Niche construction, plasticity and the diversity of coral reef fauna
The aim of my PhD project is to assess the capacity of corals, as bioengineers, to modify environmental states (such as temperature, light and flows) and evaluate how this can affect natural selection on them and other organisms, in accordance with the Niche Construction Theory (NCT). I will perform transplantation experiments to study coral adaptive phenotypic plasticity, with a particular focus on morphological traits, in order to investigate its role in niche construction patterns. Long-term observations of coral reefs in Lizard Island (Australia) will provide insights on the relationships among coral fitness, biodiversity and environmental niches in natural reef systems. The project involves collaborations with leading coral reef and marine robotic researchers, namely Dr Joshua Madin (Macquaire University), Dr Mia Hoogenboom (James Cook University), Prof. Stefan Williams (University of Sydney) and Dr Oscar Pizarro (University of Sydney).
Dr Maria Dornelas