Alfonso Ruiz Moreno - Honours Candidate

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In 2017 I completed a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology Advanced at James Cook University. During my degree, I became fascinated with species abundance patterns. So, this year I decided to start an honours project under the supervision of Prof. Sean Connolly and Dr. Tobin Northfield. For my honours research, I am interested in the ecological processes behind patterns of species abundance. Specifically, I am formulating community dynamics models that can simultaneously explain multiple ecological patterns.

Email: alfonso.ruizmoreno@my.jc

Cheng-Han Tsai – PhD Candidate

Image of Cheng-HanI completed a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Forestry in National Taiwan University, studying the spatial patterns of woody plant communities in a subtropical  rainforest. After a year-long military service, I decided to continue my interests in ecology and worked as a research assistant in Institute of Oceanography, Prof Chih-hao Hsieh's lab, where I studied the lake ecosystems and the ecological modelling, statistics and nonlinear dynamic systems. Currently,  I am a PhD student under the supervision of Sean Connolly, Hugh Sweatman, Aaron MacNeil, and David Bellwood. My project focuses on community assembly and diversity-stability relationships in coral reef fishes on the Great Barrier Reef. I am interested in how the diverse tropical reef fishes can coexist  and how the community assembly influences the ecosystem stability. This project aims to answer the two central questions of community ecology and will focus on modelling the multi-species dynamics of reef fish communities.


Jessica Zamborain Mason – PhD Candidate

Image of JessicaSince she was a child, growing up in the snowy mountains of the Spanish Pyrenees, Jessica has been fascinated by the immensity of the oceans and the creatures within them. This fascination grew with time; making Jessica complete a Bachelor’s degree in Marine Science (Oceanography) at the University of Vigo (Spain), and undertake internships at the University of Baja California (Mexico) and at the Algarve University (Portugal). Throughout these learning adventures in different parts of the world, one thing was clear to her: the degrading state of the world´s oceans and the dependence of human societies on them. Her research interest shifted from dolphins and whales to seafood and people. She noticed the importance of accounting for humans as central elements in ecosystems and decided she wanted her career to focus on contributing towards the ecologic, social and economic sustainability of the world’s fisheries. For her Honours, Jessica studied the impact of human development on marsh and seagrass ecosystems from the North Atlantic Spanish coast. Then, she completed a Master’s degree in Fisheries Biology and Management at James Cook University (Australia) where she used mathematical models and network theory to increase our knowledge on how marine reserve networks should be designed to promote the persistence of metapopulations. Currently, Jessica is at James Cook University and the ARC Centre of Excellence of Coral Reef Studies completing her PhD under the supervision of Professors Sean Connolly and Joshua Cinner. During this project, she aims to further our understanding on the current functional state of the world´s coral reef ecosystems, how this state is influenced by environmental and socio-economic factors, and provide tangible management recommendations that allow to achieve sustainable targets. Jessica hopes this allows her to move a step forwards towards her goal in life: protect the oceans and the valuable goods and services they provide to human societies.


Katie Peterson - PhD Candidate

KatiePeterson.jpgI was born and raised in California but also lived in Louisiana for a number of years. In 2010 I completed a dual BSc in Biology and Coastal Environmental Science at Louisiana State University. After graduating, I spent two years working in Southeastern Louisiana recording wetland loss and vegetation community changes in areas affected by the BP Oil Spill. I escaped the swamp to return to California and earned a Master's of Environmental Science and Management (MESM) at the Bren School in University of California, Santa Barbara. My MESM thesis focused on rights-based management in tropical artisanal fisheries. Shortly after graduating from UCSB, I followed my love of tropical ecology to Australia and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. For my PhD, I am examining how community coexistence mechanisms affect ecological stability, under the supervision of Prof. Sean Connolly, Dr. Mike Bode, and Prof. Terry Hughes.


Kevin Bairos-Novak - PhD Candidate

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I hail from the central prairies of Canada (Winnipeg, Manitoba) where I completed a B.Sc. Honours while working in numerous behavioural and population ecology labs at the University of Manitoba. From there, I went on to do an M.Sc. with Drs. Maud Ferrari and Douglas Chivers at the University of Saskatchewan, working on predation and chemical ecology of tadpoles, fish, and cuttlefish. After I filled my behavioural toolkit, I decided to skip the pond and head to the ecological modelling group at James Cook University to gain a new skillset in population and evolutionary modelling. My primary supervisor is Prof. Sean Connolly, with secondary supervision by Dr. Mia Hoogenboom. My project focuses on the evolution of corals and their symbionts in regards to temperature tolerance and projected climate change. For more info about me, please visit my personal site:


Mariana Alvarez Noriega – PhD Candidate

Image of MarianaIn 2014 I did my honours project at James Cook University looking at the maintenance of coral biodiversity under the supervision of Sean Connolly, Josh Madin and Andrew  Baird. I examined whether colony growth forms responded differently to available space under fluctuating environmental conditions, and whether these differences could promote the coexistence between different coral morphologies. I recently started my PhD which will expand on my honours research.