Abstract: Climate change and anthropogenic stressors are having a dramatic effect on coral reefs, with some being overgrown by large canopy-forming macroalgae (ie. seaweed). Such transitions represent a major change in the physical structure of reef ecosystems, and once established, are difficult to reverse. This project will investigate how canopy-forming macroalgae affect key processes on coral reefs. Specifically, my PhD will investigate the mechanisms underlying the continued dominance of canopy-forming macroalgae on coral reefs, and how changes in the abundance and spatial arrangement of canopy-forming macroalgae affect fish habitat use, benthic succession and coral growth and settlement. Further, the capacity of herbivores to remove canopy-forming algae (and hence control macroalgal biomass) at various points in its life history will be assessed, in order to increase our understanding of the processes maintaining macroalgal-dominated habitats.
Biography: Zoe grew up diving in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria. In search of sunnier skies and warmer weather, she moved to Townsville to study Marine Biology at JCU in 2010. She completed her honours project with Dr. Andrew Hoey and Prof. David Bellwood in 2013, studying the influence of habitat and macroalgal associations on herbivore foraging decisions. After working as a research assistant at MACRO – the Centre for Macroalgal Resources and Biotechnology for a year, she decided to return to study, and started her PhD in 2015 under the supervision of Dr. Andrew Hoey and Prof. Morgan Pratchett. Zoe’s research focuses on understanding the mechanisms maintaining macroalgal-dominated states and how canopy-forming macroalgae affect fish habitat use and benthic succession on coral reefs.