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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Inter- and intra-specific variation in coral bleaching


Thursday, 4 April 2013; 14:00 to 15:00 hrs.

Building 19 (Kevin Stark Research Building) Room #106 (upstairs), JCU, Townsville; with live video-link to the University of Queensland (GCI Boardroom, Level 7, Gehrmann Building 60.
Dominique McCowan, James Cook University.

Abstract: Coral bleaching is a general stress response in which the symbiotic relationship between corals and their photosynthetic algae is disrupted. Localised bleaching has occurred for at least a century; however large-scale bleaching, commonly called mass bleaching, is indicative of severe environmental stress. Since the earliest mass bleaching events, there have been notable differences in the percentage of colonies affected within and among families, genera and species. My PhD research aims to explore both intrinsic and extrinsic causes of variation in bleaching susceptibility within and among coral species, which is the first step in understanding the capacity of species to withstand ongoing climate change. Dire predictions about the fate of reef-building corals often ignore
the potential for acclimation and/ or adaptation among corals. Phenotypic plasticity is necessary for organisms to acclimate or adapt to environmental conditions, but the variable(s) that cause(s) phenotypic plasticity must be heritable to have the capacity to do so. My thesis attempts to determine the plasticity in the timing of the bleaching response within and among coral species. Furthermore, bleaching has not been rigorously defined, which my thesis aims to do.

Biography: Dominique is from Louisville, Kentucky where she group up with fossilised Devonian reefs. She worked on mosquito surveillance in her undergrad, while she got her BS in Biology, AA in Chemistry and minored in Geology. She hopes to bring all of her previous knowledge together to help explain coral bleaching.

Watch video here


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