The long-standing paradigm that ecology and evolution play out on different timescales is increasingly challenged by recent studies that show real-time interaction of the two. Similarly to terrestrial examples, it is expected that eco-evolutionary dynamics define both the population trajectories and adaptive capacity of marine organisms. But contrary to the relative simplicity of terrestrial ecosystems, the complexity of the natural history of many marine taxa pose significant challenges for our attempts to understand how ecology and evolution interacts on short timescales in the sea. I will demonstrate some of these challenges through the example of reef-building corals, that are the ecosystem engineers of one of the most biologically diverse, socially, ecologically and economically valuable, and environmentally sensitive ecosystems of the planet. Recent global-scale disturbances have decimated coral populations worldwide, and whether the affected populations will be able to recover in an era of ever more frequent and severe perturbations is at the focus of global interest. I will present a series of empirical studies that aim to shed light on pathways of adaptive responses by corals to changes in their environment, and a novel modelling approach that attempts to unify the ecology and evolution of corals in a single framework.
Greg is a Research Fellow at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies with a broad interest in coral ecology and evolution. His research combines molecular, ecological and modelling approaches to provide new insights into population and ecosystem dynamics in the light of evolutionary processes. Specifically, Greg uses population genomics, metagenomics, as well as biologically realistic eco-evolutionary models to understand how corals and their microbial partners respond to the rapidly changing environment of the Anthropocene. 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.