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PhD Proposal Defense: John Rippe
January 22, 2018 @ 12:20 pm - 1:20 pm
The PhD Proposal Defense of John “JP” Rippe presented by the Department of Marine Sciences. The main location of this event will be in room G201 on the ground floor of Murray Hall on UNC campus in Chapel Hill, NC. The defense will be streamed live to room 222 at IMS in Morehead City, NC. This event will be held on Monday, January 22nd at 12:20 PM.
Title: Assessing the resilience and connectivity of coral reefs at multiple spatial scales throughout the wider Caribbean Sea
Abstract: Over the past three decades, coral reefs in the Caribbean basin 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. Warming oceans are often cited as the most pressing threat to coral reefs, as high temperatures can lead to a fatal breakdown in the delicate symbiosis between coral host and a key single-celled algae in a process known as coral bleaching. Yet, an important secondary consequence of climate change is the projected increase in the frequency of intense tropical storms, as foreshadowed by the activity of the most recent hurricane season. Beyond the direct physical impacts to coral reefs associated with high winds and wave action, storms generate significant levels of precipitation that can dramatically alter the water quality of the coastal environment. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates sclerochronology, microbial community analysis and population genetics, my research will explore the physiological resilience of corals in the wider Caribbean Sea to these impending climate threats and will evaluate the patterns by which population connectivity may bolster coral reef resilience across a cascade of spatial scales. The results of these projects will provide insight into the future trajectory of Caribbean reefs and will aid managers in identifying critical reef areas that warrant protection.