Project Leader

Aaron Hasenei

Aaron Hasenei

Who I am

Having grown up in a small rural town along the Atlantic coast of the USA, I’ve always had an intimate connection with the natural world and the wonders that fill it. There weren’t many neighbourhood kids around to make friends with, but there was a vast richness of forest, streams and rivers to explore and find adventures in. My academic interests align strongly with my passion for conservation science, and my aspiration to pursue an academic research career in marine biology drives my desire to make a profound positive impact on the health of the planet and on the next generation of environmental stewards. The major inspiration for my research focus derives from my previous professional experience in the field of exercise physiology and from my fascination for marine science. In combination, they drive me to explore why fish, being masters of energetic currency, are some of the best ‘athletes’ on the planet. They also motivate me to forecast how these animals may fare from an eco-physiological perspective so that conservation management initiatives may be improved.

Where I work

I’m currently based in Townsville in Queensland, Australia, at James Cook University (JCU) where I help to manage the day-to-day running of the Physioshark laboratory. This work encompasses all the husbandry care, technical expertise and ongoing research projects in the lab. In addition, as a PhD candidate at JCU, my research requires me to travel throughout the Great Barrier Reef to source and study epaulette sharks in their natural environment, but also at JCU’s marine research facility, where we simulate conditions in commercial-scale recirculation aquariums to forecast how sharks will fare at the end of the 21st century.

What I do

My research entails investigating how future ocean warming will impact the potential for resilience in one of the most critical yet vulnerable groups of animals in the ocean: sharks. My research is unique in that I use aquarium science and eco-physiology approaches to forecast how shark species may cope with climate change stressors in an uncertain future. I frequently travel to specific areas of the Great Barrier Reef to collect epaulette sharks, transport them back to the marine research facilities at JCU, run a series of multidisciplinary experiments to understand the physiological underpinnings of performance in the species, and then return the sharks back to the wild. I use this species as the ‘canary in the coal mine’ to predict how egg-laying sharks may adapt (or not) to the impact of climate change in the future so that we may identify the species that are most vulnerable and others that have a fighting chance.

My project

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