The short-finned eel (Anguilla australis) is native to the lakes, and coastal rivers of south-eastern Australia and New Zealand. The species carries significant cultural importance, having been harvested by indigenous people across much of its historical distribution. Most notably, in south-western Victoria where the species is known as “kuuyang”, it is a powerful cultural symbol of the local Gunditj people, and has formed the basis of an aquaculture industry dating back almost 7000 years. In fact, Lake Condah is globally recognised as the birthplace of modern aquaculture, where indigenous people of the region engineered the landscape to farm and trade eels for millennia. This has been formally recognized through the recent UNESCO World Heritage listing for the Budj Bim cultural landscape.
The project will have three distinctive but complementary research components:
1. Undertaking population genomic analyses to gain insights into eel stock connectivity and spatial patterns of recruitment between estuaries across the species range.
2. Adopt eDNA tools to assess habitat use and determine where the eels reside within the Lake Condah and the local catchment.
3. Use DNA metabarcoding approaches to assess eel diet based on the genomic analysis of eel gut samples. Genetic assessments of gut samples across different developmental stages, sexes, and in time and space, will provide insights into the variability of eel diet.
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[Website Deakin University]