News

21 Sept 2017

LAB MEETING: Today in lab meeting, Mariana will present a talk on competition between adult corals. Come along and hear about her work and join in discussion.

12 Apr 2016

PAPER: In two papers just published, Ecological Modelling lab alumnus Joshua Madin, working with Sean, Mia, and lab alumna Sally Keith, have announced the development of the Coral Trait Database. A paper in Nature Publishing Group's Scientific Data describes the online database, while a second paper, published in Trends and Ecology and Evolution, offers a critical review of trait-based approaches to coral ecology and evolution, and illustrates the kinds of uses to which the database can be put.

Press release: Read

Coral Trait Database: www.coraltraits.org

Scientific Data paper: Read

Trends in Ecology and Evolution paper: Read

24 Sep 2015

LAB MEETING: Tomorrow in lab meeting, Sean will give a run-through of a presentation for Academic Board on the topic of “Attracting and Challenging High-Achieving Students.” Please come along to provide him with some feedback.

10 Sep 2015

LAB MEETING: In lab meeting tomorrow, Shane will be presenting some preliminary analyses of his species removal experiment to evaluate the contrasting predictions of foraging and competition theory. Please come along and provide feedback.

01 Sep 2015

LAB MEETING: This week, Cheng-Han will be giving a practice run of his confirmation seminar. Please come along and give him some comments and feedback.

26 Aug 2015

LAB MEETING: In lab meeting this week, Grace will be presenting some results of her analysis of spatial structure in the community similarity of corals, as she gears up to draft a manuscript for submission. We’ll meet at 4pm, in the usual place. Please come along and provide comments and suggestions.

19 Aug 2015

LAB MEETING: Sean was dying to lead a discussion of another Ecological Monograph this Friday (something a little more in-depth and technically challenging than the last one). However, he has reluctantly decided to give way for Mike McWilliam. Mike will be presenting some work-in-progress that he is envisioning making up the first chapter of his thesis. Please come along to provide feedback.

12 Aug 2015

LAB MEETING: Saskia will be giving a practice confirmation seminar. Please come along to provide feedback.

28 Jul 2015

LAB MEETING: In lab meeting on Friday, Martino is going to give a practice talk for ESA (the North American one). Please come along and provide feedback. 4pm in the usual place.

11 Mar 2015

LAB MEETING: This Friday, in lab meeting, Martino will be giving a practice exit seminar. Please come along to provide feedback. See you all there.

23 Feb 2015

LAB MEETING: We’ll start off lab meetings this year with a discussion of a paper by Hooten et al. on Bayesian Model Selection. See you all at 4pm.

22 Jan 2015

LAB MEETING: In tomorrow’s lab meeting, Ron Goodwin will be presenting some preliminary modelling of sea turtle populations at Raine Island. Please come along for a 4pm start.

18 Sep 2014

LAB MEETING: In tomorrow’s lab meeting, Martino will be giving us an update on his research into nitrogen-limited microalgal population growth.

11 Sep 2014

LAB MEETING: In this week’s lab meeting, Brett Sheffers, a research fellow in the CTBCC, will be presenting.

29 Aug 2014

LAB MEETING: In lab meeting today, Shane will be presenting the second rub-through of his exit seminar. Please come along and provide feedback.

18 July 2014

PAPER: Microbial community structure on coral reefs is strongly influenced by coral–algae interactions; however, the extent to which this influence is mediated by fishes is unknown. Territorial damselfish mediate benthic dynamics on coral reefs by excluding fleshy macroalgae, cultivating palatable turf algae and chasing away intruders to protect resources. To investigate whether territorial damselfishes influence benthic microbial communities, Jordan and Sean , along with JCU colleagues Tracy Ainsworth and Howard Choat, assessed how territorial damselfish in the genus Stegastes alter algal microbial assemblages and coral health. Microbial sequencing revealed that inside Stegastes' territories, there was a two to three times greater relative abundance of potential coral pathogens with high sequence similarity to those amplified from black band disease (BBD) affected corals. Disease surveys further revealed a significantly higher occurrence of BBD inside Stegastes' territories. These findings demonstrate the first link between fish behaviour, reservoirs of potential coral disease pathogens and the prevalence of coral disease. Given the recently-hypothesized positive relationship between overfishing and damselfish abundance, a damselfish-pathogen link may have major implications for disease dynamics and the management of coral health in reef systems.

Media release: Damselfish ‘algal gardens’ harbour coral disease

09 June 2014

PAPER: Understanding life history and demographic variation among species within communities is a central ecological goal. Mortality schedules are especially important in ecosystems where disturbance plays a major role in structuring communities, such as coral reefs. In a paper just out in Ecology Letters, Ecological Modelling Lab alumni Josh and Maria, working with Sean , and JCU colleague Andrew Baird, test whether a trait-based, mechanistic model of mechanical vulnerability in corals can explain mortality schedules. Specifically, they ask whether species that become increasingly vulnerable to hydrodynamic dislodgment as they grow have bathtub-shaped mortality curves, whereas species that remain mechanically stable have decreasing mortality rates with size, as predicted by classical life history theory for reef corals. The study involved tracking hundreds of coral colonies for five years at Lizard Island on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.  It turns out that there is a strong signature of physical forces on coral mortality during normal conditions. This “background” mortality, although traditionally understood to be important, has fallen off the radar in recent times due to a focus on occasional extreme disturbances, which tend to affect local areas for short periods of time.  We also found that size-dependent mortality is highly consistent between species with the same growth form and that the shape of size-dependent mortality for each growth form can be explained by mechanical vulnerability. The findings highlight the feasibility of predicting assemblage-scale mortality patterns on coral reefs with trait-based approaches.

  • Madin, JS, AH Baird, M Dornelas, and SR Connolly 2014. Mechanical vulnerability explains size-dependent mortality of reef corals. Ecology Letters. Early View: DOI: 10.1111/ele12306

02 June 2014

PAPER: On coral reefs, diver-surveys of shark abundance indicate that populations are severely depleted, even in no-take zones with low-levels of illegal fishing, but are protected by strictly enforced no-entry zones.These findings have been questioned, on the grounds that diver-surveys overestimate shark abundance, especially in areas where sharks have low familiarity with divers. In a recent paper in Biological Conservation, Sean, working with Justin Rizzari (the lead author, a PhD student in the ARC Centre) and Ashley Frisch (a former Research Fellow in the Centre) quantify how well absolute abundances from alternative diver-based and diver-independent survey methods agree with one another. They also tested whether sharks are attracted to divers, and if so, whether the attraction is stronger in locations from which humans are excluded. They found no evidence of high initial encounter rates of sharks during dives (as one would expect if counts were biased), even in strictly enforced protection zones that exclude humans. Also, timed-swim diver transects produced comparable estimates of shark density to baited remote underwater video (BRUV, a diver-independent method), and a “squeaky bottle” technique designed to attract sharks with sound. Estimates of shark density differences between fished and no-take zones from timed swims also closely matched comparative experimental catch rate data. The results indicate that timed-swim diver-based counts of shark abundance are robust methods for estimating shark density, and that conclusions based on these counts – including the conclusion that shark populations on the GBR have been severely depleted by overfishing (likely mainly bycatch mortality) – are robust.

28 May 2014

PAPER: Tests of biodiversity theory have been controversial partly because alternative formulations of the same theory seemingly yield different conclusions. This has been a particular challenge for neutral theory, which has dominated tests of biodiversity theory over the last decade. Neutral theory attributes differences in species abundances to chance variation in individuals’ fates, rather than differences in species traits. In a paper just out in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, Sean, leading a large team of collaborators from the Census of Marine Life project, conducted a uniquely robust test of neutral theory across a global data set of marine assemblages, by identifying common features of different neutral models. Consistently, abundances vary more among species than neutral theory predicts, challenging the hypothesis that community dynamics are approximately neutral, and implicating species differences as a key driver of community structure in nature.

  • Connolly, S.R., M.A. MacNeil, M.J. Caley, N. Knowlton, E. Cripps, M. Hisano, L.M. Thibaut, B.D. Bhattacharya, L. Benedetti-Cecchi, R. E. Brainard, A. Brandt, F. Bulleri, K.E. Ellingsen, S. Kaiser, I. Kröncke, K. Linse, E. Maggi, T. O’Hara, L. Plaisance, G.C.B. Poore, S.K. Sarkar, K.K. Satpathy, U. Schückel, A. Williams, R.S. Wilson. 2014. Commonness and rarity in the marine biosphere. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doi:10.1073/pnas.1406664111

Media release: New biodiversity study throws out controversial scientific theory

23 May 2014

LAB MEETING: In lab meeting today, Neil is going to be presenting a draft exit seminar. Please come along and provide feedback.

16 May 2014

LAB MEETING: In lab meeting this week, Jess will be presenting some work on updating her dispersal kernel for the Keppel Islands coral trout metapopulation, taking advantage of some new data. Please come along and provide feedback.

09 May 2014

LAB MEETING: Shane will be giving a practice run of his exit seminar. Please come and provide feedback. See you at 4pm in the usual place.

06 May 2014

PAPER: To investigate the consequences of increasing ocean temperatures for coral dispersal patterns, Joana and Sean, together with colleagues Andrew Baird and Saki Harii, experimentally calibrated the effect of temperature on larval survival and settlement in a dynamic model of coral dispersal. They found that, on most reefs around the world, the proportion of larvae retained on the natal reef will increase. However, as more coral larvae will settle locally, fewer will disperse longer distances, leaving reefs less connected. The implications of higher local retention and reduced connectivity will vary with the spatial distribution of habitat patches and disturbance severity. Populations that rely on local retention for persistence, such as those on isolated reefs, are likely to benefit from the projected increases in local retention, recovering faster from disturbances. However, interconnected reef systems that depend on the recruitment of coral larvae from other reefs may recover after a disturbance.  The loss of connectivity will also reduce the rates at which warm-adapted corals may expand their ranges to higher latitudes.

01 April 2014

PAPER: In a new paper, Sal and Sean, working with lab alumna Ailsa Kerswell, present support for the classic hypothesis that, at high latitudes, environmental conditions are the dominant regulators of diversity, whereas at low latitudes, other factors, such as biotic interactions, are more important.Macroalgae provide an excellent opportunity for tests of hypotheses that attempt to explain the latitudinal diversity gradient for two reasons: they exhibit an inverse latitudinal gradient; and the three macroalgal clades have converged ecologically but are evolutionarily distinct.These characteristics enable effective discrimination of the importance for diversity gradients of environmental variables that are collinear with latitude and the consequences of evolutionary history. They used spatial analysis to show that the capacity for environmental conditions to predict macroalgal diversity varies geographically.Specifically, they found that predictive ability diminishes with decreasing latitude, which suggests environment is not responsible for determining macroalgal diversity within the tropics. Instead, it follows that alternative factors, such as biotic interactions, limit macroalgal diversity in the tropics.

14 Mar 2014

LAB MEETING: Martino will present some of his work using population dynamics models to analyse his experimental microalgae data. See you at 4pm in the usual place.

04 Mar 2014

LAB MEETING: This week’s lab meeting is on Thursday. Theophilus and Mariana will be giving a practice run of their Honours proposal seminars (scheduled for Wednesday next week). Please come and give them feedback. See you at 1pm in the usual place.

27 Feb 2014

LAB MEETING: In tomorrow’s lab meeting, Sean will be doing a run-through of a talk he’s giving at Melbourne Uni next week. We’ll also do sign-ups for the rest of the semester, so think about a few different possible times that you’d like to present your work or have a discussion about a paper. We’ll meet at 4pm in the usual room.

29 Jan 2014

LAB MEETING: We’re going to kick start lab meetings early this year, with the first for next Monday. Jess has some results from her first chapter that she would like to present and get some feedback on. We’ll start at 3pm, usual place. Please come if you are around and give her some feedback.

28 Nov 2013

Sean, Josh, Maria and Tom on Lizard Island

FIELD TRIP: Sean has just returned from Lizard Island, where he has been studying the community structure of demographic rates in reef corals since 2008, in collaboration with Ecological Modelling Lab alumni, Josh Madin and Maria Dornelas (pictured), and Andrew Baird (not pictured). This year they were joined by Vivian Cumbo (not pictured) and Tom Hata (pictured), a PhD student who works with Mark Denny at Stanford.

25 Oct 2013

AWARD: Congratulations to Sean and Martino for winning the grand final soccer game for Ross River Football Club!

Sean and Martino won the grand final soccer game

22 Oct 2013

LAB MEETING: This Friday, Gerardo Martin, a PhD student in the Health/Molecular Sciences Faculty, will be presenting some research project ideas on the modelling of Hendra virus transmission dynamics. Please come along at the usual time and place, welcome Gerardo to the group, and provide some feedback.

16 Oct 2013

Martino was awarded

AWARD: Congratulations to Martino for being awarded “Best oral presentation” at the 2013 AIMS@JCU Seminar Day!

02 Oct 2013

LAB MEETING: This week’s lab meeting will be on Thursday at the usual place and time. Martino will be presenting a practice talk for the AIMS@JCU student seminar day (15th Oct at Reef HQ). His talk will be about effects of nitrogen history on nitrate and ammonium uptake and cell division in the microalga Chlorella sp. Please come along and give feedback.

30 Sept 2013

PAPER: Understanding “realized” patterns of demographic connectivity – the extent to which dispersing larvae can actually contribute to local population dynamics where they settle – is critical to understanding how much dispersal potential in coral larvae will translate to their capacity to maintain demographic links between protected areas, and to shift their geographical distributions in response to climate change. In a paper in Oecologia, Erin and Sean, along with Andrew Baird and Bette Willis, have examined the consequences of delayed settlement on the post-settlement survival and growth (polyp budding) of scleractinian corals. They reared coral larvae in the lab, settled them at 2, 4, and 6 weeks after fertilization, and then deployed them in the field to determine their subsequent survival and growth. They found negligible deleterious effects of delayed settlement on either survival or growth. These results are consistent with Erin’s previous findings – that coral larvae enter a hypo-metabolic state within about 2 weeks of fertilization, and therefore use up very little of their available energy stores during their subsequent weeks in the plankton. The findings indicate that the high dispersal potential of corals previously documented by lab members is likely to have substantial post-dispersal consequences for population dynamics.

  • Graham, E.M., A.H. Baird, B.L. Willis, and S.R. Connolly. 2013. Effects of delayed settlement on post-settlement growth and survival of scleractinian coral larvae. Oecologia 173(2): 431-438

30 Sept 2013

AWARD: Congratulations to Sally for attaining her second-degree black belt in Taekwon-do!

Sally's Jumping Turning Break

20 Sept 2013

LAB MEETING: In today’s lab meeting, Ed Roberts will be presenting some of the results from his Honours research, which focuses on deep water reef systems. Please come along and give him some feedback.

17 Sept 2013

AWARD: A big congratulations to Sean who has been awarded First Runner Up in the prestigious Elsevier Scopus Young Researcher of the Year Awards 2013. Visit Elsevier to find out more!

13 Sept 2013

LAB MEETING: In today’s lab meeting, Karen Chong-Seng will be discussing the appropriateness of three different approaches to analyze her data. Please come along and think through them with her.

04 Sept 2013

AWARD: We are very happy to announce that Sean has been listed as one of three finalists for the Life Sciences and Biological Sciences category of The Scopus Young Researcher of the Year Awards 2013! This highlights his continuous effort and exceptionally high achievement in the field of Science. Congratulations Sean! You are truly inspirational to all of us. The winners of the awards will be presented at the Australian Research Management Society Conference in Adelaide on 13th Sept 2013. Visit Elsevier to find out more.

23 Aug 2013

LAB MEETING: In lab meeting today, Martino will be presenting his current project on microalgae. Come along and give him some feedbacks. See you at 4pm.

08 Aug 2013

LAB MEETING: In lab meeting tomorrow, we have three practice conference talks: Jordan (for ACRS), and Sally and Sean (for INTECOL). We will start at 3:30 pm. Please come along and give feedback.

01 Aug 2013

LAB MEETING: In lab meeting tomorrow, Mara will be presenting results from her internship, on the extent to which abundance-based community phylogenetic methods can successfully detect the effects of environmental filtering and limiting similarity on community composition. See you all at 4pm.

24 Jul 2013

PAPER: Competition between species has long been considered one of the important processes structuring ecological communities. Competition is often conceptualised as being either indirect (i.e., exploitation competition) or direct (i.e., interference competition). However, most empirical studies are “phenomenological”, in that they focus on putative outcomes of competition rather than mechanisms, and the majority of theory characterizes exploitation competition. Importantly, the existence of hypothesized ecological guilds comprised of aggressive, socially dominant specialists and subordinate generalists have not been demonstrated empirically. In a recent paper in The American Naturalist, Shane, and Sean, working with Morgan Pratchett , examine the relationship of dietary ecology and phylogeny to heterospecific aggression (aggression between individuals of different species) among coral-feeding butterflyfishes. They show that heterospecific aggression depends on a synergistic interaction of dietary overlap and specialisation: aggression increases with dietary overlap for interactions between specialists but not for interactions involving generalists. Moreover, behavioural dominance is an increasing function of dietary specialisation. Additionally, phylogenetic analyses reveal strong phylogenetic signals in both dietary overlap and specialisation but not behavioural dominance. Their results support the use of phylogeny as a proxy for ecological similarity among butterflyfishes, but show that direct measures of dietary overlap and specialisation are much better predictors of heterospecific aggression than phylogeny.

  • Blowes, S.A., M.S. Pratchett, and S.R. Connolly. 2013. Heterospecific aggression and dominance in a guild of coral-feeding fishes: the role of dietary ecology and phylogeny. American Naturalist 182(2): 157-168

23 Jul 2013

LAB MEETING: We’ll kick off lab meetings this semester with a practice Confirmation Seminar this Friday from Jess. She’ll be talking about the effects of connectivity and reserve design on the population and fishery dynamics of coral trout.

19 Jun 2013

PAPER: The Mid-Domain Effect (MDE) refers to a decrease in species richness with increasing distance from the centre of a region or ‘domain’ (for example, coral richness decreases towards the edges of the Indo-Pacific) that occurs in the absence of any associated environmental gradients. The basic idea is that, because randomizing the locations (or locations and sizes) of species ranges in biogeographical data sets produces hump-shaped richness patterns, these patterns might arise in nature due to stochastic colonization-extinction dynamics operating in the absence of environmental gradients. However, whether such dynamics really produce MDEs, and if so under what conditions, has been questioned. In a recent paper in Global Ecology & Biogeography, Sally and Sean use process-based models to dynamically simulate species geographic ranges in a homogeneous domain. In contrast to previous studies, theyextensively explored the universe of possible colonization-extinction-speciation rate combinations, and they extended the model to determine whether the richness patterns altered if the ability of a species to colonize or persist in a patch decreased as the patch filled up with species. It turns out that MDE’s are pretty hard to produce in this kind of a model – at least, MDEs that involve gradients in “alpha” diversity. You need to tune the colonization and extinction parameters just right to get MDEs, and when species affect each others’ colonization and extinction rates, even that doesn’t work. While this doesn’t mean that MDEs can’t happen under any conceivable circumstances, it certainly narrows down the range of situations in which MDE-type mechanisms are likely to be major contributors to species richness gradients in nature.

30 May 2013

LAB MEETING: In lab meeting this Friday, Erin is going to present an argument for a paper on the effects of temperature on the survival and metabolism of coral larvae.

24 May 2013

LAB MEETING: In lab meeting today, Shane is going to present some ideas for a thesis chapter on the differential susceptibility of specialists vs. generalists to disturbance – focusing, of course, on butterflyfishes. See you all at 4!

24 May 2013

PAPER: Info-Pacific coral assemblages were traditionally thought to be characterized by a gradual decline of species richness with increasing distance from a central hotspot located within Indonesia, and the drivers of this pattern were unresolved. In a recent paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Sally, Sean and co-authors used a new approach for understanding biodiversity gradients to reveal that instead, coral assemblages experience abrupt transitions where geographical range limits of multiple species are co-located. These faunal breaks delineate eleven distinct Indo-Pacific faunal provinces that are linked with the tectonic structure of the region, implying a stronger role for historical processes in the generation and maintenance of coral biodiversity than previously recognized. This finding implies that formerly documented strong environment-richness correlations are potentially misleading, and highlights the insights to be achieved through harnessing multi-disciplinary approaches to understanding large-scale biodiversity patterns. We also investigated explicitly how species traits influenced species distributions across faunal breaks, and found that species with broad depth distributions, from older genera, and with larger egg sizes were most likely to be widespread.

Coral reef spread ‘ruled’ by volcanoes

Coral reefs ‘ruled by earthquakes and volcanoes’

16 May 2013

LAB MEETING: This Friday, Tom Bridge will be presenting some results and ideas from his work on mesophotic reefs. Come along to hear about deep reefs, and to give Tom feedback.

15 May 2013

PAPER: For a long time now we’ve known that scleractinian coral larvae have exceedingly long larval durations, with some species able to spend up to three months as pelagic larvae under laboratory conditions. This longevity is particularly surprising because most reef-building coral larvae lack zooxanthellae and are considered non-feeding. In a recent paper in Coral Reefs, Erin, Sean, and coauthors identified rapid declines in metabolic rates as one possible mechanism for larval longevity in four species of corals. Once the energetically-demanding development process is complete, coral larvae enter a state of reduced metabolism which enables them to make the most of their limited reserves. The results suggest the energetic cost of extended larval durations may not be as high as once assumed for non-feeding coral larvae.

  • Graham, E.M., Baird, A.H., Connolly, S.R., Sewell, M.A., and Willis, B.L. 2013. Rapid declines in metabolism explain extended coral larval longevity. Coral Reefs 32(2): 539-549

10 May 2013

LAB MEETING: In lab meeting today, Martino will be presenting some of his preliminary results on the differences between nitrate & ammonium limited growth in his micro-algal system. See you all there!

24 Apr 2013

LAB MEETING: Stephen is giving a practice exit seminar in lab meeting this week, so please come along and give feedback. We’ll start a little earlier than usual (3:30pm).

11 Apr 2013

LAB MEETING: Joana is giving a practice job talk for lab meeting tomorrow, so *please* make a special effort to come along and provide feedback. We’ll start at 3pm this week.

11 Apr 2013

PAPER: For a variety of reasons, it has often been thought that a link must exist between coral disease outbreaks and bleaching events. However, to date evidence from field studies for such a correlation either in time or in space has generally been weak, and rigorous statistical analysis of temporal and spatial correlation patterns has been lacking. Furthermore, little work has been done regarding the utility of sea surface temperature in predicting bleaching in deeper reef slope habitats as opposed to the shallow reef crest. In a paper recently published in Coral Reefs, Stephen , Sean, and colleague Dr Nicholas Graham analysed data from the Australian Institute of Marine Science’s (AIMS) Long-term Monitoring Program to assess whether a connection could be found between bleaching events and disease outbreaks, and if so, whether incorporating information about these events could improve the performance of statistical models for predicting them using a suite of established temperature anomaly metrics. Surprisingly, they found no evidence for either an immediate or lagged temporal effect of bleaching on disease (or vice versa), and no spatial correlation, either. Furthermore, models to predict bleaching were no more accurate when disease was included as a variable than when it was omitted (and vice-versa).  Temperature anomaly metrics that others have shown to perform well in predicting reef-crest bleaching also showed little ability to predict reef-slope bleaching. This paper thus opens the door to further examination of the temperature-bleaching-disease relationship, and will hopefully encourage others to evaluate the utility of sea-surface temperature measurements for predicting deeper-water bleaching.

  • Ban, S.S., Graham, N.A.J., and Connolly, S.R. 2013. Relationships between temperature, bleaching and white syndrome on the Great Barrier Reef. Coral Reefs 32(1): 1-12

08 Apr 2013

PAPER: The idea behind establishing a marine protected area is to protect the populations living in this area, and also allow these populations to contribute to the repopulation of nearby protected and unprotected areas. Adult corals are “stuck” on the same spot for life, only being able to disperse during the larval stage. Genetic studies suggest that coral larvae usually settle close to home and rarely travel long distances, but these dispersal patterns have so far not been captured well by oceanographic models. In a paper recently published in Ecology, Joana and Sean, along with colleague Andrew Baird, show how larval competence dynamics interact with reef-scale physical retention mechanisms to promote high levels of retention of larvae near the reef where they were born. They also show that predicted inter-specific differences in self-recruitment of corals can be explained by easy-to-measure species traits such as egg size or larval time to motility. This latter finding offers a way of tractably approximate the diversity of dispersal patterns of corals at the assemblage level, without having to take the logistically impractical step of trying to painstakingly calibrate larval competence patterns for hundreds of coral species in species-by-species experiments.

  • Figueiredo, J., Baird, A.H., and Connolly, S.R. 2013. Synthesizing larval competence dynamics and reef-scale retention reveals a high potential for self-recruitment in corals. Ecology 94(3): 650-659

04 Apr 2013

LAB MEETING: In this Friday’s lab meeting, Neil will present some ideas for exploring possible effects of ocean acidification on the growth and reproduction of corals at the population level. Please come along and give some feedback.

27 Mar 2013

LAB MEETING: Due to the long weekend, we will have lab meeting on Thursday this week. Jordan will be giving a practice project update seminar, which is fairly important, so please make a point of coming along and giving feedback.

13 Mar 2013

LAB MEETING: In this Friday’s lab meeting, Sean will lead a discussion on a review paper by Frank (Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 2012) which argues for a reconceptualization of the theory of evolutionary change from an information theory perspective. Please work through the paper and the equations beforehand (beware the paper is 20 pages long!) to participate in the discussion.

07 Mar 2013

LAB MEETING: This Friday’s lab meeting will be a journal club. Please come prepared to talk about articles from your journals that you think will be of interest to people in the group.

11 Feb 2013

PAPER: How biodiversity influences the functioning of ecosystems is one of the major reasons why biodiversity is valuable. One effect that biodiversity has is to influence the temporal variability (or stability) of the overall abundances of groups of species that perform particular functions. In an Idea and Perspective paper in Ecology Letters, “Understanding diversity-stability relationships: towards a unified model of portfolio effects”, Loic and Sean derive a very general relationship that links community stability with stability at the population level, and the synchrony of fluctuations of those populations. The key innovation in the paper is that previous derivations of this relationship have made simplifying assumptions, such as that all species have the same degree of variability in population fluctuations, or all pairs of species’ fluctuations are equally correlated. The relationship Loic and Sean derive in the paper is extremely general, and helps to make sense of some heretofore anomalous empirical results relating diversity and stability. In particular, it helps make clear why the effects of evenness of species abundances on community stability are idiosyncratic, when previous theory has tended to assume that it is consistently stabilizing.

  • Thibaut, L.M. and Connolly, S.R. 2013. Understanding diversity-stability relationships: towards a unified model of portfolio effects. Ecology Letters 16(2): 140-150

21 Dec 2012

PAPER: Ocean acidification is a hot topic at the moment. Following hot on the heels of Josh's paper is a meta-analysis of the effects of acidification on coral calcification, published in Global Change Biology by Neil and Sean. The paper systematically integrated experimental results from the last decade to show that the average magnitude of decline is towards the low end of published projection. They also show that among study variability is large, however different methods of measuring calcification explained a significant proportion of the variability - studies employing the buoyant weighting technique found significantly smaller decreases in calcification compared with studies using the alkalinity anomaly technique. These differences may be due to the greater tendency of the former to integrate over light and dark calcification.

Chan, N.C.S. and Connolly, S.R. 2013. Sensitivity of coral calcification to ocean acidification: a meta-analysis. Global Change Biology 19(1): 282-290

21 Dec 2012

MEETING: Over the last week, Sean was in Brisbane as part of a joint IUCN/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies working group on the decline of Caribbean reefs. <More>

13 Dec 2012

CONFERENCE: Earlier this month (Dec 2-4), Sean ducked out from Lizard Island to speak at the Australian Academy of Science’s Frontiers of Science 2012 meeting: “Science for a green economy”. At the conference, held in Sydney’s Menzies Hotel, Sean talked about the role of no-take marine reserves in the conservation and management of coral reef biodiversity. Unfortunately, Sean didn’t take his camera and his phone is a dinosaur, so there are no pictures C:\Users\jc129774\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5\X5QU5RMC\MC900423163[1].wmf

11 Dec 2012

FIELD TRIP: From 26 November – 10 December, Sean Connolly was at Lizard Island for a long-term project on the community demography of reef corals. <More>

28 Nov 2012

LAB MEETING: In lab meeting this Friday, Sally will present some ideas on to what extent local processes (focused on biotic interactions) can play a role in generating and maintaining macroecological patterns. Please come along and give feedback. We will start the lab meeting at 3pm in the usual place.

22 Nov 2012

LAB MEETING: In lab meeting this Friday, Sean will give a practice run of his talk for the AAS Frontiers in Science meeting coming up in Sydney. Please come along and give feedback.

14 Nov 2012

LAB MEETING: In this Friday’s lab meeting, Martino will be giving a practice run of his confirmation seminar (which is next Friday). Please come along and give him some feedback.

09 Nov 2012

FIELD TRIP: Last week (29th October) Jess Hopf attended the 2012 Graduate Network for Tropical Research (GNTR) workshop, hosted at JCU Cairns. <More>

08 Nov 2012

LAB MEETING: In this Friday’s lab meeting, Rob Puschendorf and Ben Phillips are going to present some results from a recent Proc B submission of theirs. Please come along to provide some feedback. See you all at 4 in the usual place.

30 Oct 2012

LAB MEETING: In lab meeting this Friday, Sally will present some of her preliminary findings about global patterns of richness of macroalgae and its likely environmental drivers.

26 Oct 2012

LAB MEETING: In this Friday’s lab meeting, Jess will be giving a practice run of her 3-minute seminar for an upcoming PhD student conference (Graduate Network in Tropical Research) in Cairns. The talk aims to introduce her and her research interests to a multi-disciplinary group of starting PhD students from several universities around Australia. Please come along and give feedback. It’ll probably be a short meeting this week.

18 Oct 2012

PAPER: In a paper published in the latest issue of American Naturalist, Sean, along with Michael Bode from the University of Melbourne and John Pandolfi from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, test neutral theory of biodiversity using Pleistocene reef communities of Barbados. Sean’s earlier work on this topic, which was led by Maria Dornelas (Dornelas et al., 2006, Nature), identified high spatial structuring in community structure as a key way in which real reef assemblages depart from neutral theory. Bode et al. run with this idea a bit further. Firstly, they consider communities from a time interval that precedes potential human degradation of reefs (and thus recent, transient effects on community structure). Despite this, they obtain qualitatively similar departures from neutral theory as Maria, Sean, and Terry Hughes did, using present-day Pacific reefs. Secondly, they show that the way in which species depart from neutral theory (more or less abundant than expected) is predicted by differences in their colony growth rates. In other words, demographic differences between species are directly responsible, at least in part, for the way in which coral reef assemblages depart from the expectations of neutral theory.

  • Bode, M., S.R. Connolly, and J.M. Pandolfi. 2012. Species differences drive non-neutral structure in Pleistocene coral communities. American Naturalist 180: 577-588

18 Oct 2012

PAPER: Joshua Madin (Ecological Modelling Research Group Alumnus), Sean, and Terry Hughes from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies have just had a paper published in PLoS ONE on the effects of climate change on the population dynamics of tabular reef corals. The paper takes an integral projection modelling approach, characterizing storm-related mortality using the mechanistic theory that Josh developed during his PhD ( Madin & Connolly, 2006, Nature ). The upshot is that ocean acidification (OA) structurally weakens corals, and potentially also the reef matrix to which corals are attached, and this increases the dislodgment mortality caused by hydrodynamic events like large storms and cyclones. The impact of such changes on table coral populations turns out to be highly sensitive to (1) the extent to which corals reduce their growth rates vs. reduce their skeletal density in response to OA; and (2) the extent to which the strength of the reef matrix is degraded by OA.

  • Madin, J.S., T.P. Hughes, and S.R. Connolly. 2012. Calcification, storm damage and population resilience of tabular corals under climate change. PLoS ONE 7(10): e46637

18 Oct 2012

PAPER: And now for something completely different, a paper on the fitness benefits of female promiscuity in guppies in BMC Evolutionary Biology! Sean and Mizue wrote this paper with lead author Miguel Barbosa, and co-authors Anne Magurran & Maria Dornelas (an Ecological Modelling Research Group Alumna!), all at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. It must be popular to write about sex – the paper already has over 1000 views on the BMC website, and a bunch of media hits:

  • Barbosa, M., S.R. Connolly, M. Hisano, M. Dornelas, and A.E. Magurran. 2012. Fitness consequences of female multiple mating: a direct test of indirect benefits. BMC Evolutionary Biology 12:185

Promiscuous female guppies have the upper hand

Why promiscuity can be a good thing

How female promiscuity can be the smart move in evolution

18 Oct 2012

LAB MEETING: This Friday in lab meeting, Sally wants to lead a discussion on Brian McGill’s blog post about scaling up: Scaling up is hard to do. So have a close read of Brian’s post – do try to work through and understand the maths – and come prepared for a discussion.

03 Oct 2012

LAB MEETING: Friday’s lab meeting will be a journal club. Reports should be max. 5 mins per person (12 people = 1 hour). Try to cover the recent highlights within the journal (don’t forget to look at Early View) and papers that others in the group might be interested in.

27 Sept 2012

LAB MEETING: Jordan is presenting her analyses of coral community composition inside & outside of damselfish territories at the lab meeting tomorrow afternoon, usual place and time. Don’t forget to come along to provide feedback.

21 Sept 2012

LAB MEETING: Jordan’s lab meeting talk for today has been *postponed* until next week. I will be away next week, so there will be no reminder, but please make a point of coming along on Friday to give Jordan some feedback on her analyses of coral community composition inside & outside of damselfish territories.

There is nobody signed up for the following two Fridays (when I am also away). I suggest that you have a *journal club* meeting the Friday after next (5th), and then decide on a paper to discuss or something on the following Friday (the 12th).

10 Sept 2012

FIELD TRIP: Jordan Casey recently returned from Lizard Island, where she collected coral (Acropora muricata) and algal samples from damselfish territories and control plots for microbial analysis. <More>

30 Aug 2012

LAB MEETING: In lab meeting tomorrow, we’ll have a guest presentation from Mariana Fuentes (a Research Fellow in the Centre). She will be presenting some of her data, and some ideas for population modelling. Come along ready with feedback and suggestions.

30 Aug 2012

PAPER: Martino’s Honours research on nitrite utilization has just been published in Limnology and Oceanography. It presents a new model that adds nitrite uptake and release dynamics to the standard quota model of nitrate-limited microalgal population dynamics, and calibrates the model using time-series for four microalgal species in batch culture:

23 Aug 2012

WORKING GROUP: Sally’s paper, “What is macroecology?” is now online in Biology Letters. This is the inaugural meeting report of the brand-new British Ecological Society Special Interest Group in Macroecology, which Sally co-founded. <More>

22 Aug 2012

LAB MEETING: Stephen’s going to present and discuss some results of a meta-analysis of synergistic effects of environmental stressors on Friday. Please come along to provide feedback. NOTE the new location: Sir George Fisher Building Conference Room DB32:114.

15 Aug 2012

LAB MEETING: This Friday we’ll be doing a journal club! Please review your journals for the latest ecological modelling related papers and prepare a brief summary for each.

14 Aug 2012

FIELD TRIP: Mia Hoogenboom is on her way to Lizard Island where she will be trialling her new and improved respirometry chamber for whole colony respiration measurements.

28 July 2012

CONFERENCE: Joana Figueiredo will be presenting her latest results on the Impact of climate change on the potential for localized recruitment in reef corals at the 10th International Larval Biology Symposium in San Francisco, USA from 30 July-3 Aug, followed by the 97th ESA Annual Meeting from 5-10 Aug in Portland, USA.

16 Jun 2012

WORKING GROUP: Sean Connolly is catching up with his research fellows in Portugal to discuss their Lizard Island coral project.

08 May 2012

PAPER: A new paper by Loic Thibaut, Sean Connolly, and Hugh Sweatman has been published in the journal Ecology that details the importance of a diverse community of herbivorous fishes to the stability of coral reefs: Jobs depend on small reef fish

28 Sept 2011

PAPER: A new paper in PLoS ONE by Mizue Hisano, Sean Connolly and William D. Robbins was published demonstrating that shark populations on the GBR are in serious decline. View this article here

22 July 2011

PAPER: Global climate change will have an impact on coral reefs but not all corals will be affected the same way, according to a new Science paper by John M. Pandolfi, Sean R. Connolly, Dustin J. Marshall and Anne L. Cohen. Full Text (PDF)