Abstract: Recurrent marine heat waves are leading to widespread coral bleaching, transforming the structure and function of tropical coral reefs. Past bleaching events have highlighted large variation in bleaching susceptibility between species, populations and individual coral colonies. For my thesis, I explore the mechanisms that confer heat tolerance in corals through controlled heat stress experiments in distinct and isolated populations of the Coral Sea Marine Park. I measured the corals’ response to acute heat stress at eight distinct reefs in March 2020 and found marked differences in heat tolerance between species and between populations. In this presentation, I outline how environment, symbiotic and genetic processes may combine to confer tolerance to the increasing frequency and duration of marine heatwaves.
Biography: Magena grew up in Colorado, USA, where she completed her BSc in Biology and Chemistry. Her passion for scuba diving and marine ecosystems naturally led her to Townsville where she completed her MSc in Marine Biology, followed by a position at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) where she worked on coral hybridisation projects. Her research has ranged from assessing the effects of heavy metals in rivers to assisting with selective breeding experiments in corals. She is now pursuing a PhD in collaboration with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and AIMS to investigate the environmental and adaptive processes that influence heat tolerance in corals and their response to recurrent marine heat waves. Her current project is supervised by Dr Line Bay, Dr Hugo Harrison and A/Prof David Bourne.