Program 3: Responding to a Changing World
Members of this program work across a range of themes (see introduction). Some are also part of individual research groups (below).
Coral Reef Biogeochemical Laboratories, led by Malcolm McCulloch
The group based at the University of Western Australia focusses on understanding the effects of climate change and ocean acidification on coral bio-calcification in both shallow-water as well deep-sea reef environments. Research areas include the application and/or development of novel coral-based geochemical proxies including in-situ laser ablation, isotopic and trace-element methods to track the impact of global warming, declining seawater pH across a spectrum of environments (tropical to sub-tropical, shallow water to deep-sea) over different timescales. This is complemented by mesocosm, field studies and modelling of reef environments designed to understand and predict how changing physical/chemical/biological conditions and other environmental variability (e.g. thermal induced stress and land-based interactions such as river runoff) influence coral reef ecosystems.
Coral reef ecosystems are ecologically and economically important, but are also being rapidly degraded throughout the world. Pratchett, Hoey and Baird work together (along with a large group of graduate students and early career researchers) to explore the dynamics of reef organisms and interactions among key components of reef ecosystems. This research is fundamental to developing effective management strategies to halt and reverse global degradation of reef ecosystems.
The Coral Reef Ecosystem (CRE) Laboratory includes a number of Post-docs, PhD students and professional staff. The lab is interested in examining the organisms and processes that underlie the structure and function of coral reef ecosystems. Current projects investigate the effects of climate change at both the reef community and species levels, through a large climate controlled water treatment system on Heron Island. Other projects examine reef metabolism, health, biodiversity, connectivity and species interactions, through the use of surveys, in situ environment and organism measurements and photographs from the Catlin Seaview Survey.
Reef fish ecology and climate change, led by Philip Munday
Professor Munday has broad interests in the population, community and behavioural ecology of reef fishes. His research group focuses on understanding and predicting the impacts that climate change and ocean acidification will have on populations and communities of marine fishes, both directly through changes in the physical environment and indirectly through effects on coral reef habitat. Using a range of laboratory and field experiments he is investigating the effects of climate change and ocean acidification on reef fish populations and testing their capacity for acclimation and adaptation to a rapidly changing environment. A major research focus is understanding how exposure to higher temperatures and carbon dioxide levels in one generation affects the ability of subsequent generations of fish to tolerate these conditions (transgenerational acclimation).
With over 400 million years of evolution, the fishes represent one of the most successful adaptive radiation events in vertebrate history. Yet, we do not fully understand how fish are responding to environmental and human-induced stress and their capacity to adapt to global climate change. The physiological changes that fish make in response to stress in order to maintain performance and the significance of these changes to over daily, seasonal, geographic, developmental, and generational scales is the focus the research in the Rummer Lab.
The Physioshark project, led by Dr. Jodie Rummer from James Cook University in Australia, investigates how climate change impacts the physiology of newborn and juvenile reef sharks. Sharks that are born today represent adult shark populations of the future. Understanding how human and environmental impacts affect these sharks is crucial knowledge for developing effective shark conservation strategies.