ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Joachim Bretzel

Industry (NSW DPI) funded PhD scholarship recipient

Joachim Bretzel

Research Theme

Biodiversity Conservation


Advancing fish-protection screening at water diversions to support freshwater fish conservation in the Murray-Darling Basin.


Principal Supervisor: Professor Lee Baumgartner

Co-Supervisors: Dr Craig Boys (NSW DPI), Professor Robyn Watts


Joachim Bretzel, who is from Germany, began his PhD in March 2020 and will be based at NSW DPI’s Port Stephens Fisheries Institute.

Joachim, 27, grew up in Southern Germany in the small town of Tettnang on Lake Constance. Ever since he was a child he has been interested in animals, animal ecology and especially fish as his father used to take him fishing for perch (redfin), a native European species that is an invasive species in Australia.

When he finished school, Joachim trained for two years as a biological technical assistant before returning to school to finish the German equivalent of Year 12 before going on to study a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture and Planning at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). What appealed to him about the four year course was its focus on ecology and the environment. As part of that course, he did a six months’ internship in Norway at LFI-Laboratory for Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, which is associated with the University of Bergen. He later returned to LFI for two months to do the field work for his Bachelor thesis on Atlantic salmon.

He then went on to his Masters in Landscape Planning, Ecology and Nature Conservation, again with TUM.  While there he had the opportunity to be part of an international research project on landscape structures and habitat connections of butterflies which involved six weeks field work in the Taita Hills, in Kenya in Africa. For his Masters’ thesis, Joachim studied the feeding ecology, and its effect on perch, of the three-spined stickleback fish in Lake Constance, an invasive species.

The opportunity to do his PhD in Australia came through Professor Jürgen Geist, his Bachelor and Masters’ supervisor. (Jürgen is a colleague of Professor Lee Baumgartner and was here in Australia in 2018 to attend the Fish Passage conference held in Albury.)

Joachim’s PhD study is supported by NSW DPI, through the project Advancing fish-protection screening at Australian water diversions. Baumgartner, L. (2019-2022) NSW DPI, $95,000. Project details

Joachim is a member of a multi-disciplinary team of CSU and NSW DPI ecologists, engineers, economists and science workers working to develop Australia’s first fish-screening program by evaluating pilot projects in NSW, developing Australian screen design guidelines, building awareness and ensuring screening programs are underpinned by rigorous science.

He will specifically be looking to identify the role of diversion on fish conservation, and which of the fish screens currently available in Australia are the most effective, both in terms of cost and impacts on fishes. He will study the impact of unscreened and screened diversion on Australian fish species during their different life stages, as well as on the fish communities, populations, and the whole river ecosystem. The study, expected to be conducted mostly in NSW, will involve a lot of field work and look at both screens for small irrigation pumps and for large water diversion take-offs


Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture and Planning, Technical University of Munich (TUM)

Master of Science in Landscape Planning, Ecology and Nature Conservation, (TUM)


May 2020