Abstract: True sea snakes are a vulnerable, unique and highly speciose group of predatory, air breathing, marine reptiles. There are over 60 species globally and Australia hosts 35 described species, including 11 endemics. As middle order predators, sea snakes are critical in shaping ecosystems. They are characterised by low fecundity and long life spans, making them susceptible to decline from anthropogenic disturbances such as commercial fishing, coastal development, declining water and habitat quality, pollution and seismic testing. Declines have been observed on the East and West coasts of Australia, however the causes remain unknown. Despite their critical role in ecosystem function, sea snakes have received little research attention and critical knowledge gaps in our understanding are hindering our ability to conserve them. The depauperate state of the taxonomic, biological and ecological knowledge for many species has hampered capacity to undertake adequate vulnerability assessments and develop effective conservation strategies. The objective of this research is to examine the taxonomy, genetic structure, distribution, abundance and diet of four species of sea snakes in Western Australia.
Biography: Blanche grew up in coastal central Queensland and spent a lot of time at the beach, in the rainforest and in the bush; experiences which shaped her profound passion for conservation. Blanche has a professional back ground in conservation advocacy, having worked primarily on coastal dolphin conservation and marine reserve campaigns. At present, Blanche specialises in the conservation genetics of threatened species, including sawfish and sea snakes, as a researcher. She is a member of the IUCN Sea Snake Specialist Group and a co-author on the IUCN’s global status review of sawfish. Blanche undertook her undergraduate degree and Honours research at James Cook University and is currently undertaking a multidisciplinary research project encompassing ecology and genetics of true sea snakes in Western Australia, supervised by Dr. Vimoksalehi Lukoschek, Dr. Lynne van Herwerden, Dr. Colin Simpfendorfer (James Cook University) and Dr. Jean-Paul Hobbs at the University of Western Australia. Blanche is also very fond of bats and frogs.
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