Cause for Shell-ebration: Marine and Freshwater Research turns 70

January 31st, 2020

From groundbreaking research to cultivating a sense of family on the Editorial Board, we asked MFR's editors and publishing staff to share their highlights from their time with the journal.
Collage of four images depicting coral reefs, rivers, dolphins and wetlands

Marine and Freshwater Research is an international and interdisciplinary journal publishing contributions on all aquatic environments.

Put on your party hats and get ready to celebrate: Marine and Freshwater Research turns 70 this year! The journal has celebrated the milestone with a special issue showcasing the diversity that has characterised it throughout the decades.

MFR’s origins date back to the late forties, when a partnership between the then newly formed Australian Academy of Science and CSIRO lead to the publication of a series of journals, including the Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research in 1950. Renamed in 1995 to reflect the internationalisation of the journal, MFR continues to provide a vehicle for the incredibly diverse research undertaken in the marine, estuarine and inland water environments.

What has it been like to work on a journal with such a long history? We asked some of those closest to the action!


Man standing outside holding binoculars

Max Finlayson says one of the draw cards of being Editor-in-Chief is helping researchers get their work out there and supporting their careers. (photo: supplied)

Max Finlayson, Editor-in-Chief

My association with the journal started some decades ago and I was doing a PhD. I published a paper in the journal, two actually, in 1981, one on nutrients in lakes and the other on lymnaeid snails. Getting something published was a great feeling, and with helpful publishing staff. The ability to now assist others get papers into the journal is one of the draw cards for myself. By doing this we not only help share information, but we can support people’s careers. We still have extremely helpful publishing staff, not the same ones mind you! Nowadays I work with a strong editorial and publishing team to continue the support for authors both in Australia as well as in other countries.

The focus of MFR has changed from largely being an Australian-orientated journal which helped people such as myself get their early career work published, and helped extend the hitherto limited knowledge of Australian aquatic systems, to an international voice for marine and freshwater research. We receive a lot of submissions which shows the need and we still have a strong base in our home country. We have an acknowledged high quality product with excellent standards and presentation in a world where light reviewing and almost non-existent copy editing are becoming prominent.

The most interesting paper I’ve handled is by Paul Boon on Australian rivers, in the 70th anniversary issue. Not just because it is the longest one I’ve handled, but it wandered across a web of information sources that had perhaps never been connected before. It was a history lesson in a science journal.

Another recent paper of note is the editorial appearing in the new special issue on Women in Freshwater Science – this made me think not just about the subject matter, but how science publishing could reflect on or help influence key social issues.

We also have a recent companion issue on Women in Marine Science. We have an interesting journal. Have you read the paper about the Brazilian postal system being used to smuggle aquarium species? Or the one in 1999 about coral bleaching and the future of the world’s coral reefs?


Person in wetsuit standing outside on rocks

Being co-editor on the 2019 Women in Marine Science special issue was one of many highlights for Bronwyn Gillanders. (photo: supplied)

Bronwyn Gillanders, Associate Editor

I started with MFR back in 2006 on the Editorial Board. From memory Professor Andrew Boulton was Editor-in-Chief. Since that time I’ve edited four special issues including two in the last year: Sixth International Otolith Symposium, 2019; Women in Marine Science, 2019; Fish Otoliths as Indicators in Ecosystem Based Management, 2016; Climate Change and Australian Aquatic Environments, Fish and Fisheries, 2011, plus many individual papers.

The highlight and special issue that I’m most proud of was the Women in Marine Science one. Besides the wonderful contributions all led by female authors and often also with female co-authors, I loved the cover which featured 20 women contributors to that special issue from a range of career stages.

My publications in MFR date back to 1995 when a couple from my PhD were published. The journal is a great outlet for some of my PhD student’s papers as well. A special person who has been at CSIRO Publishing all through my association with the journal is Leanne Hamilton – her amazing work for MFR and other CSIRO journals has been incredible and that makes it easy to continue to contribute to the journal.


Person crouching in river holding box

Richard Marchant believes MFR has been one of the most notable contributions to freshwater research. (photo: supplied)

Richard Marchant, Associate Editor

I first reviewed for MFR in 1983 or 1984 when Lou Bennett was Editor. The first paper I dealt with examined chironomid communities in ephemeral swamps in the lower Lachlan catchment. I was impressed by this study because not only did it tackle a family of aquatic insects, which were known to be difficult to identify, but it also provided rare and valuable data about the duration of the larval life cycles of this ecologically important group. Indeed, I was able to make use of these estimates of larval duration in my own work (published in 2015 in MFR) on the availability of invertebrate prey for the platypus.

Other papers that stick in my mind are those published in a special issue produced in 1986 for the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Australian Society for Limnology (now the Australian Freshwater Sciences Society). These demonstrated the breadth of freshwater research in Australia.

Over the years MFR has appeared to me one of the most notable contributions CSIRO makes to freshwater research, especially biological research. It has been pleasing to see MFR expand over the years to include research from many regions.


Man snorkelling over reef

Mike Kingsford enjoys the sense of family he feels being part of the MFR Editorial Board. (photo: supplied)

Mike Kingsford, Associate Editor

A highlight for me is reading new findings on a diversity of subjects and assisting in clarifying the messages of importance prior to publication.  For me personally the publication of special issues such ‘Larval Fish’ (1996) exemplifies one of the important roles of the journal.

A ground breaking paper that continues to have traction internationally is Ove Hoegh-Guldberg’s from 1999, who drew attention to the future of coral reefs under climate change. This is one of the top cited papers in the journal’s history and marked a significant moment in the views of scientists that climate change and related coral bleaching is a serious issue that needs to be addressed by humanity.

The journal has a great sense of family in that Max Finlayson is highly consultative, the Associate Editors are interactive and CSIRO Publishing’s editorial support team keeps the wheels of the journal turning. The large format journal makes an important contribution to the communication of good science and sensibly promotes special issues that provide a collection of papers on key subjects.


Leanne Hamilton, Editorial Assistant, CSIRO Publishing

I’ve been working with MFR for a few decades now. I was already working on it when Max first arrived as Editor. His passion for scientific editing was infectious and I’ve enjoyed working with him and his team of wonderful Associate Editors. At MFR our Associate Editors have editorial independence to make decisions on submitted papers and source some really fascinating papers from key researchers on novel topics.

Over the last seven decades, there have been many changes to the journal, to the community that it serves, and to the field as a whole. As Editorial Assistant, I look after the submission process, working with authors, editors, reviewers – everyone really – and there is a real interest in MFR and the special issue submissions have increased.

I would like to thank all the editors, past and present, associate editors, authors and reviewers for their wonderful work and supporting our journal. It’s been a joy working with them all!


Woman standing outside in front of water

Alice Hall enjoys seeing the growing reach and impact of the papers published in the journal. (photo: supplied)

Alice Hall, Journal Publisher, CSIRO Publishing

My highlights would have to be, firstly, the fantastic and collaborative meetings we hold with the MFR Editorial Board. There is something really special about having the opportunity to reflect and brainstorm with so many editors at once. It’s also a reminder of the wonderful mix of personalities, backgrounds and expertise that we are lucky to have within the team.

It has also been a highlight to see the growing reach and impact of so many MFR papers using the Altmetric score (the colourful ‘donut’ that appears next to each paper). The Altmetric score is designed as an indicator of the amount and reach of the attention a paper has received, from sources as diverse as news, blogs, policy documents, Twitter and Facebook. Hot off the press in 2020 is Dudgeon et al’s discovery of walking sharks – the newest ‘lineage of sharks’ on Earth. As of right now, this paper has already received coverage from 121 global news outlets ranging from Newsweek to Fox News!

It is also gratifying to see the continued significance of many seminal papers in areas such as climate change, coral bleaching, managing wetlands and more. Here’s to the next 70 years of MFR!


Marine & Freshwater Research journal cover featuring dark blue image of many rays swimming

The Marine & Freshwater Research 70th anniversary special issue

The special issue to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Marine Freshwater Research is free to read online until the end of March.

Want to stay up-to-date with the latest from MFR? Sign up to the journal’s email alerts.