Broadly, I am interested in exploring how ecological communities are organised by anthropogenic and biophysical processes interacting across space and time. By understanding how the natural variability of ecosystems interacts with human activities to determine ecosystem state, we can better inform the local, context specific and spatially explicit application of ecosystem assessments for management, such as prioritising management interventions based on the recovery potential and degree of depletion from an unimpacted baseline state. To date my research has focussed on tropical coral reefs. These are unique, ecologically complex, high-diversity systems maintained by varied, but overlapping, functions carried out by species operating across spatial and temporal scales, and of critical importance to the food security of millions of people worldwide. During my H2020 EU funded research fellowships at Bangor University, I have worked with Dr Gareth Williams, Reader in Marine Biology and Director of Research Impact at SOS, and Dr Adel Heenan, previously a lecturer in Marine Biology at SOS with >10 years’ experience working for governmental, inter-governmental, and non-governmental agencies, who together combine exceptional track records in academic excellence, interdisciplinary research, and expertise in macroecology, oceanography, fisheries science, statistical modelling, and applied conservation. My EU H2020 funded MSCA research project (FISHSCALE: ref. 844213) involves a novel natural experiment of unprecedented scale, combining advanced Bayesian statistical modelling, a 'functional' ecological approach, and coupling of high-resolution biophysical data to reveal the relative influence of interacting ‘natural’ drivers and local human activities on the ecological structure of reef-fish assemblages across scales (from individual reefs across 35 central western Pacific islands, to regional patterns). Broadly, the research aims to advance our capacity to predict cross-scale spatial patterns of reef-fish communities, providing insight into relative ecosystem health and stability, and therefore advance the science underpinning ecosystem-based management of coral reefs. Specifically, the work assesses the forcing of biophysical mechanisms (such as local hydrodynamics and regional gradients in primary productivity) on the distribution of and cross-scale spatial variation in reef-fish assemblage structure (WP1-2). It also quanitifies how evidence of natural ecological organisation is distrupted by local human impacts (WP3; Richardson et al. 2023 Nat Ecol Evol). Finally, my research seeks to quantify revised 'contemporary' ecological baselines from remote reefs without local human impacts but exposed to anthropogenic climate change, as more pragmatic points of reference, to better predict the risk posed by local humans from which to base decisions of risk-control management, conservation, policy, and governance (WP4).
I received a joint BSc Hons in Social Anthropology with Development Studies from the University of Sussex and an MSc in Marine Environmental Protection from Bangor University. I then worked for the School of Ocean Sciences at Bangor University as Project Support Officer on DEFRA funded Darwin Initiative projects in the Cayman Islands for 3.5 years. These projects combined applied, interdisciplinary approaches to the design, development, and integration of coral reef ecosystem assessments for marine spatial planning. I went on to do a PhD at the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, in Australia, researching how coral reef fish assemblage structure, function, and resilience are influenced by the taxonomic composition of habitat-building corals. Returning to the UK, I did a 12-month postdoc with the University of Exeter and University of Bristol, before returning to Bangor University as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie research fellow. My research at Bangor is funded by a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Sêr Cymru II COFUND Fellowship and a Marie Skłodowska-Curie European Fellowship (FISHSCALE: ref. 844213).
MRes (primary supervisor):
- Thea Moule (2021-2023) - Thesis title: Variation in the body-size spectra of reef fish assemblages among distinct coral habitats, before and after a mass coral bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef.
- Anicia Nalus (2020) - Thesis title: Climate Impacts and the Functional Diversity of Coral Reef Fish Assemblages in the Equatorial Pacific.
- Jessica Harvey (2020) - Thesis title: Local human impacts disrupt benthic community zonation on Pacific Ocean coral reefs.
- Paul Anstey (2020) - Thesis title: Comparing Reef Fish Distributions Across Depths, Among Five Pacific Remote Island Areas.