Abstract. Suspended sediment (SS) levels on coral reefs are increasing due to human activities such as cattle grazing, agriculture, and dredging. Rising SS levels have been linked to a decline in coral and reef fish abundance and diversity, posing a significant threat to coral reefs worldwide. While the impacts of SS on corals have received lots of attention, less is known about the effects on reef fish. Recent studies have found that SS exposure modifies the gill structure of reef fish larvae, which may have important consequences for fish performance, and may ultimately contribute to changes in population dynamics. My PhD research aims to investigate this further by examining the effects of SS on gill function, and by determining potential flow-on effects on important activities such as swimming and predator escape performance using lab-based experiments. Further, I will determine the responses of reef fish populations to SS, and will examine their potential to adjust to elevated SS levels. My findings will provide important information about the mechanisms that underpin changes in reef fish communities in response to SS, and will improve our understanding of how rising SS levels will affect coral reef ecosystems.
Biography. I am a PhD student working under Dr Jodie Rummer, Dr Andrew Hoey, and Dr Amelia Wenger. Originally from Switzerland, I studied the behaviour and ecology of freshwater fish during my BSc, but discovered my passion for coral reefs during a snorkelling trip in the Maledives. I am interested in how human activities affect the physiology and behaviour of coral reef fish, and how this may translate into changes at the population level.