About the Project
Scleractinian corals are the ecosystem engineers of coral reefs, and synchronous spawning is an essential process for adaptation and recovery of coral populations. Most corals spawn synchronously during short seasonal periods and the timing of these events depends on environmental cues (Keith et al. 2016, Proc Royal Soc B, 283:20160011). Given the importance of sea temperature in reproductive phenology, climate change impacts could disrupt spawning synchrony, with long-term consequences for population viability (Sheslinger & Loya 2020, Science, 365:1002-1007). Our understanding of how global-scale human impacts affect coral reproductive timing and synchrony has, until recently, been limited by i) a lack of large-scale datasets on coral reproductive phenology, and ii) technical challenges associated with experiments to manipulate seasonal environmental cycles. This exciting project will utilise a recently compiled, large database on coral spawning timing, including >6000 individual observations of the time or day of spawning for over 300 coral species, to investigate spatial and temporal patterns of spawning synchrony and phenology. These analyses will be complemented by manipulative tank experiments to test hypotheses about the drivers of spawning timing (Craggs, Guest et al. 2017, Ecology and Evolution, 24: 11066-11078). The student will gain experience analysing large datasets as well as practical hands-on experience conducting manipulative experiments using state-of-the-art aquarium facilities
Each of our studentship awards include 3.5 years of fees (Home), an annual living allowance (£15,285) and a Research Training Support Grant (for travel, consumables, as required).