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Research Seminar: JP Rippe
September 26, 2016 @ 12:20 pm - 1:20 pm
Title: Assessing Historical Growth and Connectivity of Coral Reefs at Multiple Scales Throughout the Caribbean Basin
Abstract: Over the past three decades, coral reefs in the Caribbean Sea have experienced severe reductions in live coral cover, biodiversity, and structural complexity, with estimates of total loss reaching 60% region-wide. As reports of decline continue to mount, researchers and managers are pressed to develop action plans that identify and protect the valuable reefs we have left. Such a challenge requires that we understand not only the environmental factors that jeopardize coral reef health, but also the biological and evolutionary forces that strengthen their resilience. Of the many threats to coral reefs, rising ocean temperatures are most frequently implicated in their decline; yet, recent research suggests that the effect of warming on individual coral colonies may vary drastically depending on their prior history of thermal exposure. Specifically, corals in nearshore environments that experience extreme daily and seasonal temperature fluctuations have been found to tolerate rising temperatures more effectively than their counterparts in forereef habitats. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach which incorporates sclerochronology, ex situ experimental design and population genetics, my research seeks to evaluate the nature of this phenomenon specifically throughout the Florida Keys Reef Tract, and to evaluate the potential for local acclimatization to bolster reef resilience at larger spatial scales via larval dispersal. The results of these projects will provide insight into the future trajectory of Caribbean reefs and will aid managers in identifying critical reef areas for protection.