Construction of a dataset documenting pearl exports from Papua New Guinea | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Construction of a dataset documenting pearl exports from Papua New Guinea

Project background

Datasets which present and facilitate access to trade information provide a much-needed overview of data-poor fisheries and aquaculture sectors by supporting analyses to estimate production and identify bioeconomic trends and shocks to production systems. Through improved knowledge of past production dynamics, such analyses help to inform development of appropriate policy and management strategies. In Papua New Guinea (PNG), there is current interest in developing pearl aquaculture to support local livelihoods and compiling existing information on pearl fisheries and aquaculture ventures is viewed as a priority for this reason.

In this project you will be part of a research team constructing a dataset from secondary data that can be analysed to inform development strategies for the emerging pearl aquaculture sector in PNG. To date there has been some, but limited work examining trade of aquaculture commodities from PNG (see below for links). Given inconsistencies in how data pertaining to pearl fisheries and aquaculture production was historically reported, there is a need to compile data from a diversity of electronic and physical sources into an accessible, interoperable format to support subsequent analysis.

This study will be starting during the ACPIR SRS period.

There is flexibility in the days/times that the student can work, and this will be negotiated at the start of the ACPIR SRS.

Background information that may be useful for students considering this project:

Primary supervisor: Prof. Paul Southgate

Prof. Southgate leads the Tropical Aquaculture research team at USC. Paul’s research focuses on development of sustainable tropical aquaculture industries within the Asia-Pacific region, with emphasis on marine invertebrates (including pearl oysters and other molluscs). Paul has co-edited and co-authored the best-selling undergraduate textbook for Aquaculture (Lucas & Southgate, ‘Aquaculture: Farming Aquatic Animals and Plants’) and the first monograph on the biology and culture of pearl oysters (Southgate & Lucas, ‘The Pearl Oyster’).

Secondary supervisor: Dr Thane Militz

Dr Militz is a postdoctoral scientist within the Tropical Aquaculture research team at USC. Thane’s research focuses on development of farming protocols appropriate for supporting aquaculture production in rural coastal areas of the Pacific and he contributes to several projects in this field.

HDR student mentor: Ms Nittya Simard

Ms Simard is a PhD Candidate and has a Bachelor of Science (Honours). Nittya’s research is focused on social, ecological, and economic dimensions of shellcraft-based livelihoods in the Pacific and she contributes to several projects in this field.

More details on the USC project team can be found here.

External collaborators: Dr Jeff Kinch

Dr Kinch is Principal of the National Fisheries College (National Fisheries Authority, Papua New Guinea), a training and education institution specialised in capture fisheries, post-harvest processing, aquaculture, marine resource management, and sustainable development.

Please contact Prof. Paul Southgate via email ( with any questions.

Students will be asked to assist the workings of this project in several ways, with tasks such as:

  • Reviewing literature
  • Collection of secondary data
  • Assisting with construction and analysis of a dataset to support analysis of pearl exports from Papua New Guinea
  • Engaging with external collaborators
  • Developing a manuscript for publication


Deliverables will include

  • Contribution to review of pearl fishery and aquaculture development in Papua New Guinea (in a global context)
  • Contribution to draft time-series of pearl exports
  • Contribution to draft manuscript
  • A final presentation of the work undertaken

This project would suit a student with background understanding of, and an interest in aquaculture, fisheries, or informatics as they relate to natural and/or cultured pearls.

In addition to the general ACPIR SRS eligibility criteria, undergraduate students would preferably be in or entering their 3rd year of study in a relevant field (e.g. marine science / coastal ecology) and have a GPA of 6. Students enrolled in a relevant Honours program are also welcome to apply.

The student will be interacting with an experienced group of collaborators and external stakeholders, and therefore collegiality, integrity, teamwork and reliability are important attributes for this project. In return, the student will have an opportunity to develop their networks and learn from a range of experienced professionals. The student will be expected to work as part of a team and independently. As the project will use systematic processes, the student should also be able to pay attention to detail, be a critical thinker and show initiative.

Applicants are required to submit a resume and a brief statement outlining their interest in the project and how this fits with their career/research aspirations. Please note that applicants may be invited to take part in an interview as part of the selection process.