School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering

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Julia Reisser

Phone: (+61 4) 2307 2500


Start date

Feb 2011

Submission date

Feb 2014

Curriculum vitae

Julia Reisser CV
[rtf, 35.57 kb]
Updated 05 Mar 2012

Julia Reisser

Julia Reisser profile photo


Using bio-physical modeling to understand sea turtle population connectivity and plastic pollution hazards.


My main research aim is to strengthen the understanding of the links between physical oceanography and the spatial distribution of (1) sea turtles and (2) floating marine plastics. The specific objectives are:

i) Verify the influence of ocean currents on the spatial distribution of green turtle populations;

ii) Develop a biophysical model to chart the pathways taken by young green turtles born at different rookeries around the globe;

iii) Identify the types of floating plastics and its spatial distribution in waters close to the Australian continent.

Why my research is important

In marine ecosystems, water movements operate over a variety of spatial and temporal scales, influencing the displacements of organisms over continental shelves and across ocean basins. A typical life cycle adopted by many marine species encompasses an early pelagic life stage characterized by an extensive dispersal, followed by a sessile or more sedentary phase, where changes in location might occur through seasonal and/or ontogenetic displacements. All these types of movements, particularly those taking place during early life stages, are affected by ocean water dynamics. This makes marine spatial ecology a complex biophysical problem that remains unresolved for most marine populations. The globally-distributed green sea turtle is one of the marine species that possesses an early pelagic dispersal phase, dominated by passive drift, followed by a more sedentary coastal stage. During my PhD, I will develop a global biophysical model that charts the likely pathways taken by turtles during their early epipelagic life stage. With this model I will fortify the current knowledge on the influence of large-scale current systems on the spatial distribution of sea turtle populations.

The early sea turtle life stage (known as post-hatchling phase) occurs in oceanic areas, where an increasing amount of floating plastics is also present. The vulnerability of young sea turtles to these materials is particularly serious due to impaction of the alimentary canal by ingested plastics. The first step toward a quantification of plastic pollution hazards to marine life is a better understanding of its spatial distribution. The marine debris research which is part of this thesis is the first study attempting to map the spatial distribution of floating plastics in waters close to Australia through systematically sampling floating plastics. These data, and the output of a particle tracking model that charts the pathways taken by plastics, will provide information with which to identify the sectors and regions that contribute most significantly to the increase in marine debris in Australia. This information will facilitate the government's ability to address the threat via national regulations and international negotiations.


  • International Postgraduate Research Scholarship (IPRS)
  • CSIRO Flagship Collaboration Fund (Wealth from Oceans Flagship)
  • Australian Postgraduate Award (APA)
  • UWA 'Safety Net' Top-Up Scholarship

Floating marine plastics collected in Australian waters.

School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering

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Thursday, 19 September, 2013 11:39 AM