Abstract. The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is currently experiencing its fourth recorded CoTS outbreak and despite substantial ongoing research, the cause(s) of outbreaks remain largely unknown. Jennifer’s research focuses on evaluating the spatial variation in the density and demography of newly settled crown-of-thorns starfish, with a view of better understanding the incidence of outbreaks. To do this, this research project will evaluate the role of settlement and early post-settlement processes (i.e., growth and mortality) and underlying biological mechanisms (e.g., predation and food availability) in regulating CoTS population dynamics. Improving our understanding of population dynamics will ultimately benefit the development of population control measures. Jennifer is conducting her PhD under the supervision of Morgan Pratchett, Andrew Hoey and Vanessa Messmer.
Biography. Jennifer completed her degree in Biological Sciences at the Free University of Brussels (Belgium). She attended the BIOMAR marine biology laboratory for six months, where she wrote her final year thesis on the biodiversity of Antarctic starfish. She continued to display her passion for the marine environment through various roles: as marine research officer in Madagascar, marine environmental consultant in the United Kingdom and crown-of-thorns starfish (CoTS) diver in Australia. From 2014 to 2016, she worked with the CoTS control program on the Great Barrier Reef. This position provided her with ample opportunities to observe and study crown-of-thorns starfish in their natural environment and set in motion her PhD on juvenile crown-of-thorns starfish.