Eric Fisher

Eric 2Eric grew up in North Queensland and graduated from JCU in Townsville 1992 with a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours in marine biology.  Following university he travelled and lived in the America’s and Europe for the next decade where he met his wife Joanne in Spain.  In 2004 they settled back in Cairns where they still live with their two young daughters Layla and Jocelyn.

Eric has 12 years field experience on the Great Barrier Reef.  This work has been diverse and has involved snorkeling and diving many reefs between Townville and Lizard Island for a variety of research projects.  Initial research work included monthly field trips to Green Island from 1991-1992 investigating the feeding biology and population dynamics of a small coral reef fish.

In this time frame there was also field collection trips of herbivorous reef fish for life history projects from reefs in the Townsville region and also Lizard Island. In 2001, he was part of a pilot research program in the development of Australian Marine Park Tourism Operators Crown of Thorns Starfish eradication program from tourism sites between Cairns and Port Douglas.

For the past ten years Eric has worked full time as the head marine biologist for Reef Magic Cruises. He leads a small team of marine biologists and naturalists to assist in interpreting the history, ecology and resilience of the GBR to visitors through oral presentations and guided snorkel tours to the various habitats of coral reefs.  This work has contributed to around 6000 hours in water time observing the reef life around Moore reef.  This extensive amount of time in water has led to the development of some historical data sets on the Great Barrier Reef. These include reef health prior and past major disturbance events, the movements of large herbivorous reef fish at a patch reef and the presence and absence of various fish species at a fish aggregation site.

Broad research interest, include fish biology, habitat utilisation, community ecology and understanding the physical and biological drivers behind seasonal trends in coral reef fish communities.  In 2007 GBRMPA launched their citizen science programme “Eye on the Reef” to expand the monitoring of vast areas of the GBR not visited by researchers.  Since the inception of this programme Eric and his team have been dedicated to this programme and the long term monitoring of their tourism sites.  Through this programme he was introduced to Mike Cappo (AIMS) who assisted in initiating his research project investigating fish aggregations on the GBR. Eric is currently enrolled as Masters by research student with AIMS@JCU support, supervised by Mark McCormick, Howard Choat and Mike Cappo.  This research is mainly supported and funded by Reef Magic Cruises.  Research on fish aggregations within the GBR has been limited.  His research will focus on a multi species fish aggregation site situated off Cairns, to determine what physical and biological drivers are responsible for aggregation formation and the possible ecological role fish aggregation sites play in coral reef fish communities.

EricTo investigate the fish aggregation site, the project will incorporate a variety of methodologies, including 1) the statistical analysis of a long term data set of fish abundance and environmental variables, 2) using several types of novel marine instruments developed by JCU to illustrate current patterns, 3) using fixed video cameras to quantify fish behavior, community structure and predator presence, 4) using a swimmable stereo video rig provided by AIMS and JCU to provide reliable estimates on abundance and size structure of aggregating fish.  A final aim of the project is to search the Eye on the Reef data base to locate other multi species fish aggregation sites within the GBR as potential study sites to visit.