Matthew Burnett

Matthew Burnett

Matthew Burnett

PhD Student

Behavioural ecology research on the KwaZulu-Natal Yellowfish (Labeobarbus natalensis).

Matthew Burnett is a Ph.D candidate running the FISHTRAC programme at the Aquatic ecosystem research (AER) group, his main focus is on fish behavioural ecology as an indication of river eco-system health. The FISHTRAC program uses smart technology in tracking fish and environmental variables to monitoring river ecosystems in real-time and remotely. Matthew is currently using this smart technology to understand the behaviour of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Yellowfish (Labeobarbus natalensis) and their response to waste water treatment works within the uMngeni and uMsunduzi River systems.

Yellowfish (Labeobarbus spp.) are a relatively under recognised species in Southern Africa. They are long-lived, large sized, abundant and present in every large river system within the region making them the perfect candidates to measure river health. They are an iconic and charismatic fish, being sort after by fishermen for food and recreational anglers. Their sensitivity to flows and other water quality variables could not be more helpful today where anthropogenic influences on our rivers are higher than ever before. Despite this there are still knowledge gaps that need to be filled to improve our understanding of their behavioural ecology and their response to environmental variables.

More specifically the KZN, or “Scaly”, Yellowfish (Labeobarbus natalensis), an abundant fish in KZN, has received recent attention to assist in the development of a real-time remote monitoring system. This system serves in understanding the behavioural characteristics of Natal Yellowfish and how they respond to water quality and quantity variables altered by natural and anthropogenic causes. The current improvements in telemetry tags and water quality probes is assisting in the way we can track these responses in real-time and remotely. This multi-disciplinary approach is a cutting-edge concept that may change the way we manage our natural resources in the future. The AER is currently assessing this with their FISHTRAC system in the uMngeni and uMsunduzi River around waste water treatment work releases.

In developing these technologies, Aquatic Ecosystem Research (AER) in its aquarium is running a tag retention study to improve on the knowledge gaps for tagging fish within sub-tropical climates. Little information exists for tagging fish within tropical and sub-tropical systems as most studies happen within cooler temperate areas.


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