When Matthew Fraser moved to Perth from Glasgow in 2006 he never imagined a trip to the Great Barrier Reef would set the direction for a career as a marine scientist.
It’s fair to say it didn’t take long for the Glaswegian to be captivated by our coastline and everything the Western Australian lifestyle has to offer, sparking a passion for Australia’s diverse and unique marine ecosystems.
He’s also passionate about the access West Australian’s have to our beautiful beaches, which led him to UWA to complete a degree in marine science.
Specialising in benthic ecology, Matthew is developing innovative solutions to improve the conservation and management of our coastal ecosystems. His research takes him to the warmer climate in the north at the Shark Bay World Heritage Area and to local waters around Cockburn Sound.
Working within UWA’s Oceans Institute, a partner in the Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre (IOMRC), has opened doors for researchers like Matthew.
“Being part of the Oceans Institute has meant that researchers from a variety of disciplines can have exposure to many other areas such as law and policy.
“We can collaborate with researchers that have skills we don’t otherwise have access to everyday and we can build on these relationships.
“It really is a unique position to be in as a researcher, it feels like it’s a brave new world,” he says.
Matthew now has an even greater opportunity to pursue his marine research, having been awarded the inaugural fellowship of the Robson and Robertson Awards, made possible through a generous donation from the Jock Clough Marine Foundation.
The Awards honour Professor Alan Robson AO CitWA and Emeritus Professor Alistar Robertson for their integral role in the establishment of UWA’s Oceans Institute, and have a very clear goal - to encourage and support young researchers in the field of marine science.
The five year fellowship is designed to support early career researchers, such as Matthew, in pioneering global research by addressing ocean challenges in conservation, genetics and aquaculture. The Awards also provide opportunities for outstanding young scholars to undertake exciting and innovative oceans research and this year eleven PhD students were selected.
Just like the leaders the Awards honour, recipients are significantly contributing to the research into the future health of our oceans.
It’s through Matthew’s research into critical marine habitats that he is aiming to apply his research outcomes and influence government policies relating to the management of marine ecosystems.
“This is vital if we are to conserve and protect foundation species such as seagrasses. We need to protect what we have, rather than restore what has been lost,” he says.
While on the road to becoming one of UWA’s top marine scientists, Matthew probably never imagined he’d be completing his PhD in 2016 at the same time as the birth of his twin boys, but he took that in his stride too.