Peter has worked as a curator at the Queensland Museum, Brisbane since 1978. He specialises in the taxonomy and phylogenetics of crabs. He has written around 100 scientific papers, 4 books, numerous reports and popular articles, and one CD-Rom. These have included the descriptions of over 70 new species, 15 new genera, and a new family and several new subfamilies of decapod crustaceans, principally crabs.
He has used a variety of techniques including traditional alpha morphology, morphometrics, cladistics, allozyme electrophoresis, and DNA analysis. All these techniques have been put to use in revising the taxonomy of a number of important commercial species. In 1998, Peter collaborated with Queensland Fisheries to discover that the iconic "Mud Crab" is in fact a complex of four different cryptic species, each with different reproductive biologies, and ecological preferences. This is very important information for effective fisheries management! This work was followed by a similar study of the "Moreton Bay Bug" which extablished that this lobster too was a complex of five species spread throughout the Indo-West Pacific region. The "Blue-swimmer" or "Sand Crab" has most recently come under the microscope, and in collaboration with scientists at the National University of Singapore, a paper is about to be submitted that shows this is also a complex of four different species.
Current research projects include an Australian Biological Resources Study funded taxonomic revision of Australia’s mangrove and intertidal crab fauna, with production of interactive keys, and a field guide, to be the ultimate result.
Peter has contributed to, and co-edited, 7 books and conference proceedings including : Focus on Stradbroke (1984); Toxic Plants and Animals. A Guide for Australia (1987); The Brisbane River. A Source-Book for the Future (1990); and is the principal author of the best selling Wild Guide to Moreton Bay: Wildlife and Habitats of a Beautiful Australian Coast - Noosa to the Tweed (1998, with a new edition expected in 2010).
In 2002 he published a two volume catalogue of Australian eucarid Crustacea for the Zoological Catalogue of Australia series, detailing nearly 2500 Australian species, and the first such catalogue for 120 years. This was followed in 2008 with the "Systema Brachyurorum: Part I. An annotated checklist of extant brachyuran crabs of the world". This work was written in collaboration with colleagues from the National University of Singapore and the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris, and represented the first complete list of crabs of the world ever published. Peter is currently a major contributor, and official subject editor for the Brachyura, for the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), a major web-based database delivering the most up-to-date, validated, taxonomic listings of marine animals.
Peter was been on the organising committees of numerous conferences and workshops, notably including the Third International Crustacean Conference held in Brisbane in 1990; the Second International Meeting on Mangrove Macrobenthos (MMM2) on the Gold Coast, in 2006; and he was a Principal Organiser for The Thirteenth International Marine Biological Workshop - The Marine Fauna and Flora of Moreton Bay, Queensland, which was held at the Moreton Bay Research Station, Dunwich, during February, 2005.
Peter was also part of the organising committee for the inaugural 'Towards Invertebrate Biodiversity and Conservation Conference' held at the Queensland Museum in 1993. This was so successful that it has since become a biannual event, and he again helped to organise the Eighth Invertebrate Biodiversity and Conservation Conference - Pacific Priorities, in December 2007.
Peter has been a scientific advisor on several film documentaries on marine animals and crabs, both for Australian television and for the BBC.
As well as extensive field work in marine and freshwater environments of northern Australia, he has travelled widely in the Asia-Pacific region. In 1991 and 1994 he was an Associate scientist with the French Government, based at the Museum national d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris. He has continuing active collaborations with many European, Asian, and American colleagues, and has had numerous visiting fellowships to the National University of Singapore.
Peter is a past-president of the Australian Marine Conservation Society. He has served as a marine invertebrate advisor on several governmental Scientific Advisory Committees eg., advising the Minister for Environment and Heritage on the administration of the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992 (1994-1999), and on the Fraser Island World Heritage Area SAC (2004 -). He is also currently the Queensland Museum representative on the Australian Marine Invertebrate Taxonomists Network, and since 2008 has been President of the South East Queensland Branch of the Australian Marine Sciences Association. Peter is also an external member of the federal government’s Biosecurity Australia risk assessment team.
Areas of expertise
Taxonomy and biogeography of decapod crustaceans, particularly crabs, from intertidal to deep water environments; ecology of mangrove crabs; soft bottom benthic ecology.