Vasse Wonnerup Investigation Node



The Vasse-Wonnerup Wetland system is an internationally recognised Ramsar listed site and considered a wetland of national importance. The system supports over 30 fish species and over 37,500 waterbirds from 90 different species.

The management of coastal wetlands like Vasse-Wonnerup needs to be underpinned by a sound scientific understanding of ecosystem structure and processes. However, this also needs to align with social and political realities and community expectations.

In September 2014, a collaborative, multi-institutional and inter-disciplinary program, the Vasse-Wonnerup Investigation Node, funded by SWCC and led by Murdoch University and Edith Cowan University, was established to answer key management questions for the improvement of the wetland system.

The node includes three PhD projects and an honours project that aim to advance our knowledge of the wetland’s function and structure, as well as community values, perceptions and attitudes towards the wetland system and its management. Importantly, whilst focussed on a single ecosystem, the integrated nature of these research projects will be broadly applicable to other estuaries and wetlands.

The three PhDs will investigate the following topics:

  • Nutrients – Where do they come from?
  • Who eats what in the Vasse-Wonnerup?
  • Community values of the wetlands

An additional project, Adaptive management and environmental policies in the Vasse-Wonnerup Wetlands, has been included to complement the social PhD of the research program and will be delivered through a Masters project with Murdoch University.

Three of the research program’s projects are currently underway and include:

  • The relationship between floodgate opening (saline inflow) and conditions that promote algal blooms and fish kills in a coastal lagoon. Honours project in collaboration with the Department of Water;
  • How does the community value, perceive and understand the Vasse-Wonnerup Wetlands? Social PhD with Murdoch University; and
  • Adaptive management and environmental policies in the Vasse-Wonnerup Wetlands. Master’s project with Murdoch University.

The Vasse-Wonnerup Investigation Node was officially launched at ArtGeo Gallery, Busselton, in June 2015, and provided over 50 community and key stakeholders with an overview of the research program. The event was run in conjunction with the Nature Wise and Wonderful: Words in pictures from the bush to beach Art Exhibition by Sue Kalab, providing an ideal setting for the event.

The research projects will continue in 2015-16, with outcomes communicated to the community and stakeholders on a regular basis through events.


“In the Vasse-Wonnerup, government agencies and environmental managers are currently faced with the difficult task of managing the wetlands for the conservation of Ramsar listed values, flood mitigation, mosquito control and prevention of fish kills, as well as meeting community expectations.”

Dr Emily Hugues-dit-Ciles, SWCC Senior Scientist


The Vasse-Wonnerup Wetlands support the largest colony of Black Swans in the South West.


1 research presentation


1 research presentation

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