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


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


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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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The temperature dependence of behaviour in the common coral trout, Plectropomus leopardus


Wednesday, Jan 30th 2019, 12:00 to 13:00 hrs (AEST)

Building 19 (Kevin Stark Research Building) Room 106 (upstairs), JCU, Townsville
Molly Scott
Molly Scott


Global climate change poses a serious threat to tropical marine ecosystems impacting the viability and sustainability of fisheries. Increasing ocean temperature is considered one of the most pervasive aspects of climate change particularly for ectotherms, such as fishes, whose body temperatures are dictated entirely by their environment. Coral trout, primarily Plectropomus leopardus, are one of the most commercially important fisheries species on the Great Barrier Reef. Recently, concerning results have emerged from experimental studies illustrating the negative effects of temperature on the overall fitness and performance of coral trout. However these studies may have overestimated the thermal sensitivity because they have not taken into account the option of behavioural modification as a mechanism for mediating increasing temperatures in the wild. To address this, I used in situ observation and passive acoustic telemetry to determine the temperature dependence of various behaviours in the wild. I investigated i) foraging capacity, ii) activity patterns iii) home range iv) swimming speeds, and v) depth use to determine if and how P. leopardus may exhibit any capacity to cope with increasing environmental temperatures through behavioural modification.


Molly is from Sydney and obtained a Bachelor of Environmental Science majoring in marine biology from the University of New South Wales. Her honours thesis investigated the influence of an artificial reef on surrounding fish assemblages using underwater video. After a lifetime of temperate marine systems, she decided to head for warmer waters to start a PhD with Prof. Morgan Pratchett and Dr. Michelle Heupel. Her PhD focuses on the temperature dependence of behaviour of the common coral trout, Plectropomus leopardus, to determine its capacity to cope with increasing temperature. She hopes her research will be used for the sustainable management of coral trout fisheries on the Great Barrier Reef and in the Indo-Pacific in the face of rapid environmental change.


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