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Paul Jones Paul Jones
09/04/2019

From Texas to the Reef, PhD student lands prestigious fellowship

Wanted: Dive buddy and fish enthusiast, to spend six months on Great Barrier Reef

For Catheline Froehlich the Great Barrier Reef is a long way from her old home in Texas, in the United States.

The declared, European-American has just scored the fellowship of a lifetime. Catheline has received The Zoltan Florian Marine Biology Fellowship, one of three fellowship programs operating at the Lizard Island Research Station (LIRS) on the Great Barrier Reef.

Owned and operated by the Australian Museum and situated about 270kms north of Cairns, the research station supports thousands of visiting scientists to undertake world-leading research into the biodiversity of the Reef.

Catheline, who is currently studying a PhD at the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) School of Biological Sciences, is the first UOW student to receive the prestigious Lizard Island Fellowship.

“The fellowship will fund, three, two month stays on Lizard Island over the next three years,” the marine biologist said. “It will enable me cost-effective research on coral reefs by providing me accommodation, boats, diving gear and laboratories. I’m so thrilled to have this chance to pursue my research.”

But there’s a catch. The young scientist needs a dive buddy and research volunteer to help out over the total of six months on Lizard Island.

“I’m sure I won’t have any trouble trying to fill a position that involves a lot of diving on the Barrier Reef,” laughs the self-confessed water lover.

The scientist will be researching the behavioural patterns and the effects of coral bleaching on different species of goby fish that live within a variety of coral found around Lizard Island.

Since been introduced to goby fish on the Reef last year by her PhD supervisor Dr Marian Wong, Catheline fell in love with these small, intriguing fish.

“I’m fascinated by the tiny goby fish,” Catheline explained. “They are just the cutest little creatures, but are currently having a hard time around Lizard Island with coral bleaching and climate change.”

It’s a bit of a change from her last position working with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the Coastal Conservation Association of Texas, deploying concrete culverts in a designated artificial reef area off Port Mansfield, Texas, to enhance habitat for sport fish species in the Gulf of Mexico.

“I was lucky enough to go to Lizard Island last year. So, I know what I’m in for. Yes, there are big environmental issues with the Reef, but the diving and visibility is fantastic. Not like diving in Texas. There, you are lucky to see a metre in front of you!”

The lively PhD student believes her research work at Lizard Island will be beneficial in learning how to respond to changes on the Reef due to climate conditions.

“In the years to come, I hope my research will be invaluable into how the tiny goby fish responds to coral bleaching and severe storms,” Catheline says. 

UOW IN THE NEWS 

  • Catheline Froehlich, who is currently studying a PhD at the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) School of Biological Sciences, is the first UOW student to receive the prestigious Lizard Island Fellowship