Dr Merrick Ekins is the Collection Manager of Sessile Marine Invertebrates which includes Porifera (sponges), Cnidaria (hard and soft corals, jellyfish, hydroids, anemones), Ascidians, Zooanthids, Hemichordata, Bryozoans (lace corals) and Brachiopods (lamp shells).
Merrick conducts research on the taxonomy, phylogeny and population genetics of marine invertebrates. He specialises in describing new species of carnivorous sponges as well as shallow water sponges and soft corals.
He is involved in the collection, identification and preservation of sessile marine invertebrates and some that have a non-sessile phase like jellyfish. He is responsible for the curation of over 60,000 specimens; including 5000 species of sponges, 1000 species of ascidians and 600 morpho-species of octocorals. His job also entails field surveys locally around Moreton Bay, the Great Barrier Reef and diverse locations throughout the Indo-Pacific.
His research interests also include the taxonomy of sponges, gorgonians, ascidians, zooanthids and jellyfish. He has described new species of sponges and octocorals as well as jellyfish and zooanthids and has written several papers on invasive species colonising Australia.
Merrick has worked in remote locations conducting disease surveillance surveys and extracting coral fossils in order to understand palaeoecological changes in reef structure. For the past 20 years, he has volunteered with the dugong health and population monitoring research program in Queensland. This involves catching (wrestling), tagging, measuring, in water sampling, satellite tagging of dugongs, as well as airborne population monitoring.
Areas of expertise
Taxonomy, population genetics, ecology, biogeography, biodiversity, phylogenetics, biodiscovery and conservation, invasive species, molecular taxonomy, marine ecology and management, reproductive and population biology, biodiversity, sponges, ascidians, cnidarians (hard and soft corals and jellyfish).
- Describing new species of sponges and octocorals from the Indo-Pacific.
- Population dynamics of sponges on deep sea mounts in the Pacific Ocean