Abstract: Climate change poses two main challenges for reef building corals: an increment in the frequency and severity of tropical storms; and ever increasing water temperatures. In contrast to the alarming rates of coral loss experienced worldwide, an increasing body of evidence shows that corals in fact have potential for adapting to these stressors. First, I will show that the diversity of life histories among scleractinians makes their assemblages resilient to cyclone damage through reconfiguration. I will highlight the importance of connectivity in the recovery process, and present a novel method to assess connectivity of coral populations. And second, I will discuss how the complex biology of the coral holobiont equips these keystone organisms with the potential for transgenerational acclimatization and adaptation to cope with predicted levels of ocean warming.
Bio: Greg Torda’s current research interest gravitates around the ecological, physiological and genetic bases of resilience of corals to stressors. He uses a variety of approaches, including state-of-the-art molecular techniques, controlled laboratory experiments, in situ field data collection and modelling to better understand the mechanisms that underpin the recovery of scleractinian populations from perturbations. Originally from Hungary, Greg received his MSc degree in Zoology from Szent Istvan University in 2000, and his PhD from James Cook University in 2013. For his PhD, Greg developed and applied a novel approach for describing ecological connectivity of corals by genetically assigning recruits to source populations. Since his PhD, Greg has been leading a research project that describes the recovery of corals around the Palm Islands following devastation from TC Yasi; and has been involved in teaching at the College of Marine and Environmental Sciences at James Cook University, in research at the Willis Lab and the Leggat Lab, and has led field expeditions for the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and Earthwatch.