People and ecosystems

Understanding of the links between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, and the wellbeing of human societies.


Ecosystem dynamics: past, present and future

Examining the multi-scale dynamics of reefs, from population dynamics to macroevolution


Responding to a changing world

Advancing the fundamental understanding of the key processes underpinning reef resilience.

Coral Bleaching

Coral Bleaching

Coral Reef Studies

From 2005 to 2022, the main node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies was headquartered at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland (Australia)

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How Do Coral Reef Fishes Develop Into Athletes?


Wednesday 27th January 9:30 to 10:30 hrs (AEST)

https://jcu.zoom.us/j/83103943080 Password: 968981
Adam Downie
Adam Downie

Abstract: When you think of high performing animals, fish larvae likely do not come to mind. This is because, upon hatch, fish larvae are generally under-developed, and swimming begins during late-larval or early juvenile stages. As such, it was widely accepted that, regardless of habitat, tropical or temperate, young fish are merely passive particles that do not influence their own dispersal patterns. That notion changed when a culmination of research starting from the early 1990’s showed compelling evidence that swimming behavior is an important trait influencing dispersal, connectivity, and recruitment of tropical fish to reefs. However, the question remains: how do larval reef fishes support such performance? My PhD research takes a multi-disciplinary approach, incorporating phylogenetic comparative analyses, swimming respirometry, and transcriptomics, to understand the physiological mechanisms supporting swimming performance of reef fishes during early life history stages. In my PhD, I demonstrate that specialized morphologies and high oxygen uptake rates support swimming performance in reef fish larvae, and changes at the cellular and molecular levels during critical developmental stages may enhance fish recruitment to reefs. My findings bridge the knowledge gaps between physiological aspects of development and the ecological processes supporting dispersal and recruitment of reef fishes, and my findings highlight the value of investigating development at multiple levels of biological organization.

Biography: Adam grew up in Canada and completed his Bachelors’ degree in Marine Biology (Hons) in 2015 at the University of New Brunswick. Throughout his undergraduate degree under the supervision of Prof. Jim Kieffer, Adam worked with sturgeon, investigating salinity tolerance, swimming behaviour, and substrate preference of these ancient animals. With a keen interest in animal physiology, Adam joined A/Prof. Jodie Rummer’s lab in 2016 where he did a 10-month internship helping with ongoing experiments. During this internship, Adam became interested in the swimming performance of reef fishes, especially during early life history stages. He commenced his PhD in 2017 under the supervision of A/Prof. Jodie Rummer, Prof. Mark McCormick, and Dr. Peter Cowman. Adam’s research takes a multi-disciplinary approach, using phylogenetic, physiological, anatomical, and cellular perspectives, to investigate how reef fishes develop the ability to swim.


Australian Research Council Pandora

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