An experiment unique to Australia is underway at La Trobe University in Wodonga thanks to a scholarship supported by the CSIRO and five state governments.
Lorena Nogueira, from Brazil, has been completing her PhD with the Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre since March 2016.
She received support as an international student to undertake research into the dispersal of fish larvae, but an additional post-graduate ‘top-up’ scholarship has allowed Ms Nogueira to take her studies further and design a ‘flume tank’.
“The idea came from a research group in Austria – there they used a similar tank to study the swimming behaviour of fish larvae,” she said.
“Since the flume has different depths, when I turn the drive belt on, the flow will have different velocities and I want to see how the different velocities will affect fish behaviour.”
Ms Nogueira will begin conducting tests next week with fish from the Narrandera hatchery.
“I’ll be testing four scenarios – three we can find naturally in places like the Chowilla Floodplain,” she said.
“The fourth will simulate a river reaching a weir pool or reserve – I’ll drop down the velocity from fast to slow, showing how that will affect behaviour.
“The PhD is to understand how river damming is affecting dispersal of young fish … it can provide information for management actions and operation of existing dams.”
Another student is undertaking research into the nutritional quality of food items for fish, and four honours scholarships were also awarded.
MDFRC principal researcher Daryl Nielsen said the support was crucial for his students’ studies.
“Her work compliments many of the other projects we have going on, looking at fish recruitment and survival within the Murray-Darling basin,” he said.
“We have used smaller flume tanks but this is going up in scale – I doubt there would be many like it in Australia, if any.
“We are about to offer another three top-up scholarships and PhD honours.”
Applications are now open for 2018 scholarship opportunities.