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

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 167+ 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

WV Scott Charitable Trust - Research Grant

Addressing urgent welfare concerns for Blackspotted Croaker (Protonibea diacanthus) populations in Queensland

Indicative Funding
The Blackspotted Croaker (also known as black jewfish) is targeted by commercial, recreational, indigenous and charter fishing groups. Since 2017 there has been a rapid increase in targeted commercial fishing effort for Blackspotteed Croaker in Queensland. Given the high value of Blackspotteed Croaker, their vulnerability as aggregating species and the absence of a stock assessment to inform how many populations need to be managed, updated biological/ecological information (Including stock structure) are needed for assessment and protection of Blackspotted Croaker stock(s) in Queensland. The study aims at identifying stock structure and connectivity (including aggregation time) in order to improve management of th species across Queensland.
Marcus Sheaves, Adam Barnett, Carlo Mattone and Michael Bradley (College of Science & Engineering)
Population Genetic Structure; Fisheries Management; Epinephelus nigritus (Serranidae); Blackspotted Croaker

Fisheries Research & Development Corporation - Annual Competitive Round

Application of a machine learning approach for effective stock management of abalone

Indicative Funding
$115,649 over 3 years
Determining the number and size distribution of abalone present at various stages of production is critical information for effective stock management. Currently the Australian abalone aquaculture industry spends in the order of $25,000 per annum, per farm, gathering this information by hand. However, the resulting data is of mediocre quality, is limited in its scope, and collecting the data causes stress to the animals which can compromise growth and survival. Automated counting and measuring of abalone will increase farm efficiency and productivity in the short term and, in the longer term, will provide an advanced platform for further R&D improvements. Artificial intelligence and machine learning has now matured to a point that accurately counting and measuring abalone is possible using this approach. This project would involve the development, training and validation of a machine learning model to identify, segment and measure quantitative abalone traits in production systems, and render the product data to be accessible and applicable for farmers.
Jan Strugnell, Marcus Sheaves, Carlo Mattone, Ickjai Lee, Joanne Lee, Jason Holdsworth and Art (Hemmaphan) Suwanwiwat (College of Science & Engineering)
Abalone (Haliotidae); Machine Learning

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

Hinchinbrook Shire Council - Contract Research

Lower Herbert Drainage Concerns-Mangrove Expansion

Indicative Funding
$29,033 over 2 years
The Project aims at assessing the effect of removing overhanging mangrove trees that have grown over artificially made channels over the last few decades. The mangrove pose a threat to the water flow, causing the drain to overfill during periods of heavy rainfall and flood the surrounding areas.
Marcus Sheaves, Nathan Waltham, Carlo Mattone and Michael Bradley (College of Science & Engineering and TropWATER)
Mangrove Forest; Nursery Grounds; Clearance

World Wide Fund for Nature - Contract Research

From Coastal Communities to Cloud Communities ? New Application and Artificial Intelligence to Monitor Fish Stocks Using Photos ? Application Development

Indicative Funding
$53,100 over 2 years
The Project aims at develop an artificial intelligence capable to autonomously identify fish species and number from images collected at fish markets in remote location, so that effective catch rate can be evaluated and management policies can be developed.
Marcus Sheaves, Carlo Mattone, Michael Bradley, Joanne Lee, Jason Holdsworth, Art (Hemmaphan) Suwanwiwat and Ickjai Lee (College of Science & Engineering)
Artificial Intelligence; Phone App; Caught Fish; Catch Rate

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

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.

  • Saltmarsh Connectivity in Tropical Seascapes: An Eco-hydrological Perspective (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)
  • 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)
  • Large-scale Spatial Monitoring of Stingrays in Intertidal Habitats as Indicators of Ecological Health, Habitat Vulnerability and Risk Assessment (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Effects of Biodiversity and Environment on Benthic Ecosystem Functioning of Tropical Estuaries. (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Mitigating and Adapting to Change in the Tropics: Livelihood Sustainability of North Queensland Commercial Fishers (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Multi-scale patterns in movement and space use of sharks on inshore reefs (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Assessing the potential for recreational fishing to contribute to conservation of coastal marine species and habitats (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Developing High-Performance Deep Learning Tools for Marine Habitat Monitoring (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Assessing the functional roles of rays in coastal sandflats (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Mapping Coastal Wetland Extent, Heterogeneity and use by Aquatic Fauna using Drone Technology (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)

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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  3. Dr Katya dos Santos Abrantes
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  4. Dr Nathan Waltham