Vasse Wonnerup Investigation Node




The Vasse-Wonnerup Wetlands System (VWWS) is an internationally recognised Ramsar-listed site and considered a wetland of national importance.

The system supports over 30 fish species and more than 37,500 waterbirds of 90 different species.  An innovative and collaborative approach established by SWCC, and led by Murdoch University and Edith Cowan University, that comprises a suite of six research projects designed to answer key priority management questions about the VWWS.

The research node includes three PhD projects, one Masters and two Honours projects. The projects span the ecological and social sciences to provide an integrative approach to the management of this important system. The research will advance our knowledge of the wetlands’ function and structure, as well as community values, attitudes and perceptions towards the system and its management.

Management of the VWWS needs to be underpinned by sound scientific understanding while aligning with social and political realities, and community expectations.  The integrative nature of the research projects will be broadly applicable to other systems.

All three PhD candidates are half way through their fieldwork, which includes:

  • First stage of the social PhD with 40 in-depth interviews and associated mapping of the values of the VWWS completed.
  • First year’s seasonal sampling with invertebrates, fish and birds sampled biannually in ‘wet’ (August/September) and ‘dry’ (February/March) seasons. Feathers have been collected from apex predators in the system including sea eagles and ospreys to provide a unique perspective on the food web.
  • The first year’s dry (February/March) seasons organic matter and nutrients sampling. To trace the sources, Rosh used biomarker methods (e.g. stable isotope analyses) on larger organic material and nutrients dissolved within the water.

“My fieldwork in December was very successful as I found a lot of feathers and poo on nests and roosts which will give us some clues to the birds’ diet.

Sian Glazier – PhD Candidate

“The program enmeshes the ecological and social sciences and aims to advance our knowledge to provide an integrative solution to the management of this wetland system

Dr Jane Chambers, Program Leader, Murdoch University


  • Second year’s seasonal sampling for invertebrates, fish and birds as well as organic and nutrient sampling in ‘wet’ (August/September) and ‘dry’ (February/March) seasons
  • Online survey to better understand attitudes and perceptions about the wetland to be conducted.
  • Sian Glazier’s presentation on “Constructing a quantitative food web for the Vasse Wonnerup Wetland System” to be delivered at the Australian Marine Science Association 2017 conference.
  • Two community events to be delivered to present preliminary and final finding of all three PhDs as well as a summary of the Investigation Node’s management recommendations.


Birds’ feathers can reveal birds’ diet – analysing the carbon compounds in their plumage can provide information on the types of food (e.g. plants and/or invertebrates) they consume


  • Edith Cowan University
  • Murdoch University

Project Manager

Dr Emily Hugues dit Ciles

Key Partners

This research program also receives invaluable in-kind support from:

  • Department of Water and Environmental Regulation
  • Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions
  • Curtin University
  • Southern Cross University

© 2022 South West Catchments Council


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