Study leads to sea of opportunity

Matthew Fraser carrying out research at the Abrolhos Islands.
Matthew Fraser carrying out research at the Abrolhos Islands.

The postgraduate marine science student, from UWA, has been named as a finalist in the WA Science Awards, in the student scientist of the year category, for his thesis research on seagrasses.

Mr Fraser developed an interest in Australia’s coastal environment when he moved to WA, from Scotland, after finishing high school.

A trip to the Great Barrier Reef during his travels throughout the country inspired him to study marine science.

‘I found out a lot about seagrasses and the important role they have in maintaining coastal ecosystems,’ he said.

His studies took him to Shark Bay, a world heritage site, which has the largest seagrass meadows in the world and where Mr Fraser is currently conducting research for his PhD on how the seagrasses may respond to future environmental changes.

His research has contributed to the conservation of Shark Bay and has helped to develop effective management solutions for the Western Australian marine environment.

‘Given that seagrasses provide important functions, including habitat for juvenile fish, maintenance of water quality and carbon sequestration, we must carefully manage future coastal development, particularly in the face of future climate change,’ Mr Fraser said.

As well as his own research, he has been highly involved in teaching and mentoring students and recently developed an innovative undergraduate program, which allows students to be involved in practical marine research.

Mr Fraser will be in the running for the Student Scientist of the Year Award, which goes to a postgraduate student who has demonstrated a commitment to science at an early stage and shows great promise in reaching the highest levels of excellence.

He is one of 17 finalists, nominated across five categories, for outstanding research, crucial to the state’s future development.

The winners will be announced by Premier Colin Barnett at a presentation on November 21.