Dr Fiona Valesini
BSc (Hons); PhD

Senior Research Fellow

About me

I am a coastal and estuarine ecologist with a particular interest in fish and benthic invertebrate communities and their relationships with the environment. I have a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences (with 1st class Honours) and a Doctorate of Philosophy, both from Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia.

I am currently a Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Fish, Fisheries and Aquatic Ecosystem Research at Murdoch University, building on more than 15 years of experience in estuarine and coastal research. I also have four years experience as a Lecturer in Marine Ecology at Murdoch, and have undertaken various projects as a consultant to different environmental agencies, which have typically involved the statistical analysis of ecological data and providing advice on sampling and experimental design.

Teaching area

Although the main focus of my current position is research, I will be involved in teaching in estuarine ecology in a variety of undergraduate units such as Marine and Estuarine Biology (BIO384) and Ecology (ENV268). I will also be involved in delivering a post-graduate short course (Multivariate techniques in community ecology), which is designed to provide ecologists with a greater understanding and practical skills in exploring, analysing and interpreting their data.

I have previously had a position as a Lecturer in Marine Ecology at Murdoch University (2004-08), during which time I taught in and/or coordinated various undergraduate units (Marine and Estuarine Biology; Ecology; Introduction to Australian Biodiversity-BIO157 and Fish and Fisheries Biology-BIO205) and the above short course in multivariate statistics.

Research areas

My research interests are based broadly around the faunal ecology of estuarine and nearshore marine waters. More specifically, they are focused on the following.

Spatio-temporal differences in fish and benthic invertebrate communities and their environmental drivers

  • Changes in the characteristics of faunal communities (composition, diversity, life-history traits) over varying spatial scales (local, system-wide and regional) and temporal scales (seasonal,annual, decadal).
  • Quantifying relationships between faunal changes and natural and human-induced environmental drivers.

Quantitative schemes for classifying habitat types and predicting their fish and benthic invertebrate faunas

  • Development of habitat classification and prediction schemes based on enduring environmental criteria.
  • Schemes for predicting the likely fauna at any site of interest using surrogate habitat measurements.

Biotic indices for measuring and tracking ecosystem health

  • Constructing indices, using suites of characteristics (metrics) of fish assemblages (e.g. species abundance/diversity, life history guilds, feeding guilds, sentinel species), to summarise and track trends in holistic estuarine condition.

Collaborations between inter-disciplinary research, managers and community in areas related to estuarine health

  • Investigating pathways by which stronger and more productive links can be developed between the above groups to promote healthy estuarine environments and sustainable communities.

Current projects

The effect of a boat ramp at Becher Point on the food resources of Little Penguins on Penguin Island (Jan 2011-Jun 2014 ; Dept. Environment and Conservation WA)

This project is examining the potential effects of a boat ramp construction on the fish prey of Little Penguins (Eudyptula minor) within the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park south of Perth,  WA. It has both a Little Penguin component (supervised by Dr Belinda Cannell, Murdoch University) and a coastal fish component (supervised by myself), the latter of which is aimed at determining whether the above construction has had any detrimental effects on the abundance of key fish species preyed on by Little Penguins.

The effects of hypoxia on the provision of estuarine ecosystem services

I am currently in the process of developing an ARC Linkage application for the above project with staff from the University of WA and local management departments, the Swan River Trust and Dept. of Water WA.

Awards and grants

  • January 2011 – June 2014 (Dept of Environment & Conservation – $170 000). Co-investigator: The effect of a boat ramp at Becher Point on the food resources of Little Penguins on Penguin Island.
  • January 2011 – October 2011 (Swan River Trust – $106 990). Co-investigator: Validation of the Estuarine Health Index and development of an annual fish: monitoring regime for the Swan-Canning Estuary.
  •  May 2010 – May 2011 (Murdoch University – $55 000). Principal Investigator: Murdoch University’s role in research and management advice on south-western Australia’s estuaries, rivers, catchments and nearshore marine environments.
  • July 2007 – July 2010 (Dept of Fisheries, Dept of Water, Swan River Trust, Murdoch University – $433 865). Principal Investigator: Development of biotic indices for establishing and monitoring estuarine health.
  •  July 2007 – July 2008 (Perth Region NRM – $189 794). Principal Investigator: Classifying shallow water benthic habitats in the Swan Marine Region
  •  July 2004 – July 2009 (Fisheries Research & Development Corporation – $480 278). Principal Investigator: Relationships between faunal assemblages and nearshore habitat types in south-western Australian estuaries.
  •  October 2003 – April 2005 (Dept of Fisheries – $289 324). Principal Investigator: The fish fauna and fishery of the Swan Estuary. A preliminary study of long-term changes and the effects of algal bloom.

Events and speaking engagements

The following includes oral presentations I have given at major conferences. I also regularly give oral presentations at local workshops or meetings, which are not included below.

  • 2012 - How important is spatial scale in structuring fish communities in south-western Australian estuaries? Estuarine Coastal Sciences Association, Venice, Italy.
  • 2011 – Crossing Boundaries. Australian Marine Sciences Association Conference, Perth, Australia.
  • 2011 – Estuarine, coastal and oceanic ecosystems: breaking down the boundaries. 14th South African Marine Science Symposium (SAMSS)/46th Estuarine and Coastal Sciences Association (ECSA) International conference, Rhodes University, South Africa.
  • 2009 – Predicting habitat type and faunal assemblages in south-western Australian estuaries. South-west Catchment Council Conference, Busselton, Australia.
  • 2008 – Predicting habitat type and faunal assemblages in south-western Australian estuaries. New Zealand Marine Sciences and Australian Marine Sciences Joint Conference, University of Canterbury, Christchurch.
  • 2005 – A quantitative approach to identifying habitat types in south-western Australian estuaries. The Fisheries Society of the British Isles, University of Wales, United Kingdom.
  • 2004 – A quantitative approach for identifying estuarine habitat types and their faunas. Estuarine and Coastal Sciences Association and Estuarine Research Federation, Ballina, Australia.
  • 2001 – Relationships between the composition of the nearshore biota and beach type in south-western Australia. Tenth European Congress of Ichthyology, Prague.

Doctoral and masters supervisions

Amanda Buckland | PhD. Murdoch University | 2009-ongoing (Co-supervisor)

  • The food-web of the Swan-Canning Estuary and the effects of anoxia on its main tributary

 Chris Hallett | PhD. Murdoch University | 2007-2011 (Principal Supervisor)

  • The development and validation of an estuarine health index using fish community characteristics

James Tweedley | PhD. Murdoch University | 2007-2011 (Principal Supervisor)

  • Relationships between faunal assemblages and habitat types in Broke Inlet, Western Australia

Natasha Coen | PhD. Murdoch University | 2004-ongoing (Principal Supervisor)

  • Relationships between hyperbenthic faunal assemblages and nearshore habitat types in marine and estuarine waters along the lower west coast of Australia

Mathew Hourston | PhD. Murdoch University | 2003-2009 (Co-supervisor)

  • The ecology of free-living nematodes in nearshore marine and estuarine sediments of the microtidal lower west coast of Australia

Michelle Wildsmith | PhD. Murdoch University | 2003-2007 (Principal Supervisor)

  • Relationships between benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages and habitat types in nearshore marine and estuarine waters along the lower west coast of Australia

Publications

Journals

  • Valesini, F., Wildsmith, M., Tweedley, J., (2018), Predicting estuarine faunal assemblages using enduring environmental surrogates, with applications in systematic conservation planning, Ocean & Coastal Management, 165, , pages 80 - 98.
  • Hallett, C., Hobday, A., Tweedley, J., Thompson, P., McMahon, K., Valesini, F., (2018), Observed and predicted impacts of climate change on the estuaries of south-western Australia, a Mediterranean climate region, Regional Environmental Change: natural and social aspects, 18, 5, pages 1357 - 1373.
  • Hallett, C., Valesini, F., Clarke, K., Hoeksema, S., (2016), Effects of a harmful algal bloom on the community ecology, movements and spatial distributions of fishes in a microtidal estuary, Hydrobiologia: the international journal on limnology and marine sciences, 763, 1, pages 267 - 284.
  • Hallett, C., Valesini, F., Scanes, P., Crawford, C., Gillanders, B., Pope, A., Udy, J., Fortune, J., Townsend, S., Barton, J., Ye, Q., Ross, D., Martin, K., Glasby, T., Maxwell, P., (2016), A review of Australian approaches for monitoring, assessing and reporting estuarine condition: II. State and Territory programs, Environmental Science & Policy, 66, , pages 270 - 281.
  • Hallett, C., Valesini, F., Elliott, M., (2016), A review of Australian approaches for monitoring, assessing and reporting estuarine condition: I. International context and evaluation criteria, Environmental Science & Policy, 66, , pages 260 - 269.
  • Hallett, C., Valesini, F., Elliott, M., (2016), A review of Australian approaches for monitoring, assessing and reporting estuarine condition: III. Evaluation against international best practice and recommendations for the future, Environmental Science & Policy, 66, 0, pages 282 - 291.
  • Hipsey, M., Hamilton, D., Hanson, D., Carey, C., Coletti, J., Read, J., Ibelings, B., Valesini, F., Brookes, J., (2015), Predicting the resilience and recovery of aquatic systems: A framework for model evolution within environmental observatories, Water Resources Research, 51, 9, pages 7023 - 7043.
  • Clarke, K., Tweedley, J., Valesini, F., (2014), Simple shade plots aid better long- term choices of data pre- treatment in multivariate assemblage studies, Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. Journal, 94, 1, pages 1 - 16.
  • Valesini, F., Tweedley, J., Clarke, K., Potter, I., (2014), The importance of local, system-wide and regional spatial scales in structuring temperate estuarine fish communities, Estuaries and Coasts (Formerly Estuaries: 0160-8347), 37, , pages 525 - 547.
  • Valesini, F., Tweedley, J., Clarke, R., Potter, I., (2014), The Importance of Regional, System-Wide and Local Spatial Scales in Structuring Temperate Estuarine Fish Communities, Estuaries and Coasts (Formerly Estuaries: 0160-8347), 37, 3, pages 525 - 547.
  • Tonge, J., Valesini, F., Moore, S., Beckley, L., Ryan, M., (2013), The Relation Between Place Attachment and Management Preferences of Visitors at Remote Coastal Campsites in Western Australia, Visitor Studies, 16, 1, pages 39 - 58.
  • Tweedley, J., Warwick, R., Valesini, F., Platell, M., Potter, I., (2012), The use of benthic macroinvertebrates to establish a benchmark for evaluating the environmental quality of microtidal, temperate southern hemisphere estuaries, Marine Pollution Bulletin: the international journal for marine environmental scientists, engineers, administrators, politicians and lawyers, 64, 6, pages 1210 - 1221.
  • Hallett, C., Valesini, F., Clarke, K., Hesp, S., Hoeksema, S., (2012), Development and validation of fish-based, multimetric indices for assessing the ecological health of Western Australian estuaries, Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 104, 0, pages 102 - 113.
  • Hallett, C., Valesini, F., Clarke, K., (2012), A method for selecting health index metrics in the absence of independent measures of ecological condition, Ecological Indicators, 19, 0, pages 240 - 252.
  • Hourston, M., Potter, I., Warwick, R., Valesini, F., (2011), The characteristics of the nematode faunas in subtidal sediments of a large microtidal estuary and nearshore coastal waters differ markedly, Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 94, 1, pages 68 - 76.
  • Gillanders, B., Elsdon, T., Halliday, I., Jenkins, G., Robins, J., Valesini, F., (2011), Potential effects of climate change on Australian estuaries and fish utilising estuaries: A review, Marine & Freshwater Research: advances in the aquatic sciences, 62, 9, pages 1115 - 1131.
  • Valesini, F., Hourston, M., Wildsmith, M., Coen, N., Potter, I., (2010), New quantitative approaches for classifying and predicting local-scale habitats in estuaries, Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 86, 4, pages 645 - 664.
  • Wildsmith, M., Rose, T., Potter, I., Warwick, R., Clarke, K., Valesini, F., (2009), Changes in the benthic macroinvertebrate fauna of a large microtidal estuary following extreme modifications aimed at reducing eutrophication, Marine Pollution Bulletin: the international journal for marine environmental scientists, engineers, administrators, politicians and lawyers, 58, , pages 1250 - 1262.
  • Hourston, M., Potter, I., Warwick, R., Valesini, F., Clarke, K., (2009), Spatial and seasonal variations in the ecological characteristics of the free-living nematode assemblages in a large microtidal estuary, Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 82, , pages 309 - 322.
  • Fairclough, D., Clarke, K., Valesini, F., Potter, I., (2008), Habitat partitioning by five congeneric and abundant Choerodon species (Labridae) in a large subtropical marine embayment, Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 77, , pages 446 - 456.
  • Hourston, M., Warwick, R., Valesini, F., Potter, I., (2005), To what extent are the characteristics of nematode assemblages in nearshore sediments on the west Australian coast related to habitat type, season and zone?, Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 64, 4, pages 601 - 612.
  • Wildsmith, M., Potter, I., Valesini, F., Platell, M., (2005), Do the assemblages of macroinvertebrates in nearshore waters of Western Australia vary among habitat types, zones and seasons?, Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. Journal, 85, , pages 217 - 232.
  • Hourston, M., Platell, M., Potter, I., Valesini, F., (2004), Factors influencing the diets of four morphologically divergent fish species in nearshore marine waters, Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. Journal, 84, , pages 805 - 817.
  • Valesini, F., Potter, I., Clarke, K., (2004), To what extent are the fish compositions at nearshore sites along a heterogeneous coast related to habitat type?, Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 60, , pages 737 - 754.
  • Lenanton, R., Valesini, F., Bastow, T., Edmonds, J., Connard, M., (2003), The use of stable isotope rations in whitebait otolith carbonate to identify the source of prey for Western Australian penguins., Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 291, , pages 17 - 27.
  • Valesini, F., Clarke, K., Eliot, I., Potter, I., (2003), A user-friendly quantitative approach to classifying nearshore marine habitats along a heterogeneous coast, Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 57, , pages 163 - 177.
  • Schafer, L., Platell, M., Valesini, F., Potter, I., (2002), Comparisons between the influence of habitat type, season and body size on the dietary compositions of fish species in nearshore marine waters, Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 278, , pages 67 - 92.
  • Valesini, F., Potter, I., Hume, M., Hyndes, G., (1997), Ichthyofaunas of a temperate estuary and adjacent marine embayment. Implications regarding choice of nursery area and influence of environmental changes., Marine Biology: international journal on life in oceans and coastal waters, 128, , pages 317 - 328.
  • Valesini, F., Potter, I., Platell, M., Hyndes, G., (1997), The ichthyofaunas of a temperate estuary and an adjacent marine embayment. Implications regarding choice of nursery area and influences of environmental changes., Marine Biology: international journal on life in oceans and coastal waters, 128, , pages 317 - 328.
  • Tweedley, J.R., Warwick, R.M., Valesini, F.J.,  Platell, M.E.,  Potter, I.C. (2012). The use of benthic macroinvertebrates to establish a benchmark for evaluating the environmental quality of microtidal, temperate southern hemisphere estuaries. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 64: 1210-1221.
  • Gillanders, B.M., Elsdon, T.S., Halliday, I.A., Jenkins, G.P., Robins, J.B. Valesini, F.J. (2011). Potential effects of climate change on Australian estuaries and fish utilising estuaries: a review. Marine and Freshwater Research, 62: 1115-1131.
  • Hallett, C.S., Valesini, F.J., Clarke, K.R. (2012). A method for selecting health index metrics in the absence of independent measures of ecological condition. Ecological Indicators, 19: 240-252.
  • Hallett,  C.S., Valesini, F.J., Clarke, K.R., Hesp, S.A., Hoeksema, S.D. (2012). Development and validation of fish-based, multimetric indices for assessing the ecological health of Western Australian estuaries. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 104-5: 102-113.
  • Hourston, M., Potter, I.C., Warwick, R.M, Valesini, F.J. (2011). The characteristics of the nematode faunas in the sediments of a large microtidal estuary and nearby coastal waters differ markedly. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 94: 68-76.
  • Valesini, F.J., Hourston, M., Wildsmith, M.D., Coen, N.J., Potter, I.C. (2010). New quantitative approaches for classifying and predicting local-scale habitats in estuaries. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 86: 645-664.
  • Wildsmith, M.D., Rose, T.H., Potter, I.C., Warwick, R.M., Clarke, K.R., Valesini, F.J. (2009). Changes in the benthic macroinvertebrate fauna of a large microtidal estuary following extreme modifications aimed at reducing eutrophication. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 58: 1250-1262.
  • Hourston, M., Potter, I.C., Warwick, R.M., Valesini, F.J., Clarke, K.R. (2009). Spatial and seasonal variations in the ecological characteristics of the freeliving nematode assemblages in a large microtidal estuary. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 82: 309‑322.
  • Fairclough, D.V., Clarke, K.R., Valesini, F.J., Potter, I.C. (2008). Habitat partitioning by five congeneric and abundant Choerodon species (Labridae) in a large subtropical marine embayment. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 77: 446-456.
  • Hourston, M., Warwick, R.M., Valesini, F.J., Potter, I.C. (2005). To what extent are the characteristics of nematode assemblages in nearshore sediments on the microtidal west Australian coast related to habitat type, season and zone? Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 64: 601-612.
  • Wildsmith, M.D., Potter, I.C., Valesini, F.J., Platell, M.E. (2005). Do the assemblages of benthic macroinvertebrates in nearshore waters of Western Australia vary among habitat types, zones and seasons? Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 85: 217-232.
  • Hourston, M., Platell, M.E., Potter, I.C., Valesini, F.J. (2004). Factors influencing the diets of four morphologically divergent fish species in nearshore marine waters. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 84: 805-817.
  • Valesini, F.J., Potter, I.C., Clarke, K.R. (2004). To what extent are the fish compositions at nearshore sites along a heterogeneous coast related to habitat type? Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 60: 737-754.
  • Valesini, F.J., Clarke, K.R., Eliot, I., Potter, I.C. (2003). A user-friendly quantitative approach to classifying nearshore marine habitats along a heterogeneous coast. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 57: 163-177.
  • Lenanton, R.C.J., Valesini, F.J., Bastow, T.P., Nowra, G.B., Edmonds, J.S., Connard, M.N. (2003). The use of stable isotope rations in whitebait otolith carbonate to identify the source of prey for Western Australian penguins. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 291: 17-27.
  • Schafer, L.N., Platell, M.E., Valesini, F.J., Potter, I.C. (2002). Comparisons between the influence of habitat type, season and body size on the dietary compositions of fish species in nearshore marine waters. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 278: 67‑92.
  • Potter, I.C., Tiivel, D., Valesini, F.J., Hyndes, G.A. (1997). Comparisons between the ichthyofaunas of a temperate lagoonal-like estuary and the embayment into which that estuary discharges. International Journal of Inland Salt Lake Research, 5: 337-358.
  • Valesini, F.J., Potter, I.C., Platell, M.E., Hyndes, G.A. (1997). The ichthyofaunas of a temperate estuary and an adjacent marine embayment. Implications regarding choice of nursery area and influences of environmental changes. Marine Biology, 128: 317-328.