Bill Dall retires


(extract from CSIRO Division of Fisheries – Northern Prawn Fishery Information Notes October 1990)

Dr William Dall retired in 1990 after a distinguished scientific career spanning over 35 years. The last 16 of these were as Officer-in-Charge of CSIRO’s Cleveland Marine Laboratories. After graduating from the University of Queensland, Billl had a long involvement in crustacean research. His first research degre was an MSc, which was awarded for his outstanding revision of the taxonomy of penaeid prawns. This revision remains the cornerstone of our knowledge of these prawns in the Australian region and it provided the basis for Bill’s later major publication on the penaeids of northern Australia and Papua New Guinea and for the book A Guide to the Australian Penaeid Prawns.


After completing his MSc, Bill joined CSIRO to work on zooplankton off the coast of New South Wales.. Most of the field work was carried out on the Derwent Hunter, one of CSIRO’s first research vessels. He then returned to the University of Queensland, where he lectured in zoology and started a research study into the ecology and physiology of the greentail or greasyback prawn (Metapenaeus bennettae), the most abundant penaeid pawn in the Brisbane River. He was awarded a PhD for this work, which was a pioneering study of the biology of any penaeid prawn. It is still widely referred to, despite the amount of work that has subsequently been done on penaeid prawns.


Bill then went to North America, where he studied in Canada and North Carolina. During this postdoctoral period, he continued to develop his interests in crustacean phsyiology.


Dr William Dall 1976 - working on the Western rock lobster project

Dr Bill Dall 1976 – in the lab working on the Western rock lobster project

On his return to Australia, he joined the CSIRO group in Perth working on the western rock lobster, applying his knowledge of crustacean physiology to this species. He published many papers and his work on nutrition and water balance is the largest single study of the physiology of rock lobsters.


In 1974, Dr Dall was asked by CSIRO to set up a research program into penaeid prawns in northern Australia. This entailed establishing a large research laboratory in Brisbane (ultimately Cleveland), selecting a team of about 30 scientists and developing a broad research program that would provide information for management of penaeid prawn fisheries in northern Australia. Under Bill’s leadership, the research team developed into a cohesive group with high morale and soon established an international reputation in prawn research. With his assistance, the group has organised important national and international penaeid prawn research activities including the Second Australian National Prawn Seminar, the FAO-Australian Workshop on Penaeid Prawn Fisheries Management and the International Prawn Recruitment Experiment – a program involving researchers in six South-east Asian countries. The resulting research has been applied to the northern prawn fishery. Its highly sophisticated management scheme relies heavily upon research information in fields as diverse as populations dynamics and larval, juvenile and adult ecology.


Despite Bill’s involvement with administration and the running of this large program, he continued his research into crustacean physiology, but now with the emphasis on prawns. His work is widely recognised and he has been asked to contribute review chapters in many books, including the series The Biology of Crustacea. He has written invited reviews on penaeid prawn research in Australia and on prawn fisheries management, and he wrote the chapters on anatomy, zoogeography, taxonomy and physiology for the book The Biology of Penaeids which was published recently.


In 1976 Bill was awarded the DSc by the University of Queensland for his outstanding research on crustacean physiology. For many years he was a member of the Editorial Advisory Committee of the Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, he is a foundation member of the Asian Fisheries Society, and has been a consultant on penaeid research to the Australian Development and Aid Bureau and to the Asian Development Bank.


Dr Dall is a world authority of the taxonomy of penaeid prawns and on the physiology of crustacea and his work is widely cited for its originality and soundness.


After his retirement, Bill was awarded a post-retirement fellowship and continued research into penaeid prawns for 3 more years in the Cleveland Laboratories, and thereafter with part-time work as an Honorary Research Fellow of Queensland Museum.


Read the tribute from Bill’s colleague and friend, David Smith, written for the funeral service.

Or return to Dr William Dall home page.