Sarah Catalano has always had a keen interest in conservation biology and the marine environment. She completed a Bachelor of Science (first class honours) in Marine Biology at the University of Adelaide, before going on to complete her PhD studies here in 2013.
Sarah’s PhD focused on dicyemid parasites, tiny marine organisms found in high numbers attached to the kidneys of benthic cephalopods (octopus, squid and cuttlefish).
As part of this research, Sarah formally described 10 new dicyemid species from Australian waters and used molecular genetic techniques to characterise part of their mitochondrial genome. She presented a review article highlighting the taxonomic confusion that surrounds this group, explored the unknowns in their life cycle, and used dicyemids as biological tags to assess host cephalopod population structure in southern Australian waters.
While Sarah’s PhD has added a wealth of knowledge to dicyemid faunal composition and ecology in Australian waters, many aspects of their life history and evolution remain unknown. Sarah is continuing on with research in this area, particularly focusing on uncovering the complete mitochondrial genome of dicyemids.
In addition, Sarah is now working as a Research Scientist at the South Australian Museum working on a joint ARC-funded linkage project (between the Australian National University, WA Museum & Herbarium, WA Department and Conservation, and SA Museum) investigating the biodiversity of amphibians and reptiles across the Pilbara and Kimberley regions in Western Australia.
Both projects have a similar goal, which is focused on, and aligns with, one of our National Research Priorities – maintaining an environmentally sustainable Australia.
“The main aim of my research is to manage and protect Australia’s terrestrial and marine biodiversity,” says Sarah. “I aim to achieve this using rigorous, thorough and comprehensive methods that are reproducible, ensuring conservation efforts and management plans are well informed to maintain our country’s biodiversity.”