Dr Jonny Stark

Dr Jonny Stark in Antarctica
antFOCE Chief Investigator, Dr Jonny Stark (Photo: Glenn Johnstone)

Dr Jonny (Jonathan) Stark:  BSc, MSc, PhD
Senior Research Scientist – marine ecology

Research interests

I am a marine ecologist focusing on coastal ecosystems, benthic communities and environmental impacts. I began my career at the Institute of Marine Ecology (Sydney University), where I completed an MSc (1996) on impacts of urban runoff on intertidal mudflats. I have worked in a wide variety of regions from coral reefs to temperate kelp beds and Antarctic coasts. I completed my PhD in 2001 (UNE), which was the first study of the impacts of Australian Antarctic stations on the marine environment.

My research combines ecology and applied science and covers biology, ecology, chemistry and environmental science. I aim to further our understanding of marine ecosystems and contribute to their improved management in Antarctica. My research has broken new ground in environmental impact assessment and monitoring in Antarctica, through a combination of traditional ecological impact assessment methods with novel experimental monitoring to identify cause and effect relationships between anthropogenic activity and ecological impacts. My research into the impact of an abandoned waste disposal site at Casey station contributed to the first full scale contaminated site remediation in the Australian Antarctic Territory in 2003-04.

My current research in Antarctic coastal ecosystems, conducted through the Terrestrial and Nearshore Ecosystems: Environmental Change and Conservation Theme includes: the effects of research stations; the effects of climate change; and biodiversity and trophic ecology. This includes areas such as the effects of contaminants, spatial and temporal variation in Antarctic benthos, and research into ecological processes. It utilises cutting edge techniques in the areas of statistical analysis, genomics, chemical analyses and field methods. It has encompassed a broad range of biotopes including bacterial/microbial communities, meiofauna, macrofauna, epifauna and benthic megafauna, fish and seabirds. I am responsible for the design and implementation of marine monitoring programs for human impacts at Australian Antarctic stations. This research will form the basis of long-term monitoring, with data dating from 1996-97 at Casey. I also manage and coordinate diving programs in support of science in Antarctic coastal ecosystems.

Current projects

  • Human impacts of Antarctic stations on nearshore ecosystems (#4180)
  • Environmental assessment of the Davis wastewater outfall (#3217)
  • The effects of hydrocarbons in Antarctic marine sediments: a long term field experiment (#2201)
  • TRENZ-Trophic Ecology of the Nearshore Zone (#2948)
  • Natural variability and human induced change in Antarctic nearshore benthic communities (#2201)
  • Antarctic Marine Benthic Biodiversity: Taxonomy and Collection Management (EPIC 3A)
  • Vulnerability of Coastal Benthos to Climate Change (EPIC 5B)
  • Marine monitoring of the remediation of Thala Valley waste disposal site, Casey station

 International/national collaborations

  • Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (USA)
  • University of NSW
  • Southern Cross University
  • University of Tasmania
  • Macquarie University
  • Queensland University of Technology
  • Queensland Museum
  • CSIRO Marine Hobart
  • Zoological Museum Amsterdam/University of Amsterdam (Netherlands)
  • Deakin University

Key outcome areas

  • Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP)
  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Related links

Australian Antarctic Magazine (AAM) articles

Selected publications

Gillies C. L., Stark J.S., Johnstone G. J. & Smith S. D. A. (In press) Towards a conceptual stable isotope (δ13C, δ15N) food web model for coastal Antarctic benthic communities: a case study from the Vestfold Hills. Mar. Ecol. Progr. Ser.

Baird, H. P., K. J. Miller, Stark. J.S. (2012). Genetic population structure in the Antarctic benthos: insights from the widespread amphipod, Orchomenella franklini. PLoS ONE 7(3):e34363. One of the first studies of microsatellite variation in an Antarctic benthic invertebrate, which revealed considerable genetic diversity and indicated independent evolution at large scales with gene flow primarily through stepping-stone dispersal.

Gillies C. L., Stark J. S., Johnstone G. J. & Smith S. D. A. (2012) Carbon flow and trophic structure of an Antarctic coastal benthic community as determined by δ13C and δ15N. Est. Coast. Shelf Sci. 97, 44-57.

Baird, H. P., K. J. Miller, and J. S. Stark. (2011). Evidence of hidden biodiversity, ongoing speciation and diverse patterns of genetic structure in giant Antarctic amphipods. Molecular Ecology 20:3439-3454. In this paper we discovered hidden levels of genetic complexity in Antarctic amphipods (multiple cryptic species of Eusirus) that are neither apparent from previous taxonomic or ecological studies nor predictable from their life history.

Stark J. S. (2008) Patterns of higher taxon colonisation and development in sessile marine benthic assemblages at Casey Station, Antarctica, and their use in environmental monitoring. Mar. Ecol. Progr. Ser. 365, 77-89.

Stark J. S., Snape I. & Riddle M. J. (2006) Abandoned waste disposal sites in Antarctica: monitoring remediation outcomes and limitations at Casey Station. Ecol. Manag. Rest. 7, 21-31.

Stark J. S., Johnstone G. J., Palmer A. S., Snape I., Larner B. L. & Riddle M. J. (2006) Monitoring the remediation of a near shore waste disposal site in Antarctica using the amphipod Paramoera walkeri and diffusive gradients in thin films (DGTs). Mar. Pollut. Bull. 52, 1595-610.

Scouller R. C., Snape I., Stark J. S. & Gore D. B. (2006) Evaluation of geochemical methods for the discrimination of metal contamination in Antarctic marine sediments: a case study from Casey Station, East Antarctica. Chemosph. 65, 294-309.

Stark, J.S., Snape, I., Riddle, M.J. & Stark, S.C. (2005). Constraints on spatial variability in soft-sediment communities affected by contamination from an Antarctic waste disposal site. Marine Pollution Bulletin 50, 276-290. This study indicated significant correlations between the presence of contaminants (metals Cd, Cu, Sn, Pb) and the distribution and composition of soft-sediment communities over small spatial scales (metres).

Stark, J.S., Riddle, M.J., Snape, I. & Scouller, R.C. (2003). Human impacts in Antarctic marine soft-sediment assemblages: correlations between multivariate biological patterns and environmental variables. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 56, 717-734. This paper and the following one were highly influential in the decision to clean up and remediate an old waste disposal site on the foreshore at Casey Station, Antarctica.

Stark, J.S., Riddle, M.J. & Simpson, R.D. (2003). Human impacts in soft-sediment assemblages at Casey Station, East Antarctica: spatial variation, taxonomic resolution and data transformation. Austral Ecology 28, 287-304. This and the preceding paper formed the basis of an information paper to an Antarctic Treaty meeting which lead to a greater awareness and responsibility for management of contaminated sites in Antarctica.

Stark J. S., Snape I. & Riddle M. J. (2003) The effects of hydrocarbon and heavy metal contamination of marine sediments on recruitment of Antarctic soft-sediment assemblages: a field experimental investigation. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 283, 21-50.

Powell, S.M., Bowman, J.P., Snape, I. & Stark, J.S. (2003). Microbial community variation in pristine and polluted nearshore Antarctic sediments. FEMS Microbiology Ecology 45, 135-145. One of the first studies to examine microbial community patterns in Antarctica. It found a high degree of spatial variation and evidence of impacted microbial communities.

Snape, I., Riddle, M.J., Stark, J.S., Cole, C.M., King, C.K., Duquesne, S. & Gore, D.B. (2001). Management and remediation of contaminated sites at Casey Station, Antarctica. Polar Record 37, 199-214. A well cited paper dealing with the issue of contaminated site management in Antarctica, one of the first in this field.

Stark J. S. (2000) The distribution and abundance of soft-sediment macrobenthos around Casey Station, East Antarctica. Polar. Biol. 23, 840-50.