NERC ONE Planet DTP
Coral reefs provide goods and services worth billions of dollars (Costanza et al 2014 Glob. Env. Change), and yet they are extremely vulnerable to climate change. As a result, there is a major research and conservation focus on restoring damaged reefs and actively assisting corals to adapt to climate change via assisted evolution (Anthony et al 2020, PLoS One). To date most reef restoration projects use simple metrics such as survival of outplanted corals as a measure of success. For restoration to have meaningful conservation benefits requires a wider range of metrics including changes in spatial ecology, structural complexity and demography (Fig. 1). Photogrammetry uses images to reconstruct landscapes and organisms in three dimensions, enabling non-invasive measurement of key success indicators at scale. Photogrammetry has the potential to improve restoration success by: (i) facilitating measurable goals; (ii) innovating and standardizing indicators of success; and (iii) standardizing monitoring (Ferrari et al 2021). This project will utilise time series photogrammetry data from reefs in Palau to investigate spatial and temporal patterns of coral demography. These analyses will be complemented by additional direct observations in the field. The broad aims will be to a) examine ecological and demographic changes to coral assemblages at reef sites in Palau and b) to determine optimal approaches to standardising indicators of reef restoration success. Potential field sampling sites will be determined by the student and supervisory team and could involve expanding our time series data from Palau or establishing new research sites. The student will gain experience analysing large photogrammetry datasets as well as practical hands-on experience conducting field surveys, doing demography analysis to estimate population structure and dynamics and to evaluate the impact of restoration initiatives.
Key Research Gaps and Questions:
Coral reef restoration is emerging as a critical management tool in the Anthropocene. A prerequisite for successful reef restoration is determining meaningful and measurable goals. This requires tools to monitor success in a standardized way. Photogrammetry provides a potential tool to monitor a range of indicators of restoration success. Questions as part of this project will include:
- how can photogrammetry improve restoration planning and goal setting?
- how can we standardize indicators of restoration success using photogrammetry? and
- can photogrammetry help in standardizing monitoring techniques for reef restoration?
At least a BSc degree and ideally an MSc in ecology, zoology, biology or similar. Excellent quantitative and analytical skills are essential. Experience working with photogrammetry, diving field work experience and an interest in coral biology are desirable, but not essential. For more information, please contact James Guest ([Email Address Removed]).