Marine Botany lives on

Bill Dennison ·
22 June 2011
Science Communication | 

The vibrant Marine Botany group was part of the Botany Department while I was at the University of Queensland, but went into the Centre for Marine Studies after I left. The Botany Department has disappeared and the Centre for Marine Studies has morphed into something quite different, but the spirit of Marine Botany lives on. The Marine Botany crowd has dispersed throughout the world, and throughout Australia, but there are a significant number of Marbots still in Brisbane. They have been remarkably successful in their pursuits and one of the benefits of returning to Brisbane after a nine year absence is being able to see Marbots achieving amazing things.

Dr. Tim Carruthers, a Marbot postdoctoral fellow who came with me to the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science to develop the Integration and Application Network was in Brisbane with his wife Courtney Schupp and their new young son, Colin. Tim, Courtney and Colin are en route to Apia, Samoa so that Tim can begin his new job with the South Pacific Region Environment Programme (SPREP). A colleague that Tim will be working with at SPREP is Dr. David Haynes. David did his PhD as a Marbot on toxicants on the Great Barrier Reef, and worked for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority before joining SPREP.

Dr. Eva Abal, the first Marbot PhD graduate was the Science Director at the Healthy Waterways Partnership until recently, and she is now splitting her time between the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the International WaterCentre and the University of Queensland.

Eva's replacement at Healthy Waterways was a 'Marbot', Dr. James Udy who did his PhD on seagrasses. James previously worked at Seqwater, where he worked on freshwater issues associated with the reservoirs after a postdoctoral stint with Prof. Stuart Bunn at Griffith University.

Dr. Mara Wolkenhauer was an exchange student with Marine Botany who went on to do her PhD and worked for several years with Healthy Waterways. She is now working with the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management.

Dr. Chris Roelfsema who worked as a research assistant and started his graduate studies as a Marbot is now working as a Lecturer at the University of Queensland with Prof. Stuart Phinn (see

Diana Kliene, Chris's wife, was a Marbot Science Communicator and produced various newsletters, posters and web materials. Diana worked with Dr. Norm Duke, another Marbot, at the University of Queensland and they produced a book on mangroves. Diana has been working with Prof. Justin Marshall, and together they recently produced a book on corals. Justin married Sue McGuire, who was the Marine Botany Business Manager. Sue is now looking after quarantine issues for the University of Queensland. Former Marbot Lab Manager Alan Goldizen is also working with Prof. Justin Marshall and his current duties include bringing an owl to/from work!

Dive tanks
Marine Botany SCUBA tanks used to denote a house number by Chris Roelfsema and Diana Kleine.

Dr. Simon Costanzo mapped sewage plumes in Moreton Bay for his Honours and PhD, and did brief postdocs at the University of Washington and the University of the Sunshine Coast. He worked with the National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology (EnTox) (a joint venture of the University of Queensland and the Queensland Department of Health) before joining Sinclair Knight Merz, a consulting company that Marine Botany used to work with.

Simon and Ian
Drs. Simon Costanzo (left) and Ian Hewson (right).

Dr. Andrew Watkinson did his Honours on Lyngbya, and then his PhD at EnTox before joining Seqwater. He looks after water quality in the drinking water reservoirs of Southeast Queensland.

Dr. Simon Albert is doing a postdoctoral fellowship with the University of Queensland, but based in Gizo, Solomon Islands, with his wife Dr. Joelle Prange. Both Simon and Joelle were Marine Botany students and went on to do their PhDs at the University of Queensland. Joelle did a stint at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and now works for the WorldFish Center.

Simon, Joelle and Malia
Drs. Simon Albert and Joelle Prange with Malia.

Dr. Mark O'Donohue was the first Marine Botany employee and he helped build the program while completing his PhD on primary productivity in Moreton Bay. Mark ran the boats, helped supervise students, set up the laboratory and wrote proposals and reports. After his PhD he has worked in various places, including CSIRO (Commonwealth Science and Industry Research Organization) and Seqwater before joining his current employer, Australian Water Recycling. Mark's partner Dr. Caroline Gaus was also a Marine Botany student and research assistant, and she has an active research program on toxicants with graduate students at EnTox.

Dr. Michelle Burford did her PhD on nutrient cycling and productivity of aquaculture prawn ponds and has been teaching and doing research at the Australian Rivers Institute, headed by Prof. Stuart Bunn. Michelle has a large cadre of graduate students in her group.

Dr. Norm Duke, a mangrove expert, kept the Marine Botany flag flying at the University of Queensland for nine years, and is now moving to James Cook University. Norm is working on developing a coastal mapping and assessment tool to monitor mangroves.

Norm Duke
Dr. Norm Duke

Dr. Ian Hewson did his Honours project on bacteria and viruses in Moreton, worked as a research assistant and then went off to do his PhD at the University of Southern California and postdoc at University of California at Santa Cruz before joining the faculty at Cornell University. Ian was in Brisbane visiting family and precipitated a mini-reunion.

Kate Moore was associated with Marine Botany as an undergraduate and worked with Dr. Eva Abal both at Healthy Waterways and at the Great Barrier Reef Foundation as a Science Communicator. Kate set up a consulting company, Hodge Environmental, and is working with the International WaterCentre and helped me produce various newsletters during my sabbatical.

Another aspect of the timing is that there has been a small baby boom in the Marbot group. I met Tim Carruthers' baby Colin, Simon Costanzo's Lilly and Ben, Andrew Watkinson's little girl Charlie, and became reacquainted with Chris and Diana's children Djoy and Anouk, Eva's son Arthur, and James' daughters Danielle and Jaquetta. There are several other Marbot babies in the world, including Kath McMahon's Pearl, Cath Collier and Dieter Tracey's Amelia, and Simon and Joelle's baby Malia.

Kathryn, Mick and Pearl
Dr. Kathryn McMahon with Mick and Pearl.

About the author

Bill Dennison

Dr. Bill Dennison is a Professor of Marine Science and Vice President for Science Application at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). Dr. Dennison’s primary mission within UMCES is to coordinate the Integration and Application Network.

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