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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Understanding plasticity to future environmental change


Wednesday 13th of May 2015 – 09:00 to 10:00 hrs

Building 19 (Kevin Stark Research Building) Room #106 (upstairs), JCU, Townsville
Dr Jenni Donelson
Dr Jenni Donelson

Abstract: Knowledge of the capacity for species to acclimate and adapt to rapid climate change is critical for effective management and conservation of ecosystems in the future. Much of the research to date has used the present-day performance and sensitivity of populations or species to infer the capacity for persistence in predicted future environments. This short-term research suggests negative impacts to most organisms and very little capacity for species to cope with future change. However, new research has shown that some species may be able to improve and maintain performance when altered conditions are experienced early in life or when previous generations have experienced conditions. I present a series of studies that highlight the ability of tropical reef fish to developmentally and transgenerationally acclimate to projected ocean warming. I will discuss evidence for differences between species, populations and within individuals depending on the traits investigated. Finally, I will present my future research directions to address developmental and transgenerational acclimation knowledge gaps for coral reef organisms.

Bio: Jenni Donelson is currently a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Technology Sydney. Her research focuses on the plasticity of fish in the face of changing environmental conditions. Specifically, on the capacity for developmental and transgenerational plasticity of reef fish to potentially enhance performance in future environments. Jenni received her doctorate from James Cook University in 2012 for research on the potential for thermal acclimation in a common coral reef damselfish. She is currently the Hon Treasurer of the Australian Coral Reef Society and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board at Global Change Biology.


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