts of the reef. Such factors may include time of day of data collection, tide variability, use of the coral by particle feeders for nutrient rich mucus and protection from predators, and the territoriality of damselfish. This study built off of a study of the composition of the benthic substrate at high and low coral cover sites, and served as a baseline pilot study for further data collection related to feeding on the reef.”

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What Does It Mean To Be ‘Green’?
Evaluating Ecotourism Accreditation in Australia

(Student: Michelle Keller)

“I sought to define the challenges and differences of ecotourism so as to further understand how to refine Australia’s Nature and Ecotourism Accreditation Program (NEAP) accreditation. My methods included: reviewing published case studies of accredited ecotourist resorts; interviewing travel agents, a conservationist, hotel owners and managers of both accredited and non-accredited ecotourism accommodations; and surveying the infrastructure of two hotels in Queensland, Australia in World Heritage Areas.”

“I discovered that Australian ecotourism operations face significantly different demands depending on both the type of environment on which they are situated, as well as the size of the accommodation. These issues seemed magnified as the size of the accommodation increased. Thus, I concluded that the current NEAP accreditation process is inappropriate and biased. Categorizing accommodations by ecological setting, size and developing a more specific set of criteria to fit such demands can be used to make the process more transparent and in line with its stated goals.”

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The Effect of Boardwalks on Trees and Seedlings in Mangrove Ecosystems

(Student: Elaine Liu)

“The mangroves of Australia are a unique and critical ecosystem. As mangroves are sometimes classified as Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Areas, there has been an increase in installations of boardwalks to allow better access. I wanted to look at whether boardwalks contribute to or work against mangrove conservation. I selected to conduct ecological surveys of two mangroves with boardwalks along the east coast of Australia: the Boondall Wetlands mangroves and a mangrove located in Cairns, northern Australia.”

“My survey results showed that constant human trampling from people leaving the Boondall boardwalk resulted in decreases in seedling density and a higher percentage of Avicennia marina species with epicormic shoots. The impressive species distributions at the Cairns mangrove showed a healthy mangrove ecosystem as compared with the highly impacted mangrove at Boondall. Ultimately, I concluded that boardwalks do not impact mangroves themselves, except when people are allowed to leave the boardwalk. Overall, a continued monitoring of mangroves and a more comprehensive understanding of mangrove ecosystem dynamics will result in better conservation of mangrove ecosystems.”

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