Abstract: Patterns and processes affecting early post-settlement scleractinian corals have received very little attention due to difficulties associated with detecting recently settled corals on natural substratum. However, early post-settlement events are likely to play a strong role in population ecology and should not be ignored. In particular, spatial differences in rates of post-settlement events may result in prominent differences in community dynamics, such as rates of recovery and resilience. In this context, my PhD research focused on 1) describing patterns of distribution and abundance of juvenile scleractinian corals along the Great Barrier Reef latitudinal gradient, and investigating the factors shaping these patterns, 2) testing the effect of incidental grazing by parrotfishes on the survival of early life stage of corals, especially within the first four weeks of life on the reef, 3) quantifying growth and mortality rates of juvenile corals across multiple scales on the GBR, 4) and comparing growth and mortality rates of juvenile corals at large scale, i.e. between Trunk reef in the central GBR and Moorea, French Polynesia.
Biography: Melanie comes from France where she obtained her Bachelor degree, and then moved to Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean to complete her Master degree at the University of Saint Denis. She then moved to Townsville in 2008 to enroll into the Master by Applied Science where she started to conduct research on coral ecology and especially looked at the effect of a Crown-of-thorn outbreak on the coral population of Moorea in French Polynesia under the supervision of Prof Morgan Pratchett. She then enrolled into the Master by Research Program and upgraded as a PhD student in September 2010 at the ARC CoE for Coral Reef Studies to investigate processes occurring early in life of corals. Especially she is looking at post-settlement growth and mortality rates of juvenile scleractinian corals ≤ 50 mm at a wide range of scales to better understand coral population distribution and abundance patterns, and their implications in coral reef recovery and resilience.