Abstract: Understanding and predicting the vulnerability of coral reefs to disturbances that act at multiple scales is of paramount importance for guiding reef conservation initiatives. My research combines large environmental and ecological datasets with a broad range of quantitative tools in order to address questions about coral reef vulnerability around the world. I will talk about three related strands of my research that demonstrate the importance of large-scale data integration in order to support spatially adaptive conservation strategies. First, using environmental data and a biogeographic database of coral symbiont clades, I established the climatic gradients separating niches among these clades. Second, I developed a broad scale metric of coral exposure to multiple stressors (e.g., SST and sediment pollution). This metric can be coupled with geographical estimates of where corals are likely to acquire thermally compatible symbiont clades in order to compensate for increasing temperature, and therefore elucidate spatially explicit exposure and adaptation gradients. Finally, I modeled hydrological linkages among coastal watersheds and near shore reefs, and subsequently the relative affects of local land use manipulation versus global climate change on sediment dynamics. Overall, my research aims to inform conservation decisions around the globe by tackling the complex issues relevant to integrated land–sea planning.
Biography: Maina completed a BSc. (Hon) in natural sciences at the Egerton University in Kenya. Following this degree, he worked for several years on the Wildlife Conservation Society’s coral reefs conservation project in Mombasa. Maina then completed a MSc. in geo-information science and environmental modeling, which was coordinated by the International Institute of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation, The Netherlands. Maina has since moved to Macquarie University in Sydney, where he is currently pursuing his PhD in the Department of Biological Sciences.