The combined threats of crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster cf. solaris; CoTS) outbreaks and temperature-induced coral bleaching are reducing the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef. However, little is known about how CoTS populations may fare in a warmer ocean, and how interactions with their thermosensitive coral prey may change. This project seeks to determine how warming impacts on the physiology and behaviour of mature CoTS and their feeding preferences under simulated coral bleaching conditions. The ability of CoTS to mitigate exposure to temperature extremes through behavioural thermoregulation will also be established. This research will aid predictions regarding the future population dynamics and distribution of CoTS, and the cumulative or synergistic threats they may pose to the reef under further climate change.
Biography: Bethan grew up in the UK, where she completed her BSc (hons) degree in Biology at Oxford Brookes University, before commencing an MSc in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation at Imperial College London. She first became fascinated by the infamous crown-of-thorns starfish whilst completing her undergraduate project on their distribution and feeding habits in the Wakatobi Marine National Park in Indonesia. Bethan is now studying for a PhD under the supervision of Prof. Morgan Pratchett (primary), Prof. Andrew Hoey, Dr. Sven Uthicke (AIMS), Dr Jennifer Donelson and Dr. Ciemon Caballes in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, investigating the effect of ocean warming on the behaviour and physiology of crown-of-thorns starfish.