Pivoting plans on delta flows

May 28, 2022

Last year we announced our 2021 Student Awardees – those talented students from around Australia selected by our State and Territory Committees to experience international agricultural research and development firsthand.

In November 2021, we interviewed student awardee Lauren Stoot in our “Getting to know our student awardees” series. Her work is associated with a long term ACIAR project that the Crawford Fund has been supporting for some time with a pre-Covid Master Class and training videos during Covid. Following on from this, and with international travel restrictions due to Covid, Lauren has been able to advance her project within Australia and we are pleased to present her interim training report.

The Delta Flows project evaluates the role that delta’s play in sustaining basin-scale fisheries. It has continued to progress throughout the last couple months. The project was initially established by Dr Lee Baumgartner and Dr John Conallin from Charles Sturt University (CSU), along with various researchers in Laos and Myanmar and collaborators at ANU in Canberra to examine fish migration throughout the Mekong River Basin. Prior to my involvement, field samples including water and fish ear bones, known as otoliths, had been collected.

The project team offered me the opportunity to assist with laboratory work, report preparation and workshop delivery. This opportunity allowed me to lend my assistance to an international project using the skills I have been acquiring throughout my current PhD journey using otoliths to understand movement patterns. I have been assisting with the analysis of otoliths as well as water samples using the facilities here at CSU as well as the lab facilities at ANU in Canberra.

In March 2021, I was able to travel to Canberra to use specialised facilities at ANU with our project team to begin processing water samples and otoliths for elemental and isotopic signatures. Unfortunately, a necessary follow up trip to ANU was cancelled due to Covid lockdowns in July 2021 and is currently being rescheduled for 2022. As a result, our team has had to pivot our plans and my involvement. At present, our team is working on drafting a manuscript to publish our findings focusing on the Irrawaddy River and movement of Hilsa shad Tenualosa ilisha, an important subsistence fish species in Myanmar. Data received from our first trip to ANU will be analysed and discussed in this manuscript.

We look forward to Lauren’s report – the data analysis and journal paper Lauren will contribute to will provide valuable information to researchers and management authorities on the migratory patterns of some key Myanmar species, and give insight into how the development of water control infrastructure such as dams, weirs and sluices will further impact on these species if development continues without consideration of migratory pathways.