French and Australian scientists are working together to understand how climate change is affecting reef sharks in French Polynesia, why corals in New Caledonia can survive extremes of temperature and acidity, and what fish markets mean for reef health.
On Mo’orea in French Polynesia, Dr Jodie Rummer leads a project studying baby sharks to see how they will cope with climate change.
Small Australian sharks have been exposed as bigger homebodies than previously thought, in a study that took an existing chemical tracking technique and made it work for Great Barrier Reef sharks.
The study found that the travel history of the Australian sharpnose shark was written in their blood—with chemical ‘fin-prints’ showing they tended to stay within smaller areas than previously believed.
“Small-bodied sharks that are both predator and prey, such as the Australian sharpnose, may be particularly important links between food webs,” says lead researcher Dr Sam Munroe, who studied the sharks while at James Cook University in Townsville.
“Information on their movements can improve our understanding of how the ecosystems function, while also helping us predict species most at risk from the impacts of a changing environment.”
Dr Jodie Rummer, marine biologist, James Cook University, Townsville
Dr Jodie Rummer swims with sharks for her research. She is fascinated by fish and their ability to deliver oxygen to their muscles 20 to 50 times more efficiently than we can. Her global research into salmon, mackerel, hagfish, and now sharks explains why fish dominate the oceans, and has given her the opportunity to swim with sharks in the world’s largest shark sanctuary, in French Polynesia.
Her L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowship will help her predict how sharks and other fish will cope with rapidly changing oceans. Some will be winners, some will be losers as the climate changes. That’s a problem not just for the oceans, but also for the communities that depend on fish for protein.
“Fish have been on the planet for hundreds of millions of years. It’s up to us to ensure they’re here for the next 100 million years,” she says.
Australia’s birds are bright and noisy compared with birds elsewhere, so perhaps it is no surprise they account for over 18 million of the more than 30 million observations in the Atlas of Living Australia; including records from before European settlement.
Now, funded by the Australian National Data Service (ANDS), a team led by spatial ecologist Dr Jeremy VanDerWal of the Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change at James Cook University (JCU) is developing a website, known as “Edgar”, to clean up existing records and augment them with reliable observations from enthusiastic and knowledgeable bird watchers.
Dr Tracy Ainsworth’s research is changing our understanding of the tiny coral animals that built Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef. Tracy and her colleagues at James Cook University in Townsville have found that the process of coral bleaching is a far more complex than previously thought, and begins at temperatures lower than previously considered. And she’s done so by applying skills in modern cell biology which she picked up working in neuroscience laboratories.
Her achievements won her a $20,000 L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowship in 2011, which she is using to study the low light, deep water reefs that underlie tropical surface reefs at depths of 100 metres or more. Continue reading The complex life of coral→