Marcus Sheaves is a Professor in the College of Science and Engineering, where he is Head of Marine Biology and Aquaculture, Deputy Director of JCU’s Centre for Tropical Water & Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER). Marcus also leads JCU’s Estuary and Coastal Wetland Ecology Research Group, and leader of the Science for Integrated Coastal Ecosystem Management consortium..

 Marcus has researched ecosystem and fisheries ecology of tropical estuaries, coastal wetlands and mangrove systems since the early 1990s. His research has focussed particularly on nursery ground utilisation and values, and critical thinking in environmental decision-making. He has published widely with over 70 peer reviewed publications since 2007. 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.


  • EV3201: Managing Coastal and Marine Environments (Level 3; TSV)
  • EV5701: Managing Coastal and Marine Environments (Level 5; TSV)
  • MB3200: Marine Conservation Biology (Level 3; TSV)
  • 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
  • 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

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 126+ 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.

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, Marcus Sheaves and Carlo Mattone (College of Science & Engineering)
Recreational fisheries; Barramundi; Fish welfare; Stress

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

Equity Trustees - Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment

The role of herbivores in structuring ecosystem service delivery in seagrass meadows

Indicative Funding
Seagrasses provide a range of ecosystem services which benefit people worldwide. In the Great Barrier Reef there is a huge diversity of seagrass species and communities covering over 35, 000 km2. These seagrass beds are an important food source for a many different herbivores. My research investigates the impact herbivores are having on the seagrass communities in the GBR and the ecosystem services they provide. Currently we know little about how different ecosystem services interact with each other and with the food web, so the outcomes of my research will be important for managers seeking to maintain ecosystem function and understand potential trade offs in delivery of ecosystem services.
Abigail Scott, Michael Rasheed, Paul York, Marcus Sheaves and Peter Macreadie (College of Science & Engineering, TropWATER and Deakin University)
Seagrass; Herbivory; Megaherbivores; Fish; Mesograzers; Ecosystem services

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

Sea World 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, Adam Barnett and Marcus Sheaves in collaboration with Kevin Crook (College of Science & Engineering)
Batoids; Acoustic Telemetry; Movement; Stable Iisotopes; Foodweb ecology; Abundance

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

Australian Acoustic Observatory: A Network to Monitor Biodiversity

Indicative Funding
$900,000 (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)

ACIAR - Research Grant

FIS/2013/015 Sustainable Management of Sport Fisheries for Communities in Papua New Guinea

Indicative Funding
$688,131 over 5 years
The project aims to conduct the ecological, fisheries, social, business and tourism research needed to develop a viable local-based sport fishery for Black Bass in Papua New Guinea that can provide alternative livelihoods for local people.
Marcus Sheaves, Jacob Wani, Ronnie Baker, Adam Barnett, Amy Diedrich, Murray Prideaux and Katya Abrantes in collaboration with Dean Jerry, Alf Kuilboer, Gianna Moscardo, Anne Swinbourne, Leban Gisawa, Peter Vincent, Jason Yip, Riccard Reimann and Ian Middleton (College of Science & Engineering, National Fisheries Authority, Papua New Guinea, College of Business, Law & Governance, College of Healthcare Sciences, Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority, National Department of Health (PNG), Baia Sport Fishing and Ok Tedi Development Foundation)
Fish; Ecosystems; Sport Fishing; Estuary; Livelihoods; Food Security

Wet Tropics Management Authority - Student Research Grant Scheme

Identifying Critical Fish Habitat in the Wet Tropics: Threatened Nursery Components

Indicative Funding
Fish may use several habitats during their lives. Through video surveys, I seek to determine the key habitat use patterns of fish across a range of coastal contexts, such as rivers, estuaries, islands, beaches and bays ? all of which contain a mix of similar habitats (logs, rocks, flats, submerged vegetation and riparian vegetation). This will allow me to create and compare models of how fish use their aquatic landscapes, and how this differs according to regional drivers of ecological context, such as tidal range and rainfall. Identifying which habitats are critical where will help managers to prioritize actions.
Michael Bradley and Marcus Sheaves (College of Science & Engineering)
Fisheries; Seascape; Context; Habitat; Mosaic Leatherjacket; Nursery

WV Scott Charitable Trust - Research Grant

The Infinite Turtle Project

Indicative Funding
There is currently no consolidated program to provide the resources and training to turtle welfare volunteer groups and indigenous rangers along the Queensland coast. The proposed 'Infinite Turtle Project' will (i) establish an online forum for groups to register for information; (ii) provide online training material for turtle rescue response, nesting monitoring, and hatchling monitoring; and (iii) provide feedback and linkages with appropriate local government and wildlife carers to build better and ongoing communication. This program will be established over one year but will have long term benefits of increased sea turtle success and continual data exchange and training.
Martha Brians and Marcus Sheaves (College of Science & Engineering)
Sea Turtles; Welfare; Monitoring; Communication

Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife - Foundation Conservation Grants

Insulator Creek Wetland Rehabilitation

Indicative Funding
This project aims to restore 40 hectares of the ecological values of an 'of concern' remnant wetland which contains Mahogany Glider habitat and is located on Nywaigi country in Hinchinbrook Shire. This project is already underway but has insufficient funding for proper scientific assessments. Currently there are 4 bio monitoring trips per year being conducted in-kind. This funding provides the capacity to engage with interns and students at the university and support their travel to the site for in-depth assessments and monitoring of the affected area and species, therefore providing valuable insight that is needed to ensure the success of the project.
Martha Brians and Marcus Sheaves (College of Science & Engineering)
Wetlands; Rehabilitation; Mahogany Glider (Petaurus gracilis); Habitat

AIMS@JCU - Scholarship

Modelling the net growth of coral reefs under climate change: the neglected role of bio-eroding sponges

Indicative Funding
$20,000 over 4 years
The project will investigate the hypothesis that under climate change, sponges will erode coral reefs at a faster rate than corals can form reefs. If true, sponge bioerosion may make it more difficult for corals to sustain reefs under climate change. The project will use controlled experiments to determine how sponge reproduction and fitness are affected by predicted climate change conditions. These data will then be used to develop models to predict sponge fitness, sponge-coral competition, reef erosion patterns, and overall reef resilience under climate change scenarios.
Blake Ramsby, Nicole Webster, Mia Hoogenboom, Marcus Sheaves and Stephen Whalan (College of Science & Engineering, Australian Institute of Marine Science and Southern Cross University)
Cliona sp. (Clionaidae); Bioerosion; Sponge

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.

  • 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)
  • Measuring Productivity of Australian Tropical Estuaries Using Standard Stock Analysis (Masters , Primary Advisor)
  • The Role of Seagrasses and Their Value as a Food Source for Fish and Mesograzers: Investigating the Differences Between Deep-Water and Shallo Seagrass Beds (PhD , Advisor Mentor)
  • Understanding the social dynamics of tilapia pond aquaculture in a rural developing pacific islands context (PhD , Advisor Mentor)
  • The Role of Context in the Habitat and Seascape Relationships of Coastal Fishes (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Effects of Biodiversity and Environment on Benthic Ecosystem Functioning of Tropical Estuaries. (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Dissolved Oxygen as a Constraint for the Structure of Mangrove Fish Ossemblages Assemblages and Their Patterns of Mangrove Utilisation: A Comparison Between Natural and Disturbed Mangrove Ecosystems Through the Australian and Caledonian Coastlines. (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Investigating the ability of a cognitive/affective model of choice behaviour on promoting pro environmental recreational fishing behaviours. (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • The Effects of a Changing Marine Environment on the Bioeroding Sponge Cliona orientalis (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Taxonomic and Functional Diversity of Viruses in Marine Sponges (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • 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)
  • Assessing the Functional Roles of Batoids in Coastal Sandflats (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Habitat Configuration and Utility of Tropical Estuaries Exposed to Different Extents of Human Development (PhD , Secondary Advisor)

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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  • 23.124, Marine & Tropical Biology 1 (Townsville campus)
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