Home / OzCast – A look below the surface / Episode Six: The Forgotten Reef: Why The World Can’t Afford To Keep Losing Shellfish

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On this episode of OzCast, Dr Dominic Mcafee looks beneath the surface at Australia’s lost shellfish reefs and our road to recovering them back from the brink of extinction.  Dr McAfee is a marine ecologist at the University of Adelaide who has dedicated his career to the restoration of Australia’s oyster reefs. After stumbling across the topic while at university, he has become one of the leading names spearheading the revival methods taking place throughout Australia and overseas.

His research encompasses ecological experiments on the seafloor and along shorelines, as well as within laboratory settings, all aimed at deciphering how oysters perceive their surroundings to select optimal habitats.  

Prof. Dominic Mcafee

Throughout the episode, Dom dives into these techniques, explaining how they work, what he aims to achieve in doing them and, most importantly, what he has learnt across the past decade above and below the surface. Interestingly, Dom explains that one of the whackier techniques has been using underwater speakers and the effect these have had on the nearby baby oyster lavae that are looking for somewhere to begin their life on the seafloor. 

With an unwavering commitment to achieving ecological and societal triumphs in marine restoration, he collaborates closely with communication experts, social scientists, anthropologists, economists, legal scholars and representatives from various industries and governmental bodies.   

Throughout the conversation, Dom speaks to the trends he has seen in the world of habitat restoration and shares his observations on how the topic has increasingly become more “in vogue” in the past five years.  

Researchers from countries all over the globe are sharing information which can help reverse the decline in shellfish reefs. 

“We all live on the same planet, and we’ve got to restore it. Why reinvent the wheel when you can pick up the phone or jump on zoom these days,” he said. “Collaboration is really important. We know a lot, but we can always learn more.”  

His academic journey includes a notable PhD at Macquarie University in Sydney, during which he extensively examined the ways in which oyster habitats bolstered the resilience and productivity of coastal ecosystems spanning thousands of kilometres along Australia’s eastern coastline.  

His research extended to Hong Kong, where he demonstrated the role of oyster habitats in mitigating the adverse effects of climate change on coastal communities. His doctoral endeavours culminated in 2018, followed by his relocation to South Australia to lead pioneering efforts in Australia’s inaugural large-scale oyster reef restoration project,  Windara Reef. 

It soon becomes apparent throughout this episode that Dom’s understanding of shellfish is unparalleled, diving deep into the benefits these organisms have to the local fish populations. From their migration journey, recruitment strategies, lifecycle and benefits to the planet – Dom covers it all.  

A testament to the significance of his research, Dom’s collaborative work with peers on a national scale earned him the esteemed Eureka Prize for Applied Environmental Research. This groundbreaking research serves as the bedrock for what has evolved into Australia’s most expansive marine restoration program. He holds a special passion for assisting local community groups invested in revitalising and monitoring their coastlines, showcasing his deep-rooted commitment to environmental stewardship. 

Like to watch as well as listen? Check out the video of the podcast below.

This OzCast uncovers: 

  • How sound is used for shellfish restoration  
  • What eco-anxiety is and what it means for the future of our waterways 
  • what the best methods for shellfish restoration are and how they work 
  • The importance of shellfish and why fish need them for survival  
  • Why and how we list 95% of shellfish worldwide.  


AUGUST 2023 | Ground-breaking research making a big noise underwater for oyster restoration

Even though oysters don’t have ears, they are still wired for sound.  University of Adelaide marine ecologist Dr Dominic Mcafee has been using novel methods as part of his attempts to restore Australia’s lost shellfish reefs and one of his more unusual discoveries is that oysters are attracted to sound. And he knows this because he’s used underwater speakers to prove this theory. On the latest edition of OzCast, the official podcast of OzFish Unlimited, Dr Mcafee details the unique methods that are taking place to recover shellfish reefs that have been lost in modern times. Dr Mcafee has been at the forefront of Australia’s inaugural large-scale oyster reef restoration project, Windara Reef, on the Yorke Peninsula, on the opposite side of St Vincent Gulf from Adelaide.

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This episode of OzCast has been supported by BCF – Boating, Camping, Fishing.