Marcus Sheaves is a Professor in the College of Science and Engineering, where he is Director of Special Projects. Marcus also leads JCU’s Estuary and Coastal Wetland Ecology Research Group, and, JCU’s Marine Data Technology Hub.

Marcus has researched ecosystem and fisheries ecology of tropical coastal systems, estuaries, coastal wetlands and mangroves since the early 1990s. His research has focussed particularly on nursery ground utilisation and values, the role of connected habitat mosaics in ecosystem functioning, functional mapping of marine habitats, the use of developing technology (e.g. artificial intelligence) in environmental problem-solving, and critical thinking in environmental decision-making. He has published widely with over 75 peer reviewed publications over the last 5 years. Marcus leads a number of substantial research projects within Australia and across the Asia-Pacific region. He has extensive collaborations with research and management organisations both within Australia and internationally.


  • MB3270: Coastal, Estuarine and Mangrove Ecosystems (Level 3; TSV)
  • MB5004: Marine Conservation Biology (Level 5; TSV)
  • MB5270: Coastal, Estuarine and Mangrove Ecosystems (Level 5; TSV)
  • MB5310: Marine Reserves as Fisheries Management Tools (Level 5; TSV)
  • MB5610: Fishing Gear and Technologies (Level 5; TSV)
  • The ecology of estuaries and coastal wetland ecosystems, in particular in: nursery ground function, animal habitat relationships, the role of ecosystem mosaics and connectivity
  • Ecosystem repair and rejuvenation, contributions to food security and the effects of climate change
  • Fisheries, food web, seascape and spatial ecology
Research Disciplines
  • 2006 - Best Paper of the Year; 'Coral Reefs' - Journal of the International Society of Reef Studies
  • 2009 - Australian Academy of Sciences Study Fellowship
  • 2012 - Primary Postgraduate Advisor of the Year, James Cook University

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles
Conference Papers

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 152+ research outputs authored by Prof Marcus Sheaves from 1992 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

Australian Research Council - Linkage - Infrastructure (L-IEF)

Australian Acoustic Observatory: A Network to Monitor Biodiversity

Indicative Funding
$927,000 over 3 years (administered by QUT)
Acoustic sensing is transforming environmental science by recording vocal species 24 x 7, providing data of unparalleled spatial and temporal resolution for ecosystem monitoring and research. This is particularly relevant to Australia's fragile and mega-diverse environment and Australia has leading research expertise in this emerging field. The proposed observatory will be the world's largest terrestrial acoustic sensor network comprising 450 listening stations deployed across Australia. Funds will purchase autonomous sound recorders and online storage and processing hardware. Data will be freely available to all online, enabling new science in understanding ecosystems, long-term environmental change, data visualisation and acoustic science.
Paul Roe, David Watson, Richard Fuller, Stuart Parsons, Tomasc Bednarz, Margot Brereton, Lin Schwarzkopf, Dale Nimmo, Berndt Janse van Rensburg, Martine Maron, Marcus Sheaves, Paul McDonald and Gary Luck (Queensland University of Technology, Charles Sturt University, The University of Queensland, College of Science & Engineering and The University of New England)
Monitoring; Frogs; acoustic; Birds

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) - Council on Australia Latin America Relations (COALAR)

Building local capacity for aquatic wildlife?s sustainable management: Patagonia, Argentina

Indicative Funding
Patagonia, Argentina, is facing alarming aquatic wildlife resource risks. This project will build local capacity for the sustainable management of Patagonian wildlife resources by skilling scientists at the Patagonian National Centre through a new collaboration agreement with James Cook University.
Adam Barnett and Marcus Sheaves in collaboration with Alejo Irigoyen (College of Science & Engineering and Centro Nacional Patagonico (CENPAT))
Capacity Building; Education; Animal movement technology; Predators

WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development - Contract Research

Identification of benthic structure using machine learning

Indicative Funding
$36,200 (administered by Wa Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development)
The Project aims at automating the classification of benthic structure and biota from images using machine learning
Marcus Sheaves, Bronson Philippa, Carlo Mattone and Michael Bradley (College of Science & Engineering)
Benthic Assessment; Machine Learning

Ecological Society of Australia - Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment

Assessing the roles of batoids in coastal sandflats

Indicative Funding
This project will develop and implement innovative data collection methods using drone technology to assess the roles of batoids in coastal sandflats. Specifically, we will be developing methods to map the locations of batoid feeding pits, calculate the volume of sediment turned over, and gain detailed behavioural observations. Results from this research will highlight the important roles batoids play in coastal sandflats and provide a useful tool for assessing the foraging impacts of batoids on sandflats that can be applied on a global scale. Additionally, we will determine if feeding pit counts can be used to estimate the abundance of batoids on a sandflat. If successful, this technique has broad application potential for monitoring batoid populations which will be vital for their conservation.
Kevin Crook, Adam Barnett, Marcus Sheaves and Katya Abrantes (College of Science & Engineering)
Batoids; Foraging ecology; Bioturbation; Behaviour; Mapping; Drones

WV Scott Charitable Trust - Research Grant

Developing Best Fishing Practices for Fish Welfare and Conservation: Evaluating Stress and Survivorship of Recreational Fish Species

Indicative Funding
$294,000 over 2 years
Sport fishing is one of the largest recreational activities worldwide. An important component in ensuring sustainable recreational fisheries is promoting ethical catch and release practices. This means it is important to understand the effects of capture and handling recreationally caught fish, so that the best fishing/handling practices can be developed. This project will measure the stress levels from the capture event, quantify post-release survival of key tropical recreational fish species, and use obtained information to develop best-practice guidelines to improve the survivorship and welfare of released fish. Results will be useful to inform a better management of fish stocks.
Katya Abrantes, Adam Barnett and Marcus Sheaves in collaboration with Carlo Mattone (College of Science & Engineering)
Recreational fisheries; Barramundi; Fish welfare; Stress

MAKO Tidal Turbines Pty Ltd - Contract Research

Barney Point Turbine Monitoring

Indicative Funding
Monitoring surface video, underwater video, underwater acoustic and sidescan data streams using AI (January-April 2019) (including monthly regular reporting, final reporting and feasibility analysis), to assess whether the tidal turbine impacts fish and other aquatic organisms during its operations.
Marcus Sheaves, Carlo Mattone and Dmitry Konovalov (College of Science & Engineering)
Artificial Intelligence; Impact Assessment; Tidal turbine monitoring

World Wide Fund for Nature, Australia - Consultancy

Queensland Coral Reef Fin Fish Fishery Electronic Observer

Indicative Funding
To understand the value of a new technique for collecting critical fisheries information regarding target, bycatch and threatened species interactions in the coral reef fin fish fishery through electronic observation and machine learning.
Marcus Sheaves and Carlo Mattone (College of Science & Engineering)
Artificial Intelligence; Fisheries Management; Line Fishers

QLD Department of Agriculture and Fisheries - Tenders

Identification and Restoration of Intertidal Fish Nursery Habitat in the Baffle Catchment

Indicative Funding
$266,456 over 2 years
This project aims to identify high intertidal fish nursery habitat pools in the Baffle Drainage Basin (BDB), assess their value to fish, evaluate the current state of their functionality, prioritise pools for restoration and identify viable restoration solutions. By involving local stakeholders, local government, regional NRM and State Government scientists and managers, a network of users will gain an understanding of how these habitats function and can be restored, based upon this baseline research.
Marcus Sheaves, Nathan Waltham, Martha Brians, Maria Zann and Janine Sheaves (College of Science & Engineering and TropWATER)
Estuary; Intertidal; Salt Marsh; Wetlands; Mangroves

SeaWorld Research and Rescue Foundation Inc - Research Grant

Roles of batoids in coastal and reef ecosystems: impacts on predator and prey populations and the potential for energy transfer to adjacent subtidal and offshore communities

Indicative Funding
$25,450 over 2 years
This study will determine 1) the species composition, abundance, and biomass of batoid fauna in coastal sandflats and reef habitats, 2) the proportion of time different batoid fauna spend in intertidal versus subtidal zones, 3) the ecological importance of batoid utilization of intertidal habitats, and 4) how the above differ between sandflat and reef habitats. Results will contribute to understanding batoid community structure in different habitats and aid in identifying preferred habitat types throughout the year. In addition, understanding the ecological role of batoids in different habitats will stress the need for conservation of these species and development of more effective management strategies to mitigate catches in commercial fisheries.
Katya Abrantes, Kevin Crook, Adam Barnett and Marcus Sheaves (College of Science & Engineering)
Batoids; Acoustic Telemetry; Movement; Stable Iisotopes; Foodweb ecology; Abundance

Wet Tropics Management Authority - Student Research Grant Scheme

Dissolved oxygen as a constraint for fish utilising mangrove forests.

Indicative Funding
This project focuses on understanding how dissolved oxygen (DO) impacts mangrove fish utilisation. In heavily vegetated habitats like mangroves, DO undergoes complex changes brought about by biogeochemical demand. The extent of DO depletion depends on many environmental parameters such as tide, time or day or human activities. Substantial DO depletion could limit the value of mangroves as habitats for fish. Consequently, I aim to: (i) develop an understanding of DO dynamics in mangrove forests; (ii) identify environmental parameters that drive these fluctuations; (iii) investigate how depressed DO impacts fish assemblages and behaviour; and (iv) establish DO thresholds for five fish species occupying mangroves.
Alexia Dubuc, Marcus Sheaves, Nathan Waltham and Ronnie Baker (College of Science & Engineering and TropWATER)
Mangrove; Dissolved Oxygen; Fish; Australia; New Caledonia; Hypoxia

Australian Research Council - Linkage - Projects

Ecological valuation tools to protect seagrass during coastal development

Indicative Funding
$490,000 over 4 years, in partnership with the Gladstone Ports Corporation Ltd ($450,000 over 3 yrs)
Seagrasses provide ecosystem services (fisheries, nutrient cycling, primary productivity) worth trillions of dollars, but this capacity is threatened by coastal development. In Australia, port developments are considered a major threat to seagrass ecosystems, but resource managers lack accurate information about their potential impacts and mitigation measures. Focussing on differences between shallow and deep seagrasses within the Great Barrier Reef, this project seeks to develop a world-first spatial valuation tool that will allow resource managers and policy makers to minimise impact of port development on seagrass ecosystems, thereby ensuring that Australia?s seagrasses continue to provide ecosystem services essential to our well-being.
Michael Rasheed, Rod Connolly, Mark Hamann, Peter Macreadie, Helene Marsh and Marcus Sheaves in collaboration with Megan Ellis (TropWATER, Griffith University, College of Science & Engineering, University of Technology, Sydney and Gladstone Ports Corporation)
Seagrass; Coastal Development; tropic fate; Ecosystem Services; ports

International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management - Consultancy

Statistics Advice and Analytical Assistance

Indicative Funding
Provide Worldfish with statics advice and analytical assistance.
Marcus Sheaves (College of Science & Engineering)

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Primary or Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

  • Viruses in coral reef sponges (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Population structure and connectivity of small-bodied benthic shark species: Comparing patterns across the Pacific, a case study of the genus Heterodontus (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Measuring productivity of Australian tropical estuaries using standing stock analysis (Masters , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Drivers of Migration in Elasmobranchs (Masters , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Habitat Use, Movement Patterns and Trophic Ecology of Sharks and rays within Mangrove Forests (PhD , Advisor Mentor)
  • Understanding the social dynamics of tilapia pond aquaculture in a rural developing pacific islands context (PhD , Advisor Mentor)
  • Herbivores as ecosystem engineers in tropical seagrass meadows: Grazing impacts on meadow structure and ecosystem service delivery. (PhD , Advisor Mentor)
  • Legislative implications for broad vegetation groups and endangered species influenced by climate change. (PhD , Advisor Mentor)
  • Effects of Biodiversity and Environment on Benthic Ecosystem Functioning of Tropical Estuaries. (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Assessing the Functional Roles of Batoids in Coastal Sandflats (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Assessing the potential for recreational fishing to contribute to conservation of coastal marine species and habitats (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Effects of Environmental Variation on Habitat Use and Movement of the Blacktip Reef Shark, Carcharhinus Melanopterus. (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Mitigating and Adapting to Climate Change in the Tropics: Livelihood Sustainability of North Queensland Commercial Fishers (PhD , Secondary Advisor)

These are the most recent metadata records associated with this researcher. To see a detailed description of all dataset records, visit the JCU Research Data Catalogue.


The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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