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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Suspended sediments: Effects on coral reef fish physiology and ecology


Tuesday, April 26th - 12:00 to 13:00 hrs.

Building 19 (Kevin Stark Research Building) - Room 106 (upstairs), JCU, Townsville
Sybille Hess
Sybille Hess

Abstract.  Suspended sediment (SS) levels on coral reefs are increasing due to human activities such as cattle grazing, agriculture, and dredging. Rising SS levels have been linked to a decline in coral and reef fish abundance and diversity, posing a significant threat to coral reefs worldwide. While the impacts of SS on corals have received lots of attention, less is known about the effects on reef fish. Recent studies have found that SS exposure modifies the gill structure of reef fish larvae, which may have important consequences for fish performance, and may ultimately contribute to changes in population dynamics. My PhD research aims to investigate this further by examining the effects of SS on gill function, and by determining potential flow-on effects on important activities such as swimming and predator escape performance using lab-based experiments. Further, I will determine the responses of reef fish populations to SS, and will examine their potential to adjust to elevated SS levels. My findings will provide important information about the mechanisms that underpin changes in reef fish communities in response to SS, and will improve our understanding of how rising SS levels will affect coral reef ecosystems.

Biography.  I am a PhD student working under Dr Jodie Rummer, Dr Andrew Hoey, and Dr Amelia Wenger. Originally from Switzerland, I studied the behaviour and ecology of freshwater fish during my BSc, but discovered my passion for coral reefs during a snorkelling trip in the Maledives. I am interested in how human activities affect the physiology and behaviour of coral reef fish, and how this may translate into changes at the population level.


Australian Research Council Pandora

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