GETTING SNAPPY: Senior Research Scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science Michelle Heupel with a grey reef shark off Heron Island.
GETTING SNAPPY: Senior Research Scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science Michelle Heupel with a grey reef shark off Heron Island. AIMS

Researchers getting up close with Gladstone's reef sharks

GETTING up close and personal with a bunch of sharks off Gladstone doesn't sound like a good idea.

But for a team of researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, that's exactly what they did last week in an effort to track and monitor sharks around Heron Island.

GETTING SNAPPY: Senior Research Scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science Michelle Heupel with a grey reef shark off Heron Island.
GETTING SNAPPY: Senior Research Scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science Michelle Heupel with a grey reef shark off Heron Island. AIMS

Senior research scientist Dr Michelle Heupel has been coming to the reef at Heron Island since 2011 to find out what our sharks are up to.

"We track about six species of sharks, mostly grey reef and black tip sharks but also some white tip, weasel and tiger sharks, and so far it looks like it's business as usual," Dr Heupel said.

"Heron is interesting because (the reef) is quite big compared to up here in Townsville.

"In studies up here and because the reefs are smaller and there's a closer space between them, we see the animals moving between the reefs.

"But because the reef at Heron is big enough, a lot of those animals are able to stay there long term."

Ms Heupel said the sharks were likely the king and queens of the reef, with threats only likely to come from bigger migratory predators.

"Right now I'm figuring out how to get more funding so we can come back to Heron," she said.

"The reason I like to work there is because of there is a lot of integrated marine technology...which means we can begin to match up what the animals are doing within the environment.

"But it all depends on the cash."



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