I am an early-career researcher specialising in the ecology of man-made structures in marine ecosystems, with a particular focus on the ecology and decommissioning of offshore infrastructure. Other research specialties include the stock structure and movements of fished species, and the tropicalisation of temperate marine ecosystems through climate change.
I completed my PhD at the University of Technology Sydney in 2012, under the supervision of Professor David Booth. My research focused on the habitat value of artificial reefs for fish, including World War II shipwrecks in US Micronesia, oil and gas structures on the North West Shelf of Australia, and breakwaters in Botany Bay on Australia's east coast.
Since that time, my research has explored the potential benefits of deploying obsolete structures in the deep sea ('rigs-to-reefs'), the environmental implications of removing obsolete structures from the North Sea and Southeast Asia (including Australia), and balancing the complex environemntal trade-offs involved with decommissioning decisions.
My research also focuses on stock structure and movements of marine fishes in Australia, to inform the assessment and management of key commercial species. These investigations utilise a range of techniques, including otolith (earbone) chemistry, otolith shape, and tag-recaptures.
Can supervise: YES
My research focuses on three areas:
1) the ecological role and decommissioning of offshore infrastructure, including oil and gas platforms and wind turbines.
2) the demography of exploited marine fishes, particularly their stock structure and movements.
3) the tropicalisation of temperate marine ecosystems, specifically the poleward range shifts of tropical fishes and resulting deomgraphic and ecosystem consequences.
Sommer, B, Fowler, AM, Macreadie, PI, Palandro, DA, Aziz, AC & Booth, DJ 2019, 'Decommissioning of offshore oil and gas structures - Environmental opportunities and challenges.', The Science of the total environment, vol. 658, pp. 973-981.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Thousands of offshore oil and gas structures are approaching the end of their operating life globally, yet our understanding of the environmental effects of different decommissioning strategies is incomplete. Past focus on a narrow set of criteria has limited evaluation of decommissioning effects, restricting decommissioning options in most regions. We broadly review the environmental effects of decommissioning, analyse case studies, and outline analytical approaches that can advance our understanding of ecological dynamics on oil and gas structures. We find that ecosystem functions and services increase with the age of the structure and vary with geographical setting, such that decommissioning decisions need to take an ecosystem approach that considers their broader habitat and biodiversity values. Alignment of decommissioning assessment priorities among regulators and how they are evaluated, will reduce the likelihood of variable and sub-optimal decommissioning decisions. Ultimately, the range of allowable decommissioning options must be expanded to optimise the environmental outcomes of decommissioning across the broad range of ecosystems in which platforms are located.
Fowler, AM, Parkinson, K & Booth, DJ 2018, 'New poleward observations of 30 tropical reef fishes in temperate southeastern Australia', Marine Biodiversity, vol. 48, no. 4, pp. 2249-2254.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
© 2017 Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany A major outcome of climate change is the poleward shift of species ranges. We use a long-term (16-year) monitoring program to report new poleward observations of the juvenile stages of 30 tropical reef fishes expatriating to temperate southeastern Australia, a global hotspot for ocean warming. Expatriated juveniles (vagrants) from 10 families and 20 genera were observed for the first time on rocky reefs in southern New South Wales, between 57 and 801 km poleward of their previously recorded locations. Vagrants were functionally diverse, ranging from small planktivores (e.g. Dascyllus trimaculatus) through to a large piscivore/invertivore (Epinephelus cyanopodus). Tropical herbivores comprised 20% of vagrant species, with four species (Acanthurus dussumieri, A. lineatus, A. nigrofuscus, A. olivaceus) recognised as grazers of epilithic algae and one species (Naso unicornis) known to feed selectively on macroalgae. Pelagic larval duration (PLD) ranged greatly among vagrant species, with shorter PLDs suggesting sub-tropical breeding populations for some species. As water temperatures continue to increase in southeastern Australia under climate change, the greater supply and survival of tropical vagrants may alter the functioning of temperate reefs in this region.
Macreadie, PI, McLean, DL, Thomson, PG, Partridge, JC, Jones, DOB, Gates, AR, Benfield, MC, Collin, SP, Booth, DJ, Smith, LL, Techera, E, Skropeta, D, Horton, T, Pattiaratchi, C, Bond, T & Fowler, AM 2018, 'Eyes in the sea: Unlocking the mysteries of the ocean using industrial, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).', The Science of the total environment, vol. 634, pp. 1077-1091.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
For thousands of years humankind has sought to explore our oceans. Evidence of this early intrigue dates back to 130,000BCE, but the advent of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) in the 1950s introduced technology that has had significant impact on ocean exploration. Today, ROVs play a critical role in both military (e.g. retrieving torpedoes and mines) and salvage operations (e.g. locating historic shipwrecks such as the RMS Titanic), and are crucial for oil and gas (O&G) exploration and operations. Industrial ROVs collect millions of observations of our oceans each year, fueling scientific discoveries. Herein, we assembled a group of international ROV experts from both academia and industry to reflect on these discoveries and, more importantly, to identify key questions relating to our oceans that can be supported using industry ROVs. From a long list, we narrowed down to the 10 most important questions in ocean science that we feel can be supported (whole or in part) by increasing access to industry ROVs, and collaborations with the companies that use them. The questions covered opportunity (e.g. what is the resource value of the oceans?) to the impacts of global change (e.g. which marine ecosystems are most sensitive to anthropogenic impact?). Looking ahead, we provide recommendations for how data collected by ROVs can be maximised by higher levels of collaboration between academia and industry, resulting in win-win outcomes. What is clear from this work is that the potential of industrial ROV technology in unravelling the mysteries of our oceans is only just beginning to be realised. This is particularly important as the oceans are subject to increasing impacts from global change and industrial exploitation. The coming decades will represent an important time for scientists to partner with industry that use ROVs in order to make the most of these 'eyes in the sea'.
Thomson, PG, Fowler, AM, Davis, AR, Pattiaratchi, CB & Booth, DJ 2018, 'Some old movies become classics - a case study determining the scientific value of ROV inspection footage on a platform on Australia's North West Shelf', Frontiers in Marine Science, vol. 5, no. DEC.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
© 2018 Thomson, Fowler, Davis, Pattiaratchi and Booth. The global oil and gas industry holds a vast archive of Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) inspection footage potentially containing useful long-term data on marine biological communities. With the upcoming era of decommissioning of oil and gas structures, it is timely to assess the usefulness of this footage for researching these communities. We used ROV inspection footage to characterize the sessile invertebrates and fishes associated with the Goodwyn Alpha Production Platform (GWA) on the North West Shelf of Australia between depths of 10 and 125 m during 2006 and 2008. Depth was a major driver of invertebrate assemblages, most likely due to specific requirements such as light, and differences between years were most likely from the physical detachment of species by cyclones and internal waves. Phototrophic species were mostly limited to the upper 50 m of the platform, including the hard coral Pocillopora sp. and the soft corals Nephthea sp. and Scleronephthya sp. In contrast, heterotrophic species including sponges, anemones, bryozoans, hydroids, bivalves such as Lopha folium and the hard coral Tubastrea spp., were distributed across all depths. We observed 1791 fish from at least 10 families and 19 species, including commercial species such as crimson seaperch (Lutjanus erythropterus), red emperor (L. sebae), saddle-tailed seaperch (L. malabaricus), mangrove jack (L. argentimaculatus) and trevally (Caranx spp.). Fish density increased significantly with depth during 2008, from a mean of 23 fish/50 m2 between 10 and 25 m to 3373 fish/50 m2 at 125 m, where small unidentified baitfish were abundant. The highest densities of commercial species occurred between 25 and 75 m depth, suggesting that mid-depth platform sections had high habitat value, a consideration when selecting decommissioning options. The greatest difficulties using the video were the poor lighting and resolution that inhibited our ability to id...
Gates, AR, Benfield, MC, Booth, DJ, Fowler, AM, Skropeta, D & Jones, DOB 2017, 'Deep-sea observations at hydrocarbon drilling locations: Contributions from the SERPENT Project after 120 field visits', Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography, vol. 137, pp. 463-479.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
© 2016 The SERPENT Project has been running for over ten years. In this time scientists from universities and research institutions have made more than 120 visits to oil rigs, drill ships and survey vessels operated by 16 oil companies, in order to work with the industry's Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV). Visits have taken place in Europe, North and South America, Africa and Australasia at water depths from 100 m to nearly 3000 m. The project has directly produced > 40 peer reviewed publications and data from the project's > 2600 entry online image and video archive have been used in many others. The aim of this paper is to highlight examples of how valuable data can be obtained through collaboration with hydrocarbon exploration and production companies to use existing industry infrastructure to increase scientific discovery in unexplored areas and augment environmental monitoring of industrial activity. The large number of industry ROVs operating globally increases chance encounters with large, enigmatic marine organisms. SERPENT video observations include the deepest known records of species previously considered epipelagic such as scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) and southern sunfish (Mola ramsayi) and the first in situ observations of pelagic species such as oarfish (Regalecus glesne). Such observations enable improvements to distribution records and description of behaviour of poorly understood species. Specimen collection has been used for taxonomic descriptions, functional studies and natural products chemistry research. Anthropogenic effects been assessed at the local scale using in situ observations and sample collection at the time of drilling operations and subsequent visits have enabled study of recovery from drilling. Future challenges to be addressed using the SERPENT approach include ensuring unique faunal observations by industry ROV operators are reported, further study of recovery from deep-water drilling activity and to carry out in sit...
Fowler, AM, Smith, SM, Booth, DJ & Stewart, J 2016, 'Partial migration of grey mullet (Mugil cephalus) on Australia's east coast revealed by otolith chemistry', MARINE ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH, vol. 119, pp. 238-244.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
© 2016 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg The colonisation of new environments is a central evolutionary process, yet why species make such transitions often remains unknown because of the difficulty in empirically investigating potential mechanisms. The most likely explanation for transitions to new environments is that doing so conveys survival benefits, either in the form of an ecological release or new ecological opportunity. Life history theory makes explicit predictions about how traits linked to survival and reproduction should change with shifts in age-specific mortality. We used these predictions to examine whether a current colonisation of land by fishes might convey survival benefits. We found that blenny species with more terrestrial lifestyles exhibited faster reproductive development and slower growth rates than species with more marine lifestyles; a life history trade off that is consistent with the hypothesis that mortality has become reduced in younger life stages on land. A plausible explanation for such a shift is that an ecological release or opportunity on land has conveyed survival benefits relative to the ancestral marine environment. More generally, our study illustrates how life history theory can be leveraged in novel ways to formulate testable predictions on why organisms might make transitions into novel environments.
Beck, HJ, Feary, DA, Fowler, AM, Madin, EMP & Booth, DJ 2016, 'Temperate predators and seasonal water temperatures impact feeding of a range expanding tropical fish', MARINE BIOLOGY, vol. 163, no. 4.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Fowler, AM, Macreadie, PI & Booth, DJ 2015, 'Should we "reef" obsolete oil platforms?', PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, vol. 112, no. 2, pp. E102-E102.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Fowler, AM, Macreadie, PI, Bishop, DP & Booth, DJ 2015, 'Using otolith microchemistry and shape to assess the habitat value of oil structures for reef fish', MARINE ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH, vol. 106, pp. 103-113.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Fowler, AM, Macreadie, PI & Booth, DJ 2015, 'Renewables-to-reefs: Participatory multicriteria decision analysis is required to optimize wind farm decommissioning', MARINE POLLUTION BULLETIN, vol. 98, no. 1-2, pp. 368-371.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Feary, DA, Fowler, AM & Ward, TJ 2014, 'Developing a rapid method for undertaking the World Ocean Assessment in data-poor regions - A case study using the South China Sea Large Marine Ecosystem', OCEAN & COASTAL MANAGEMENT, vol. 95, pp. 129-137.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Feary, DA, Pratchett, MS, Emslie, MJ, Fowler, A, Figueira, WF, Luiz, OJ, Nakamura, Y & Booth, DJ 2014, 'Latitudinal shifts in coral reef fishes: why some species do and others do not shift', Fish and Fisheries, vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 593-615.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Climate change is resulting in rapid poleward shifts in the geographical distribution of many tropical fish species, but it is equally apparent that some fishes are failing to exhibit expected shifts in their geographical distribution. There is still little understanding of the species-specific traits that may constrain or promote successful establishment of populations in temperate regions. We review the factors likely to affect population establishment, including larval supply, settlement and post-settlement processes. In addition, we conduct meta-analyses on existing and new data to examine relationships between species-specific traits and vagrancy. We show that tropical vagrant species are more likely to originate from high-latitude populations, while at the demographic level, tropical fish species with large body size, high swimming ability, large size at settlement and pelagic spawning behaviour are more likely to show successful settlement into temperate habitats. We also show that both habitat and food limitation at settlement and within juvenile stages may constrain tropical vagrant communities to those species with medium to low reliance on coral resources.
Fowler, A, Macreadie, PI, Jones, D & Booth, DJ 2014, 'A multi-criteria decision approach to decommissioning of offshore oil and gas infrastructure', Ocean & Coastal Management, vol. 87, pp. 20-29.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Thousands of the worlds offshore oil and gas structures are approaching obsolescence and will require decommissioning within the next decade. Many nations have blanket regulations requiring obsolete structures to be removed, yet this option is unlikely to yield optimal environmental, societal and economic outcomes in all situations. We propose that nations adopt a flexible approach that allows decommissioning options to be selected from the full range of alternatives (including `rigs-to-reefs options) on a case-by-case basis. We outline a method of multi-criteria decision analysis (Multi-criteria Approval, MA) for evaluating and comparing alternative decommissioning options across key selection criteria, including environmental, financial, socioeconomic, and health and safety considerations. The MA approach structures the decision problem, forces explicit consideration of trade-offs and directly involves stakeholder groups in the decision process. We identify major decommissioning options and provide a generic list of selection criteria for inclusion in the MA decision process. To deal with knowledge gaps concerning environmental impacts of decommissioning, we suggest that expert opinion feed into the MA approach until sufficient data become available. We conducted a limited trial of the MA decision approach to demonstrate its application to a complex and controversial decommissioning scenario; Platform Grace in southern California. The approach indicated, for this example, that the option `leave in place intact would likely provide best environmental outcomes in the event of future decommissioning. In summary, the MA approach will allow the environmental, social, and economic impacts of decommissioning decisions to be assessed simultaneously in a transparent manner.
Pradella, N, Fowler, A, Booth, DJ & Macreadie, PI 2014, 'Fish assemblages associated with oil industry structures on the continental shelf of north-western Australia', Journal of Fish Biology, vol. 84, no. 1, pp. 247-255.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
McGowan, N, Fowler, A, Parkinson, K, Bishop, D, Ganio, K, Doble, PA, Booth, DJ & Hare, DJ 2014, 'Beyond the transect: An alternative microchemical imaging method for fine scale analysis of trace elements in fish otoliths during early life', The Science of the Total Environment, vol. 494-495, pp. 177-186.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Microchemical analysis of otolith (calcified `ear stones used for balance and orientation) of fishes is an important tool for studying their environmental history and management. However, the spatial resolution achieved is often too coarse to examine short-termevents occurring in early life. Current methods rely on single points or transects across the otolith surface, which may provide a limited viewof elemental distributions, a matter that has not previously been investigated. Imaging by laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICPMS) permits microchemical analyses of short-term events in early life with high (b10 ìm) resolution, twodimensional (2D) visualization of elemental distributions. To demonstrate the potential of this method, we mapped the concentrations of Sr and Ba, two key trace elements, in a small number of juvenile otoliths of neon damselfish (Pomacentrus coelestis) using an 8 ìm beam diameter (laser fluence of 13.8 ± 3.5 J cm.2). Quantification was performed using the established method by Longerich et al. (1996), which is applied to 2D imaging of a biological matrix here for the first time. Accuracy of N97% was achieved using a multi-point non matrix-matched calibration of National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) 610 and 612 (trace elements in glass) using Longerich's calculation method against the matrix-matched standard FEBS-1 (powdered red snapper [Lutjanus campechanus] otolith). The spatial resolution achieved in the otolith corresponded to a time period of 2 ± 1 days during the larval phase, and 4 ± 1 days during the post-settlement juvenile phase. This method has the potential to improve interpretations of early life-history events at scales corresponding to specific events. While the images showed gradients in Sr and Ba across the larval settlement zone more clearly.
Feary, DA, Burt, J, Bauman, A, Al Hazeem, S, Abdel-moati, M, Al-khalifa, K, Anderson, D, Amos, C, Baker, A, Bartholomew, A, Bento, R, Cavalcante, G, Chen, C, Coles, S, Dab, K, Fowler, A, George, D, Grandcourt, E, Hill, R, John, DM, Jones, DA, Keshavmurthy, S, Mahmoud, H, Tapeh, M, Mostafavi, PG, Naser, H, Pichon, M, Purkis, S, Riegl, B, Samimi-Namin, K, Sheppard, C, Samiei, JV, Voolstra, CR & Wiedenmann, J 2013, 'Critical research needs for identifying future changes in Gulf coral reef ecosystems', Marine Pollution Bulletin, vol. 72, no. 2, pp. 406-416.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Expert opinion was assessed to identify current knowledge gaps in determining future changes in Arabian/Persian Gulf (thereafter `Gulf) coral reefs. Thirty-one participants submitted 71 research questions that were peer-assessed in terms of scientific importance (i.e., filled a knowledge gap and was a research priority) and efficiency in resource use (i.e., was highly feasible and ecologically broad). Ten research questions, in six major research areas, were highly important for both understanding Gulf coral reef ecosystems and also an efficient use of limited research resources. These questions mirrored global evaluations of the importance of understanding and evaluating biodiversity, determining the potential impacts of climate change, the role of anthropogenic impacts in structuring coral reef communities, and economically evaluating coral reef communities. These questions provide guidance for future research on coral reef ecosystems within the Gulf, and enhance the potential for assessment and management of future changes in this globally significant region.
Fowler, AM & Booth, DJ 2013, 'Seasonal dynamics of fish assemblages on breakwaters and natural rocky reefs in a temperate estuary: consistent assemblage differences driven by sub-adults.', PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 9, pp. 1-12.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Development of infrastructure around cities is rapidly increasing the amount of artificial substrate (termed artificial reef, 'AR') in coastal marine habitats. However, effects of ARs on marine communities remain unknown, because it is unclear whether ARs can maintain similar communities to natural reefs. We investigated whether well-established (> 30 years old) breakwaters could consistently approximate fish assemblages on interspersed rocky reefs in a temperate estuary over 6 consecutive seasons using regular visual surveys between June 2009 (winter) and November 2010 (spring). We examined whether assemblage differences between reef types were driven by differences in juvenile recruitment, or were related to differences in older life-stages. Assemblages on both reef types were dominated by juveniles (61% of individuals) and sub-adults (34% of individuals). Seasonal fluctuations in assemblage parameters (species richness, diversity, sub-adult abundance) were similar between reef types, and levels of species diversity and assemblage composition were generally comparable. However, abundance and species richness were consistently higher (1.9-7.6 and 1.3-2.6 times, respectively) on breakwaters. These assemblage differences could not be explained by differences in juvenile recruitment, with seasonal patterns of recruitment and juvenile species found to be similar between reef types. In contrast, abundances of sub-adults were consistently higher (1.1-12 times) at breakwaters, and assemblage differences appeared to be driven by this life-stage. Our results indicate that breakwaters in temperate estuaries are capable of supporting abundant and diverse fish assemblages with similar recruitment process to natural reefs. However, breakwaters may not approximate all aspects of natural assemblage structure, with differences maintained by a single-life stage in some cases.
Fowler, A & Booth, DJ 2012, 'Evidence of sustained populations of a small reef fish on artificial structures. Does depth affect production on artificial reefs?', Journal Of Fish Biology, vol. 80, no. 3, pp. 613-629.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
The length frequencies and age structures of resident Pseudanthias rubrizonatus (n = 407), a small protogynous serranid, were measured at four isolated artificial structures on the continental shelf of north-western Australia between June and August 2008
Macreadie, PI, Fowler, A & Booth, DJ 2012, 'Rigs-to-reefs policy: Can science trump public sentiment?', Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, vol. 4, pp. 179-180.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Fowler, A & Booth, DJ 2012, 'How well do sunken vessels approximate fish assemblages on coral reefs? Conservation implications of vessel-reef deployments', Marine Biology, vol. 159, pp. 2787-2796.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
The amount of artificial habitat (termed `artificial reef, AR) in marine systems is rapidly increasing, yet the effect of most types of AR on reef communities remains unknown. We examined the role of well-established vessel-reefs in structuring coral reef fish assemblages by comparing assemblages on 7 World War II wrecks (>65 years old) to those on interspersed coral patch reefs of comparable size in a tropical lagoon. Fish abundance, species richness, diversity and feeding guild structure on wrecks were similar to natural reefs; however, species composition differed between the two reef types (R = 0.1890.341, average dissimilarity: 67.368.8 %). Despite being more species-rich and diverse, fish assemblages on larger wrecks were less similar to assemblages on their adjacent natural reefs than smaller wrecks. Wrecks may also have affected fish abundance on adjacent natural reefs, with reefs adjacent to larger wrecks supporting higher abundances than reefs adjacent to smaller wrecks. Our results indicate that increases in vessel-reef habitat may not greatly affect reef fish assemblage parameters, but may affect the relative abundances of particular species
Macreadie, PI, Fowler, A & Booth, DJ 2011, 'Rigs-to-reefs: will the deep sea benefit from artificial habitat?', Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, vol. 9, no. 8, pp. 455-461.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
As a peak in the global number of offshore oil rigs requiring decommissioning approaches, there is growing pressure for the implementation of a rigs-to-reefs program in the deep sea, whereby obsolete rigs are converted into artificial reefs. Such decommissioned rigs could enhance biological productivity, improve ecological connectivity, and facilitate conservation/restoration of deep-sea benthos (eg cold-water corals) by restricting access to fishing trawlers. Preliminary evidence indicates that decommissioned rigs in shallower waters can also help rebuild declining fish stocks. Conversely, potential negative impacts include physical damage to existing benthic habitats within the drop zone, undesired changes in marine food webs, facilitation of the spread of invasive species, and release of contaminants as rigs corrode. We discuss key areas for future research and suggest alternatives to offset or minimize negative impacts. Overall, a rigs-to-reefs program may be a valid option for deep-sea benthic conservation.
Fowler, A, Leis, J & Suthers, I 2008, 'Onshore-offshore distribution and abundance of tuna larvae (Pisces: Scombridae: Thunnini) in near-reef waters of the Coral Sea', Fishery Bulletin, vol. 106, no. 4, pp. 405-416.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
The on-offshore distributions of tuna larvae in near-reef waters of the Coral Sea, near Lizard Island (14 degrees 30'S, 145 degrees 27'E), Australia, were investigated during four cruises from November 1984 to February 1985 to test the hypothesis that la