ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Fish Ecology

Led by Dr Paul Humphries


PhD projects in fish and river ecology, Charles Sturt University, Albury

Join a dynamic team of fish and river ecologists at the beautiful Albury-Wodonga campus of Charles Sturt University, situated in the Murray-Darling Basin – Australia’s largest river system.  Do you want to undertake a PhD that will help better understand and manage native and introduced fish and other animals in our rivers? We have several nationally- and internationally-relevant projects, collaborating with scientists from around Australia and overseas.

Topics include:

  • Fish kills in the rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin and worldwide: drivers, recovery and prevention;
  • World-wide food webs: ecology and conservation of river-floodplain food webs for fish using contemporary and historical collections;
  • More stuffed Murray cod in pubs: using taxidermied mounts to describe past environmental conditions of fish and rivers;
  • Flexing our mussels: functional roles of freshwater mussels in Murray-Darling Basin rivers and potential for restoration following drought;
  • Do fish have personalities? Effects of individual behaviour on wild and hatchery fish ecology;
  • Invasion of the aliens: the rise, fall and rise again of alien fish species in the Murray-Darling Basin;
  • Fast food for fish: is the quality of food affecting fish populations in our rivers?

By 23 October 2019, ring or email Dr Paul Humphries on 02 60519920 or, Dr Keller Kopf on 02 60519294 or, Dr Nicole McCasker on 02 60519437 or

If you are selected as a potential candidate, we will develop a project outline with you and you will apply for a Charles Sturt University or Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship, which provides a living allowance, pays tuition fees and funds towards your research project. You can start your project in February or July 2020.

More details

Call for Expressions of Interest for a 2019 PhD  scholarship: Trophic ecology of freshwater fishes

A scholarship is available to support Post Graduate students undertaking research projects that are considered within the scope of these topics, which include, but are not limited to:

  • Field  and lab studies focused on trophic interactions between invasive and native fishes;
  • Stable isotope and fatty acid analyses;
  • Statistical modelling of food web interactions;
  • Lab experiments examining variation in growth and survival of larvae;
  • Global desktop analyses of fish traits

More details and application process

  • About
  • Research
  • Members
  • Projects
  • Publications
  • Postgrad Research
  • Engagement


FishlarveThe Fish Ecology Collaborative Research Unit (FECRU) aims to foster rigorous science in freshwater fish ecology in Australia, and more specifically the Murray-Darling Basin.

It is establishing partnerships with government natural resource agencies interested in the management, conservation or restoration of fish populations and the ecosystems they occupy and other research centres such as the Murray Darling Freshwater Research Centre.

Its objectives are to:
1) Provide a hub for research collaboration that combines fundamental science with applied conservation, environmental and fisheries management.
2) Educate post-graduate (Honours, MSc. and PhD) students and support post-doctoral research and training.
3) Influence public awareness, management and conservation of fish populations and aquatic ecosystems through the dissemination of science.


The mission of the FECRU is to carry out rigorous and independent science, underpinned by ecological concepts, to help address the most challenging problems related to the management and conservation of fish and aquatic ecosystems.

Research model

Research undertaken by the unit will be expected to improve our knowledge of the ecosystem role of fish, so that management, conservation and restoration strategies are based on rigorous scientific evidence, with a view to long-term sustainability.

The unit will establish co-funded collaborative research projects between government natural resource management agencies and researchers at CSU. Projects will be developed and undertaken by post-graduate and post-doctoral researchers in collaboration with academic staff at CSU and a state or Commonwealth government partner.

Projects of mutual interest to CSU and partners are expected to traverse fundamental and applied research themes focusing on fish in the broad areas of ecology, restoration fisheries management, biodiversity conservation, environmental monitoring,
management or assessment.

By virtue of CSU's inland geography and research track-record, many projects will focus on freshwater systems in the Murray-Darling Basin. However, research that will generate broadly applicable and fundamental new insights, regardless of geographic area, will receive priority.

Research themes

Applied Fundamental
River regulation and management Ecosystem processes
Environmental management and
River ecology
Environmental flows Dispersal, connectivity and
Restoration, baselines and reference
Life history and functional traits
Invasive species management Early life history
Biodiversity conservation Population ecology
Commercial fisheries Historical ecology
Recreational fisheries Macroecology

Team Members

Members Expertise
Dr Paul Humphries 30 years fish ecology experience.
Interests: flowecology relationships, early life history, historical ecology
Dr R Keller Kopf
Post-doctoral research fellow
12 years fish ecology experience.
Interests: fisheries science, fish biology, ecosystem processes
Dr Nicole McCasker
Post-doctoral research fellow
13 years fish ecology experience.
Interests: early life history, recruitment, flow-ecology relationships
Dr Kevin Warburton
Adjunct, Charles Sturt University
Fish behaviour, stream ecology, Freshwater research news letter
Prof Nick Bond
Director, Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre
Ecological modelling, effects of hydro-climate variability on river ecosystems, river ecology and restoration
Dr Rick Stoffels
Senior Scientist, Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre.
Ecology of riverine animals; ecological modelling; physiological ecology.




Postgraduate students working on topics relevant to the SRA

Students Research Topic
Dale Campbell
PhD Student CSU
Supervised by Dr Paul Humphries, Dr Nicole McCasker and Dr Michael Reid (UNE) 
The reconstruction of palaeo-environments of river floodplain wetlands.
James Dyer
PhD Student CSU
Supervised by Dr Paul Humphries & Professor Robyn Watts
The role of movement in explaining the distribution of riverine shrimp
Matt O'Connell
ILWS PhD Scholarship Student CSU
Supervised by Dr Paul Humphries, Dr Keller Kopf, and Dr Nicole McCasker 
Trophy Murray Cod: taxidermied Murray Cod and environmental change in the Murray-Darling Basin 
Luke McPhan
PhD Student, UNSW
Supervised by Dr  Kim Jenkins & Dr Paul Humphries

Impacts of river regulation on carbon sources for aquatic food webs supporting larval fish growth.

Daniel Svozil
PhD Student CSU
Supervised by ProfR Watts, Dr Keller Kopf & Dr Lee Baumgartner

Trait variation and adaptation in isolated fish populations

Luke Pearce
MSc Student CSU
Supervised by Dr Paul Humphries & Professor Robyn Watts  

Graduated 2015
Conservation of southern pygmy perch (Nannoperca australis)
Tara Hicks
Honours Student CSU
Supervised by Dr Keller Kopf & Dr Paul Humphries 
Completed 2015
Effects of maternal body size and fatty acid profile on fecundity and egg quality of Dusky flathead, Platycephalus fuscus


Larval Fish Conference

Continuing his long-term association with the University of Vienna, Paul was one of the organisers of the 39th Annual Larval Fish Conference held at the university in July 2015, where the paper Humphries, P.,  Kopf, S., Kaminskas,T., Keckeis,H., McCasker,N., Stoffels, R., Bond,N. & Watts,R. Integrating life history theory and dispersal in riverine fishes, was presented.   While in Austria, Paul also ran a Masters Field Course and class.

Citizen Science - Stuffed Murray Cods in Pubs

This project, which got off the ground with a CSU media release in February last year, certainly generated a lot of media interest including a segment  on the ABC's 7.30 Report on April 4.It took off with a Bang and now there  almost 200 members in our facebook group, 122 locations of stuffed Murray cods and close to 150 fish, mostly in pubs and sporting clubs around the Murray-Darling Basin.

Freshwater Research News  by adjunct Dr Kevin Warburton The newsletter's target audiences
are aquatic resource managers, educators or students interested in aquatic environments, people from organisations involved in environmental protection, and aquatic researchers keen to stay abreast of developments outside their specialist areas. It contains articles, using non-specialist language as much as possible, that summarises the background and significance of recently published research findings with special attention to novel ideas, new interpretations, and interdisciplinary connections involving the freshwater environment.

Why are there no true freshwater protected areas in Australia? Kopf, R.K., Humphries P, McCasker N. The Conversation on November 17, 2014