Environmental ecologist from Scotland joins CSU

23 MAY 2018

A new CSU science lecturer is contributing to conservation strategies and legal change in his homeland of Scotland.

* Research scientist from Scotland joins CSU educators

* Academic’s goal is to instil a passion for science in students

* He argues that bridging the gap between academia and non-academics is fundamental to enhancing scientific literacy

A new Charles Sturt University (CSU) science lecturer is contributing to conservation strategies and legal change in his homeland of Scotland.

Dr Martin Hughes (pictured), an environmental ecologist and lecturer in science in the CSU School of Environmental Sciences based in Bathurst and Dubbo, was one of the lead investigators in a conservation research project for the protection of vulnerable fish species.

The purpose of the study was to investigate the alternative routes to piscivory (fish eating) in brown trout Salmo trutta living in different lakes across Scotland. It took years of work and substantial collaboration while he was a PhD student at the University of Glasgow.

Based on that research, in 2019 a new by-law will be introduced to Loch Awe, the third largest freshwater lake in Scotland, making it compulsory to safely return any brown trout over 360mm in length back into the lake.

Dr Hughes said, “Our research suggests there are multiple pathways to reaching piscivory, however important ‘threshold sizes’ must be attained before the switch to a fish-based diet can be adopted.

“This has been common knowledge for a long time, however demonstrating this scientifically has proved difficult due to the elusive nature of ferox trout and the difficulty in obtaining sufficient samples.

“This research is an excellent example of multiple stakeholders working collaboratively to enhance the conservation of a potentially vulnerable species, while importantly not taking the right to fish for ferox away from passionate game anglers.”

Dr Hughes argues that ecological research can help teacher education students at CSU to be better science teachers and improve their future school students love of science.

“I feel there is a bit of a gap between academia and the public,” Dr Hughes said.

“By teaching mainly K-12 students here at Charles Sturt University I hope to bridge that gap and make sure our students are not only highly literate in English and mathematics but in science.

“An unfortunate fact of life is that some science taught in schools is given a disservice as the content may appear too dry or inaccessible, particularly when they are heavy with the necessary scientific jargon.

“My goal is to instil a passion for science in students attending Charles Sturt University who will hopefully instil the same passion in the thousands of students they will teach throughout their careers.”

The research in Scotland was completed under the supervision of the eminent freshwater fish expert Professor Colin Adams, the director of the Scottish Centre for Ecology and the Natural Environment, located on the banks of Loch Lomond.

Dr Hughes is currently writing a paper based on the recent data collected by CSU students and members of the public in the ‘BioBlitz at Boundary Road Reserve’ recently. The paper is tentatively titled, ‘Practical ecology and public engagement; an example of citizen science in an endangered Australian ecosystem.’

Media Note:

Contact CSU Media to arrange interviews with Dr Martin Hughes, whose paper has been accepted for publication in the journal Ecology of Freshwater Fish, to be published soon in 2018. The paper is titled ‘Alternative routes to piscivory: Contrasting growth trajectories in brown trout (Salmo trutta) ecotypes exhibiting contrasting life history strategies’

Dr Hughes acknowledges and thanks other important partners to the research in Scotland; these include Alan Kettle-White, the senior biologist of the Argyll Fisheries Trust; Aya Thorne from Marine Scotland Science; researchers from the University of Glasgow; the Argyll Fisheries Trust; Dave Greenwood; the Ferox85 group whose tireless effort in sample collection made the whole project possible; and the Loch Awe Improvement Association members for listening and acting on the scientific information.

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