Molluscs 2009

Molluscs 2009 thanks our Sponsors

DEWHA – ABRS: Silver Sponsor

BAAM – Welcome Function Sponsor

The 2009 Triennial Conference of the Malacological Society of Australasia
was held at Emmanuel College at the University of Queensland, Brisbane,
from Tuesday 24 November through Friday 27 November 2009

The Malacological Society of Australasia (MSA) promotes the study of molluscs in the Australasian region and nearby areas of Asia. Molluscs are the second largest phylum of animals and comprise a quarter of all described marine organisms. Our members include amateurs, students and scientists. One of the key ways the MSA works to improve our understanding of molluscs is through conferences held every three years.

Download Molluscs 2009 Program and Abstracts (3mb)

The Molluscs 2009 conference had five major symposia, each with three keynote speakers (brief biographies of each keynote are linked below in alphabetical order).

Invasive Species, Parasites and Diseases
Assoc. Prof. David Raftos | Dr Richard Willan | Dr Gary Barker

Physiology and Evolutionary Development
Prof. Leonid Moroz | Prof. Justin Marshall |Assoc. Prof. Andreas Wanninger

Phylogeny, Systematics & Biogeography
Prof. Hamish Spencer | Dr Frank Köhler |Dr Mark Norman

Fisheries, Aquaculture and Bioactives
Prof. David Adams | Dr Kirsten Benkendorff | Dr Robert Rose

Ecology, Conservation and Indicators of Environmental Change
Dr Rachel Przeslawski | Dr Sandie Degnan | Assoc. Prof. Stephen Smith

The meeting was highly interdisciplinary, with topics including phylogeny, chemistry, molecular biology, ecology, and applied science. Of the 100 delegates, one third were students and countries represented included Denmark, USA, Thailand, Botswana, Japan and Fiji and New Zealand. The 60 oral presentations included 15 keynote papers and 23 student presentations. The following awards, which included copies of the coveted Mollusca volumes (generously donated by ABRS), were presented at the closing session:

1st Place Oral Prize: Christopher Talbot (University of Queensland)
2nd Place Oral Prize: Alexandrea Kranz (University of Queensland)
3rd Place Oral Prize: Candace McBride (Macquarie University)
1st Place Poster Prize: Anders Hallan (University of Wollongong)
2nd Place Poster Prize: Patrick Laffy (Flinders University)

Click for link to a few photos at the closing session.

Two 2-day workshops were held at the Moreton Bay Research Station on Stradbroke Island on the weekend after the conference (28-29 November).

  • Freshwater molluscs (Winston Ponder)
  • Marine bivalves (John Healy)

Organising Committee

Bernie Degnan (Chair) University of Queensland, School of Integrated Biology
Fred Wells President, Malacological Society of Australasia
Winston Ponder Australian Museum
John Healy Queensland Museum
Carmel McDougall University of Queensland
Darryl Potter Queensland Museum
John Stanisic Queensland Museum
Narelle Hall Conference Organiser
Conference ABN: 15 383 623 717

Keynote speaker biographies (listed in alphabetical order)

Prof. David Adams (RMIT) is currently Professor and Director of the Health Innovations Research Institute at RMIT University. He was previously Professor and Chair of Physiology at the University of Queensland (UQ), Head of Department of Physiology & Pharmacology (1998-2000), Head of the School of Biomedical Sciences (2001-2007) and Professorial Research Fellow in the Queensland Brain Institute, UQ (2008-09). His research focuses on membrane ion channel function and is currently funded by an NHMRC Program Grant and ARC Discovery Grants (2010-14). David has published 132 refereed journal articles (86 as first or senior author) in highly rated physiology, pharmacology and neuroscience journals, 15 book chapters and an inventor on two patents. He is currently the elected President of the Australian Physiological Society (AuPS; 2004-10); a member of the National Committee for Biomedical Science, Australian Academy of Science (2005-09); a member of three Editorial Boards of international scientific journals.

Mr Gary Barker (Landcare Research, Hamilton, New Zealand) is a senior research scientist with the New Zealand crown research institute Landcare Research. Gary specialises in terrestrial molluscan systematics, ecology and conservation, but has interests in invertebrate ecology, systematic conservation planning and ecosystem function. Prior to joining Landcare Research (in 1996), Gary spend 25 years working on population ecology and management of invertebrates in agroecosystems. He has published over 200 scientific papers with contributions in the fields of molluscan systematics and ecology, invertebrate population ecology and pest management, endophytic fungal mutalisms in grasses, phylogenetic diversity as a biodiversity valuation approach, and relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem function.

Dr Kirsten Benkendorff (Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia) is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences at Flinders University. She completed a Ph.D. satisfying the requirements of two Departments (Biological Sciences and Chemistry) at the University of Wollongong in 1999. Kirsten undertook an Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship (2001) before moving to Flinders University in 2003. She now manages a productive interdisciplinary research laboratory focused on molluscan biodiversity and bioresources. Specific research projects include the development of a novel anticancer complementary medicine from muricid molluscs, investigation of the immune responses of marine molluscs to various stressors and baseline monitoring for the Adelaide desalination plant. She has attracted over $1.5M in research funding from a range of competitive and invited sources in the last 5 years and published over 35 peer reviewed research articles and three invited book chapters. Dr Benkendorff was awarded the 2000 Young Australian of the Year Award in Science and Technology, a 2001 Young Entrepreneur Award and a 2008 SA Young Tall Poppy Award for achievement in science. Kirsten is strongly committed to the communication of research outcomes to both scientific audiences and the broader public. She also coordinates undergraduate biology topics in Animal Diversity and Disease and Immunology and supervises a productive team of PhD and honours students.

Dr Sandie Degnan (University of Queensland) has had a convoluted and eclectic path to her current Senior Lectureship at UQ. She spent several years working as a field biologist on seabirds and turtles on the far northern GBR, marine fish behaviour in Japan, PNG and the Philippines, and especially robber crabs in Vanuatu. As an honorary South Pacific islander, she taught secondary school science and English. After a PhD on evolutionary genetics of island birds, which introduced her to the ever-expanding tools of molecular biology, Sandie returned to working in the ocean during postdoctoral studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. At UQ, she now teaches diverse undergraduate courses, from the evolution of earth’s biodiversity through to genomics, and lots in between. In her spare time, she runs a Marine Genomics research lab, with a core interest of better understanding how ecology and genes interact to drive local adaptation and population divergence in marine invertebrates. Her lab focuses especially on larval settlement and metamorphosis, as these transitional life history stages are crucial to the survival and distribution of natural populations. Although her students work with several different animal phyla, the molluscs remain a favourite!

Dr Frank Köhler (Australian Museum & Department of Environment and Conservation, Western Australia) was born in 1971 and grew up in Berlin, where he studied biology at the Humboldt University with majors in Zoology, Botany and Biochemistry. Undergraduate projects included research at the Department of Ecology as well as ethological studies of Natterer’s bats at the Free University, Berlin. Having a strong interest in botany, Frank finished his diploma with a thesis on the vegetation ecology of bogs. In addition, for many years he has been an active member of various societies for the preservation of nature.
In 1998 Frank was awarded a two-year scholarship of the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation for his graduate studies on the phylogeny and evolution of Southeast Asian freshwater gastropods and received his doctorate in 2003 from the Humboldt University in Berlin. Thereafter, he has been responsible for the curation and databasing of molluscan types in the Museum of Natural History, Berlin. In 2005 he was employed as post doc in a project that aimed at understanding the evolution of reproductive isolation in European water frogs. From 2006 to 2008 he led his first own research project on the speciation and radiation of freshwater snails in Thailand. During his doctoral and post doc career, Frank travelled extensively in Southeast Asia and visited the collections of many natural history museums in Europe.
Most of his scientific work has been concerned with employing molecular and morphological data to address questions that relate to the systematics and biogeography of organisms and foster the understanding of patterns and processes of speciation and radiation. Currently employed by the Department of Environment and Conservation, Western Australia, and based at the Australian Museum, Sydney, he is involved with the study of a diverse radiation of largely undescribed land snail species in the north-western Australian Kimberley region.

Prof. Justin Marshall (University of Queensland, School of Biomedical Sciences). My  principle aim is to understand how other animals perceive their environment. As arrogant humans we tend to assume we are the pinnacle of evolution, however, certainly in sensory terms this is far from true. By taking an approach to sensory systems which is based around ecology but also includes physiology, anatomy, behaviour and neural integration, I hope to decode languages such as colour and polarisation.
Under the banner of sensory ecology, Marshall Lab. has 5 main research directions:
• Colour vision and colour communication in reef and rainforest.
• “Prawns in space” – using animal visual systems to redesign satellite and airborn remote sensing devices.
• “Deep-Downunder” – developing a submersible-based high-tech exploration capability for Australia.
• “CoralWatch” – a coral reef health monitoring system based on ‘handy-man’ paint charts.
• Polarisation vision in mantis shrimps – what will they think of next?
For further details of awards, publications, students and public domain output, please go to my web

Prof. Leonid Moroz (University of Florida).  I am interested in basic principles underlying the design of nervous systems, origins and evolution of neuronal signaling mechanisms. The major questions are: (1) why are individual neurons so different from each other, (2) how do they maintain such precise connections between each other, (3) how does this fixed wiring result in such enormous neuronal plasticity and (4) how does this contribute to learning and memory mechanisms? By taking advantage of relatively simpler nervous systems of invertebrate animals as models, my laboratory combine neuroscience, genomics, bioinformatics, evolutionary theory, zoology, molecular biology, microanalytical chemistry and nanoscience to understand how neurons operate, remember and learn.
For more than 25 years I have used a variety of molluscan species (including Lymnaea, Aplysia, Pleurobranchaea, Clione, Octopus, Nautilus, etc.) as powerful experimental paradigms in neuroscience and developmental biology as well as to study evolution of neural circuits, stereotypic and learned behaviors. I simply love molluscs! For their diversity, for their simplicity & complexity, for their colors & shells, and for revelations of their nervous systems… .
Recently, we and our collaborators have initiated several large-scale transcriptome and genome projects to support our physiological and evolutionary research (including the sequencing of the Aplysia genome as well as sequencing of ctenophore genomes using next generation of sequencing technologies).
Leonid L. Moroz earned his Ph.D. in Physiology and Evolutional & Developmental Biology under the tutelage of Prof Dmitry A. Sakharov at the Institute of Developmental Biology, Academy of Sciences in Moscow, Russia. His postdoctoral research was done with Prof. William Winlow at the University of Leeds in the UK and with Prof. Rhanor Gillette at the University of Illinois, Urbana. In 1998 Leonid Moroz joined the faculty of University of Florida. He is Professor of Neuroscience at the McKnight Brain Institute (College of Medicine) and Professor of Chemistry and Zoology (College of Liberal Art and Sciences) at the University of Florida, Gainesville & St. Augustine, USA.

Dr Mark Norman (Museum Victoria) is Senior Curator of Molluscs at Museum Victoria in Melbourne, Victoria where he studies octopuses, squids, cuttlefishes and nautiluses (the cephalopods). He undertook his PhD on the systematics and biogeography of the octopuses of the Great Barrier Reef. This was followed by Harkness and QEII Fellowships on the Australian octopus fauna and octopus taxonomy in general. Since then his main research interest has been defining the Australian and Indo-West Pacific cephalopods, primarily the octopuses. Research interests include biodiversity, evolutionary origins and relationships, reproductive and defense behaviours, deep-sea faunas, and adaptations to key habitats and niches. He has undertaken field research throughout Australasia, Antarctica, Europe, United States and throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans. He has also undertaken research into other invertebrates and Victorian fishes, and has published Australasian and world field guides on cephalopods.
His current research activities include completion of a world revision of octopuses for the Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN), collaborations on phylogeny and higher-level classification of the octopods, regional revisions of the octopod fauna of China, Taiwan and New Caledonia, studies of cephalopod behaviour and reproductive biology, and the evolution and use of defensive toxins. His broader interests include marine conservation and natural history interpretation through diverse media. He is series editor for the Museum Victoria Field Guides to Marine Life series and has published 12 children’s books on natural history topics.

Dr Rachel Przeslawski (Geoscience Australia) has research interests that span larval ecology, global change biology, and marine habitat mapping. She completed her PhD at the University of Wollongong where she studied the effects of ultraviolet radiation and other stressors on the development of intertidal gastropods (otherwise known as the ‘sunburnt sea snail’ project). In 2006, she began a postdoc at Stony Brook University in New York where she continued to investigate the effects of stressors on molluscan larval development, particularly the role of brown tide in hard clam recruitment, as well as synthesising research on tropical benthic invertebrates and climate change. She is currently employed as an ecologist at Geoscience Australia where she is examining the utility of abiotic surrogates for marine biodiversity. This opportunity has allowed her to participate in several deep sea and tropical surveys and expand her study areas from temperate intertidal zones. In addition to her research, Rachel is also interested in science communication and tries to publish at least one popular science article each year in a glossy magazine that her mother will read.

Assoc. Prof. David Raftos (Macquarie University and the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, Sydney, Australia) is an Associate Professor of Marine Science at Macquarie University. He has over 25 years experience in marine biology, focusing on the cell and molecular biology of marine invertebrates. After completing his PhD, Associate Professor Raftos worked as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of California Los Angeles, and as an Australian Research Council Fellow at the University of Technology Sydney. He has since held faculty positions at the University of Technology Sydney and Macquarie University, and has also been a Visiting Professor at Cornell University in New York and the George Washington University in Washington DC. Associate Professor Raftos is currently acting as the Deputy Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University and is Co-Director of the University’s Marine Science Program. He is also a senior member of the Sydney Institute of Marine Science and has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Experimental Zoology and Developmental and Comparative Immunology. His current research focuses on the effects of environmental stress on marine invertebrates at the cellular, protein and genetic levels, with particular emphasis on infectious disease and environmental contamination. His research projects, funded by the Australian Research Council and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, include the use of proteomics and transcriptomics to investigate the biological effects of environmental pollution and climate change on marine invertebrates, and molecular studies of disease resistance and susceptibility in oysters.

Dr Robert Rose (Pearl Oyster Propagators Pty Ltd, Darwin) is a qualified marine biologist with over 30 years national and international experience in fisheries/aquaculture research, development and commercialisation. He is a managing director of Pearl Oyster Propagators P/L, Tropical Aquaculture Australia P/L, and Roberts & Rose Mariculture Corp (Philippines). He obtained a PhD from the University of Sydney in 1983 studying molluscan reproductive ecology, and has published over 30 scientific papers. Robert has research experience in the population dynamics of palinurid rock lobsters, prawns and mackerel from the Torres Strait during the 1970’s and aquaculture experience with eight species of tropical/subtropical gastropods and bivalves during the 1980s-1990s. As a team leader with WA Fisheries in the 1980s, he helped developed the first successful, non-Japanese pilot-scale, hatchery in the world at Broome, Western Australia. Afterwards, he designed and project-managed six world-standard, commercial multi-species hatchery/grow-out farms in Australia and Southeast Asia. From 1990 to 2001, Robert has been the principle proponent and/or recipient of several federal research grants totalling $9.7 million to enhance the husbandry of commercial bivalve aquaculture. Between 2005 and 2008, Robert established the Mudla Farms’ mudcrab project, the first Shared Responsibility Agreement of its kind between the Federal/Northern Territory Governments, and Indigenous Australians. Since 2000, he has commercially propagated and/or grown-out tiger prawns, saucer scallops, mud crabs, sea cucumbers, and evaluated recirculation systems designed for barramundi and eels. Currently, Robert is involved in an ARC Linkage genetics program between Pearl Oyster Propagators, Autore Pearling and University of Queensland. He is also a member of the Rural R&D Council responsible to the Australian Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry on matters relating to the national rural investment R&D programs. Dr Rose has recently commenced a commercial sea cucumber aquaculture project in Sabah, Malaysian in partnership with the Federal Ministry for Rural and Regional Development.

Assoc. Prof. Stephen Smith (National Marine Science Centre, Coffs Harbour) is an Associate Professor at The University of New England (UNE) based at the National Marine Science Centre, Coffs Harbour, NSW. After completing his BSc (Hons) at Nottingham University, England, Steve travelled extensively until he arrived in Australia and decided that there was no better place for field-based marine research.  Indeed, it was no hardship to trade the diver-training facilities (flooded quarries and 4oC water temperatures) of northern England for the blue waters of the Pacific! He subsequently completed a PhD at UNE, focusing on the impacts of sewage effluent on marine invertebrate communities associated with kelp holdfasts on shallow rocky reefs. Since then, Steve has remained with UNE, progressing from postdoctoral positions to his current role as Coordinator of Marine Science and Management. Steve has a broad interest in marine benthic ecosystems and, after a PhD project that involved laborious counting and identification of hundreds of thousands of small invertebrates, has been trying to find more efficient ways of conducting impact assessment and monitoring programs without sacrificing sensitivity or scientific rigor. It is on this basis that he has recently been investing more time in studies of molluscs in a range of marine and estuarine habitats.
Over the last 7 years, Steve and his postgraduate students have been quantifying the spatial patterns and dynamics of molluscan assemblages on shallow reefs in eastern Australia. This research has provided important ecological information in a region where this is currently scant, and has allowed an evaluation of the suitability of mollusc surveys as a key component of biodiversity assessment and monitoring programs. While most of this research has been conducted in subtropical eastern Australia, Steve’s research spans Antarctic through to tropical locations. Steve is not only a very keen diver but also enjoys underwater photography as a means of recording the remarkable biodiversity of the marine environment and conveying this to his undergraduate and postgraduate students as well as to a wider audience.

Professor Hamish Spencer (University of Otago) is an evolutionary biologist in the Department of Zoology at the University of Otago, in Dunedin, New Zealand. He studied first at the University of Auckland, where he majored in mathematics for his undergraduate degree and in zoology for his masters; he subsequently won a Fulbright Grant to support his PhD study at Harvard University in population genetic theory. Hamish was appointed as a lecturer in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Waikato in 1989, and three years later moved to the University of Otago to a position in Department of Zoology, where he is now head of department. Hamish has a wide range of research interests, having recently published on topics as diverse as the laws and attitudes surrounding first-cousin marriage and the developmental origins of human health and disease to mathematical models of frequency-dependent selection and the phylogenetic placement of the Galápagos Cormorant. In the last few years, he has also begun to apply molecular tools to answer evolutionary questions involving molluscs, most especially about their biogeography. In collaboration with a number of other workers, taxa studied include rhytidid and helicarionid landsnails, and a number of intertidal gastropods: lottiids, trochids, neritids, buccinids and onchidiids. Hamish is a principal investigator in two of the New Zealand government’s Centres of Research Excellence, the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution and the National Research Centre for Growth and Development, and he also holds an appointment as an Honorary Research Fellow at the Liggins Institute, University of Auckland. In his spare time, Hamish is a keen bird watcher, reader and purchaser of too many bottles of wine.

Assoc. Prof. Andreas Wanninger (University of Copenhagen). I obtained my PhD degree in 2001 from the University of Munich/Germany where I worked on comparative aspects of molluscan development. Since then, I have expanded my research interests across a wide diversity of marine invertebrate phyla including platyhelminths, annelids, brachiopods, entoprocts, ectoprocts, cycliophorans, and acoels. I am mostly interested in the ontogeny of the neuromuscular systems of these animals and we use immunocytochemistry, confocal microscopy, 3D reconstruction techniques, and gene expression analysis to infer lophotrochozoan interrelationships and basal morphological traits of hypothetical ancestors of selected nodes in the bilaterian tree of life. Since 2004 I have been employed at the Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen as Associate Professor and I am the leader of the Research Group for Comparative Zoology. Currently, there are 6 PhD students and a number of undergraduates in my lab. I teach courses at the undergraduate, graduate, and PhD level on animal diversity, comparative evolutionary zoology, and applications of confocal microscopy and 3D reconstructions in zoological research. Although my research has a broad, comparative approach, molluscan development and evolution has always remained an important cornerstone of my work, and I have recently entered the exciting field of cephalopod neurobiology and nervous system development.

Dr Richard Willan (Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory) has been studying nudibranchs for almost 40 years. He obtained his B.Sc. and Ph.D. from the University of Auckland studying the taxonomy and ecology of side-gilled sea slugs and sea hares. He then crossed the “ditch” as the Tasman Sea is popularly called to join the staff of the Zoology Department at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. After 12 years there, he moved into the tropics to take up the Curatorship in Molluscs at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in Darwin. He is a keen and still active diver. His research deals with the names (nomenclature), relationships (taxonomy) and evolutionary lineages (phylogeny) of nudibranchs (and other opisthobranchs – like bubble snails, sea hares, sap suckers and side-gilled sea slugs). He has published four books and numerous scientific papers on nudibranchs. Most recently he wrote the book “Undersea Jewels: A Colour Guide to Nudibranchs” with Gary Cobb. He has prepared several applications on the names of nudibranchs to the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. He has supervised several postgraduate students working on research projects associated with nudibranchs.