Dr Bonnie Holmes with a 3.1 metre Tiger Shark. Photo: Contributed
Dr Bonnie Holmes with a 3.1 metre Tiger Shark. Photo: Contributed

Scientist swimming with the sharks

Dr Bonnie Holmes is one of the newest members of University of Sunshine Coast's Fraser Coast's Animal Ecology academic team.

She is involved in national collaborative research on large ocean predators such as tiger and hammerhead sharks.

She also researches shark ecology along Australia's east coast and plans to expand her focus to address a knowledge gap of shark movements and behaviours in the Wide Bay region.

"The Wide Bay region has some of the most productive waters in Australia but surprisingly little is known about the seasonal trends of certain species," Dr Holmes said.

Much of Dr Holmes' research is on the tiger shark, an apex predator which controls food webs by preying on other marine creatures.

"These predators are extremely important to the ecology of the ocean, and the more we know about them, the greater steps we can take to protect shark species," she said.

Hammerhead sharks are another key research focus for Dr Holmes, who said the species was less understood.

"I'm interested in the movements and habitat use by scalloped and great hammerheads in Hervey Bay, along with smooth hammerheads in warm temperate waters off New South Wales," she said.

She said the large size of some sharks made them difficult to tag for research.

Dr Holmes said species like hammerheads were extremely susceptible to dying from stress when they were caught, so data collection and release needed to happen very quickly.

Dr Holmes supervises several PhD, Masters and Honours students at the USC Fraser Coast campus, and brings both research and extensive industry experience to her lecturing role.



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