Abstract: The functional roles played by fish have been identified as critical for supporting the resilience of reefs within a coral-dominated state. However, research to date suggests that measures such as functional diversity or biomass of functional groups may not be directly related to ecosystem impact, due to spatial and ontogenetic changes in function. For evaluation of fish function to be a useful as an indicator of resilience there is a need to move to a multi-scale approach, where the role of species within the spatial patchiness of the landscape is considered. My research addresses this need by (1) Characterising the spatially explicit functional role of reef fish; (2) Evaluating the interaction of fish with coral reef structure across spatial scales; and (3) Uses this information to evaluate the effectiveness of cross-scale diversity of function in fish as an indicator of resilience in coral reef ecosystems. The distribution of body sizes of both individuals and species within fish communities is a central theme underlying the different aspects of my project. The research outcomes provide fundamental understanding of the spatial scales at which fish interact with their environment and perform functions critical to coral reef condition.
Biography: Kirsty is originally from the UK, where she studied Oceanography with Marine Biology (BSc Hons). She moved to Townsville in 2002 and completed a MAppSci in Tropical Marine Ecology at James Cook University. She spent a number of years doing field research and teaching field techniques in association with the Marine Park Authority in the Seychelles, and teaching college level courses in marine biology and oceanography in the Caribbean. In 2009 she returned to Australia, completing a Masters of Education and a Postgraduate Certificate in Statistics at Charles Sturt University. She worked as a research assistant at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University prior to starting her PhD. Her research looks at the scales at which fish are functioning on the reef and how this contributes to resilience. Kirsty is supervised by Nick Graham and David Bellwood.