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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Rapid transgenerational adaptation of a reef fish to climate change / Why are there so many endemic species in the Red Sea?


Thursday, March 23rd 16:00 to 17:00 hrs

Building 19, Room 106, JCU Townsville Campus
Timothy Ravasi / Michael Berumen
Timothy Ravasi / Michael Berumen

Abstract. The Earth’s climate is changing rapidly mostly due to anthropogenic disturbances. The average temperature of the ocean is projected to increase at least 3°C by the end of the century, and the oceans are progressively becoming more and more acidic. This will pose a serious threat to the survival of many aquatic species. To persist, populations will either need to shift their geographic distributions or adapt through genetic evolution or phenotypic plasticity. It is unclear if and how marine species, such as tropical fishes, will adapt to these rapid changes in ocean temperature and acidity. Although many organisms are susceptible to future climate changes, some species show remarkable ability of acclimation after generations. In my talk I will discuss our latest research that, by means of an integrative genomics analysis, identified molecular pathways responsible for transgenerational acclimation to rising ocean temperatures of the coral reef fish Acanthochromis polyacanthus and show that selective genomic-wide DNA methylation serves as a central epigenetic mechanism mediating transgenerational acclimation to climate change.

Biography. Tim is a Professor at King Abdullah University of Sciences and Technology and Adjunct Professor at the University of California in San Diego. He graduated from the University of Milan in Italy. Tim is working to develop large-scale, computer-aided models of biological signaling, transcription regulatory networks, and regulatory pathways. He applies new experimental strategies and statistical frameworks with the aim to integrate, model, and visualize the enormous amount of measurements derived from genome-wide experiments, such as ultra-high-throughput DNA and RNA sequencing, proteins and mRNAs expression. He is using these genomics approaches to explore the biodiversity of Coral Reef Ecosystem such as reef fish with a particular interest on the effects of climate change on the evolution and adaptation of reef animals. He has received the 2008 Dolph Adams prize for the most-cited article and Nature Biotechnology selected Tim’s work on biological machine learning classifiers as one of the 2010 top 10 major breakthroughs in computational biology.

Abstract. The Reef Ecology Lab in KAUST’s Red Sea Research Center explores many aspects of movement ecology of marine organisms, ranging from adult migrations to intergenerational larval dispersal. This talk will explore, in some general terms, which groups of coral reef associated animals have high levels of endemism in the Red Sea, an ecosystem with many unique properties. I will also address patterns of biodiversity and biogeography in the Arabian region, including some highlights of new species recently described in the region. For some taxonomic groups, genetic and genomic patterns are investigated to help understand how the distributions of these organisms originated and how their distributions are maintained. The talk will highlight some of the interesting features of the Red Sea, such as the environmental conditions that mirror climate change forecasts for other reef regions, and how the Red Sea fits in the larger picture of biogeography of the Indian Ocean.

Biography. Michael received a Zoology degree from the University of Arkansas in 2001. He then attended JCU to pursue studies in coral reef ecology, specializing in life history and ecology of butterflyfishes under the supervision of Pratchett, Jones, and Choat. He was awarded the PhD in 2007. Michael accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), where he focused on larval connectivity in coral reef fishes. During his time at WHOI, Michael began working in the Red Sea in 2008 in partnership with a new university in Saudi Arabia – the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). Michael joined KAUST in July 2009 as a founding faculty member in the Red Sea Research Center. Michael has authored more than 150 peer-reviewed articles and 3 book chapters, and he has co-edited one book, Biology of Butterflyfishes. His research focuses on advancing general understanding of Red Sea coral reefs and more broadly making contributions to movement ecology, a critical aspect of developing conservation plans in the marine environment. He is particularly interested in connectivity questions ranging from larval dispersal to large distance migrations of adult fishes.


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