Rachel Newsome
Aspiring to be a marine mammal.

Developing a new attachment method to deploy multi-sensor “FitBit” tags onto the reef manta ray for the first time to gain insight into their activity regimes and relative energetics –Rachel Newsome is researching the activity and energetics of the reef manta ray (Mobula alfredi) in contrasting seascapes in the PEAC laboratory at Murdoch University, starting in 2023. This project is also in affiliation with the Save our Seas Foundation and The Manta Trust.

This project is incredibly exciting as it will be focusing on the fine-scale 3-dimensional movement and behavioural patterns of the reef manta ray, and the drivers of these movements. To date, studies have only been undertaken on broad-scale movement and behaviour of the reef manta ray reconstructed in 2-dimensions. This provides the opportunity to further our understanding of the functional ecology of the reef manta ray and their role in coral reef ecosystems. As part of this project Rachel will be designing a new tag attachment and tagging regime for the reef manta ray so that cutting-edge combined-sensor tagging technologies can be deployed on the species for the first time. Sensors onboard these tags will allow us to study the biomechanics and physiology of the manta ray in concert with fluctuating environmental variables. A machine learning program will be developed from patterns in the data and linked to known behaviours, validated from camera footage onboard the tags, which will provide the foundation for future manta ray biologging research.

Rachel’s fascination for the marine environmental developed in childhood. Growing up in Perth led to an appreciation of the environment and all its inhabitants, with our beautiful forests, wetlands and spectacular coral reefs right at our feet. Rachel vividly remembers her first snorkelling experience, in approximately a foot of water at Cottesloe Beach, and diving in Tioman Island when she saw her first shark. Seeing such a graceful creature silently cut through the water as it swam sparked her love for elasmobranchs. Rachel recalls her first manta ray scuba diving in Komodo National Park, stating “I remember beaming for the entire day. I am sure that if that version of myself knew that I got to study the drivers of manta movement and behaviour to aid in their conservation, she would be pinching herself. I am incredibly excited to have this opportunity to not only study an incredible animal but also to work with a phenomenal group of scientists in Australia and across the globe”.

ResearchingActivity regimes and energetics of the reef manta ray in contrasting seascapes
AffiliatedMurdoch University|
Focus areaOceans