CPHMVS Research Vet Science Aquatic Animal Health and Disease Group

Aquatic Animal Health and Disease Group


James Cook University has long standing R&D expertise in aquatic animal health and diagnosis that integrates viral, bacterial and parasite diagnostics with practical, applied research. Over 30 years of supervision of research degrees has also created a ripple effect in this field with graduates working in both Australia and Asia-Pacific.

Teaching and Training

JCU delivers specialist subjects in Aquatic Animal Health at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Master Classes such as Disease in Tropical Aquatic Animals are also offered to both university students and industry. These subjects focus on disease and how to diagnosis them, particularly as they are relevant to tropical aquaculture systems. Aquatic animal health concepts are also taught in the Veterinary Science degree, thereby preparing future veterinarians for a role in this field.

Facilitates used @ JCU

Secure infection facilities for aquatic animals enable research involving infection trials with pathogenic organisms with state-of-the-art disinfection facilities with either fresh or saltwater for both fish and crustaceans. A 5,000L recirculating seawater system for parasite cultures is also available as well as state-of-the art laboratories to securely and efficiently culture and investigate disease causing agents. In addition, Australia’s largest tertiary aquarium research infrastructure is available at JCU if required to undertake larger-scale industry-relevant R&D for non-infections agents and treatment.

Research and Development

JCU continues to support industry with research into current disease problems in aquaculture, which may range from bacterial, parasitic and viral pathogens in both crustacean and finfish aquaculture. Resident experts provide the capability and capacity to provide industry with a rapid response for disease investigations. Current topics of research include physiology and control of parasites, phage-therapy against antibiotic resistant bacteria, the application of cutting edge technology including RNAi and recombinantly expressed proteins to manage diseases in aquaculture.

Industry Engagement

Research conducted by JCU scientists enables fisheries, aquaculture and Biosecurity Australia, to make informed decisions in regards to stock structure, disease management and import regulations. This marriage of pure and applied research has led to the development of unique and strong partnerships between industry, academia and government agencies. This has resulted in numerous grants and collaborations.

Staff/ HDR students –research team

Experts in Disease and Animal Health (Aquatic Pathobiology, Epidemiology and Control)

Associate Professor Leigh Owens (Aquatic animal health specialist – fish and crustacean), Associate Professor Ellen Ariel (Aquatic virology - previously Coordinator of European Reference Laboratory for Fish Diseases), Kelly Condon (22 years of experience in the diagnosis and detection of viral pathogens in Aquaculture species (principally PCR diagnostics), Dr Kate Hutson (Aquatic parasitology – leads the Marine Parasitology Laboratory), Dr Lisa Elliott (Bacteriophage therapy for aquatic organisms, aquatic disease management, commercial aquaculture consultant), Dr Leo Foyle (lecturing undergraduate veterinarians in diagnosis and treatment of fish diseases), Dr Janice Lloyd (Animal health, welfare and ethics), Dr Jennifer Elliman (Molecular techniques for detecting pathogens and using bacteriophages as bio-controls).

Currently a combination of 15 PhD students are researching Aquatic Animal Health topics within this group.

Contact: Associate Professor Ellen Ariel, College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences, JCU. Ellen.ariel@jcu.edu.au Mobile: 042 7797645