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Posts Tagged ‘coral bleaching’

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

UQ marine scientists expose planetary emergency in new Netflix doc

A new Netflix documentary, Chasing Coral, has hit the world’s small screens.

UQ marine scientists expose planetary emergency in new Netflix documentary

Chasing Coral poster (Image via UQ)

The University of Queensland’s Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg was the chief scientific adviser on the documentary, which starkly records and reveals the impact of climate change on the world’s coral reefs.

Emmy award-winning filmmaker Jeff Orlowski’s film follows a team of divers, photographers and scientists on the epic ocean adventure.

Professor Hoegh-Guldberg plays a starring role in the documentary along with UQ marine scientists Dr Pim Bongaerts, Dr Manuel Gonzalez-Rivero, Professor Justin Marshall, and other world-renowned coral reef experts.

Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said the documentary was a powerful way to reveal the impact climate change is having on our reefs.

“This is as much about the emotional side of reef losses as it is about the compelling science behind this planetary emergency,” he said.

For the past three years, Jeff and his team have followed the work of The Ocean Agency, revealing the global bleaching event and its impacts on the world’s coral reefs.

Audiences will witness the painful process as the team invent the first ever time-lapse camera to record coral bleaching as it happens. The effort is anything but straightforward as the scientists doggedly battle technical malfunctions and the force of nature below the waves.

With its breathtaking photography, nail-biting suspense, and startling emotion, Chasing Coral is a dramatic production.

The film is the result of more than 650 hours spent underwater, footage from volunteers in 30 countries, as well as support from more than 500 people from across the world.

Chasing Coral by Exposure Labs premiered on Netflix, and was produced in association with Argent Pictures, The Kendeda Fund and in partnership with The Ocean Agency and View Into the Blue.

Master of Environmental Management at the University of Queensland

Environmental management is the planning and implementation of actions geared to improve the quality of the human environment. The postgraduate programs in environmental management at UQ are multidisciplinary programs designed to enhance the skills and technical expertise of graduates working in all facets of the environmental arena. The programs aim to produce managers able to address the many issues in the highly complex and changing area of environmental management. At the master’s level the degree may be taken in a range of fields.

Studies may be undertaken in the following specialisations:

  • Conservation biology
  • Conservation and Natural Resource Management
  • Resource and Environmental Economics
  • Sustainable Development

Why study Conservation Biology?
One of the biggest problems confronting biologists worldwide is the increased extinction rate of animal and plant species. This is due in large part to the impact humans have had on land use, climate and resource consumption—an impact that is decreasing the earth’s biodiversity and increasing the number of endangered or threatened species at an alarming rate. Conservation biology is an integrative discipline that focuses on the problems of restoring and maintaining viable populations of animal and plant species, and natural and managed ecosystems. The program aims to provide core theoretical and practical training in conservation biology.

Program: Master of Environmental Management
Location: Brisbane, Queensland
Semester intakes: February and July
Duration: 1.5 years

Admissions requirements

Bachelor degree in environmental studies, geography, natural resources, biology, ecology, conservation, sustainable development, environmental engineering, marine science, or an approved discipline. UQ or equivalent GPA of 4.5 or above on a 7 point scale.

Apply to the University of Queensland!

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Are you interested in studying environmental sciences or marine science at the University of Queensland? Contact OzTREKK Admissions Officer Heather Brown for more information at heather@oztrekk.com.

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Macquarie scientists help develop coral reef database

With the future of coral reefs threatened now more than ever, researchers have announced the release of a new global database that enables scientists and managers to more quickly and effectively help corals survive their many challenges.

Macquarie University Science degrees

Coral reefs are changing rapidly (Photo credit: Macquarie University)

“Coral reefs are changing rapidly, and that is unlikely to slow down,” said Associate Professor Joshua Madin from Macquarie University’s Genes to Geoscience Research Centre, who led the team developing the database.

“If we don’t understand these changes, we can’t protect these species-rich ecosystems. We need to speed the science up, and to think creatively about how to do that.”

In a paper describing the database, published recently in Scientific Data, Professors Andrew Baird and Sean Connolly from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) say the Coral Trait Database will assist scientists working on coral reefs answer a multitude of questions.

“The trait database is the first of its kind for corals and will allow coral reef scientists to begin to address many significant, unresolved questions—and much faster,” Professor Baird says.

“Traits are fundamental to most aspects of the ecology and evolution of organisms,” he explains. “For example, the Great Barrier Reef is now in the grip of perhaps the largest coral bleaching episode in history, and this database can help scientists explain why some species are more susceptible than others.”

Baird, Madin and their colleagues spent thousands of hours compiling the database over the past few years. They sifted through papers published in journals, tables printed in books, and examined other resources scattered around the globe.

Some of the data had been buried in obscure, often difficult to access—but highly informative—books dating back to the 1800s. The Coral Trait Database promises to save a lot of time, money and effort across all fields of coral reef studies.

“A lot of these data were not easily accessible, and it was expensive for many to get to,” explains Professor Sean Connolly. “So much of the Coral Trait Database content was previously only available to the ‘elite.’ The existence of this tool also means the coral reef research community can cut down on redundant research efforts.”

Coral reefs remain one of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on the planet, hosting more species than any other marine environment. Globally, an estimated 275 million people rely directly on coral reefs for food, protection from waves and storms, income, and cultural value. They are also crucial in providing protection and habitat for healthy fish populations. However, in the past 20 years, coral cover has diminished by as much as 95 percent in some locations.

Climate change and the El Niño of the recent months combined are currently contributing to a global mass-bleaching event—and on a scale previously unseen in recorded history. Added stresses from pollution and over-fishing further complicate coral reef health.

“There are hardly any questions you can’t ask of the database: its number of uses are extraordinary, but progress in these areas has been hindered by the lack of readily accessible trait data,” said Madin.

“We hope this database will support scientists trying to make a difference by providing them access to the data they need quickly, and at no cost.”

Macquarie University Department of Biological Sciences

Macquarie University has an international reputation for being innovative in the study of science. It is at the forefront of research nationally and internationally, and excels in the application and commercialization of new discoveries. Macquarie offers a unique range of interdisciplinary postgraduate degrees across a number of areas including environmental management, environmental education, environmental health, environmental planning, environmental science, environmental studies, sustainable development, biodiversity conservation, geography, geoscience, marine science, museum studies and wildlife management.

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Find out more about marine biology and marine science programs at Macquarie University. Contact OzTREKK Admission Officer Shannon Tilston at shannon@oztrekk.com or call 1-866-698-7355.

Friday, May 1st, 2015

JCU studies fishing impacts on Great Barrier Reef

New research shows that fishing is having a significant impact on the make-up of fish populations of the Great Barrier Reef.

It’s long been known that environmental impacts such as climate change and pollution are amongst the drivers of change on the Great Barrier Reef.

Now researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) at James Cook University have found that removing predatory fish such as coral trout and snapper, through fishing, causes significant changes to the make-up of the reef’s fish populations.

Sydney Dental School

Fishing is having a significant impact on the make-up of fish populations of the Great Barrier Reef

“A stable and healthy reef includes a high abundance and diversity of predatory fish and a relatively low number of herbivorous and small prey fish,” says study lead author April Boaden, a PhD student at the Coral CoE.

“Predatory fish are extremely important for maintaining a balanced ecosystem on the reef, yet predators such as coral trout, snapper and emperor fish remain the main target for both recreational and commercial fishers,” she says.

As part of the study, the researchers conducted extensive surveys of fish and their habitats at multiple sites across the Great Barrier Reef.

They compared fish communities in designated marine reserves (green zones), recreational fishing areas (yellow zones) and sites that allowed both commercial and recreational fishing (blue zones).

“We found that the fish communities on reefs differed greatly according to the level of fishing that they were subject to,” the JCU PhD student says.

“Predator numbers were severely depleted in heavily fished areas, while smaller prey fish such as damselfish, and herbivores such as parrotfish, had increased greatly in number having been released from predation.”

The reduction in predator abundance through fishing altered the balance and structure of the coral reef ecosystem.

“Major disturbances such as cyclones, coral bleaching, climate change, Crown of Thorns Starfish and river run-off are thought to be the primary agents of change on the Great Barrier Reef,” says study co-author, JCU Professor Mike Kingsford from the Coral CoE.

“Despite this, we have demonstrated that great differences in the abundance of predatory reef fish, and of their prey, can be attributed to humans,” Professor Kingsford says.

The findings support the continued and improved use of the existing marine networks on the Great Barrier Reef.

“The good news is that the data demonstrate that the current system of marine reserves on the Great Barrier Reef is effective in preserving predator numbers, and in doing so we can learn more about the processes affecting reefs in the face of multiple impacts,” Professor Kingsford says.

“Fishing impacts are something that we can manage fairly easily compared to other threats such as climate change and run-off pollution, which are threatening the Great Barrier Reef,” adds Ms Boaden.

About Marine Biology at JCU

JCU, through its School of Marine and Tropical Biology, is the first university in Australia to offer specialized training in marine biology. It has earned an international reputation for excellence in both teaching and research and takes a field-oriented, hands-on approach to its teaching and research endeavours.

The school’s location in the tropics allows students and research staff ready access to a wide variety of tropical marine systems including coral reefs, tropical estuaries, mangrove habitats and seagrass beds. Links between JCU’s research and teaching programs ensure that students are at the cutting edge of marine research.

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Are you interested in studying climate change or marine biology at James Cook University? Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Environmental Sciences Admissions Officer Rachel Brady at rachel@oztrekk.com or call toll free at 1-866-698-7355.

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

JCU predicting coral reef future under climate change

Researchers examining the impact of climate change on coral reefs have found a way to predict which reefs are likely to recover following bleaching episodes and which won’t.

Coral bleaching is the most immediate threat to reefs from climate change. It’s caused when ocean temperatures become warmer than normal maximum summer temperatures, and can lead to widespread coral death.

JCU environmental sciences

JCU studies impact of climate change on coral reefs

A key unanswered question has been what dictates whether reefs can bounce back after such events, or if they become permanently degraded.

An international team of scientists found that five factors could predict if a reef was likely to recover after a bleaching event.

“Water depth, the physical structure of the reef before disturbance, nutrient levels, the amount of grazing by fish and survival of juvenile corals could help predict reef recovery,” says study lead author, Dr Nicholas Graham from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Australia.

“Remarkably, the two most easily measured variables—water depth and the physical structure of the reef before disturbance—predicted recovery with 98% confidence,” Dr Graham says.

As part of the research, published in the journal Nature, researchers from Australia, the United Kingdom and France examined nearly 20 years of coral reef data gathered from the Seychelles.

Data was collected before and after an unprecedented coral bleaching event in 1998, in which 90 per cent of the country’s corals across 21 reefs were lost.

Of the reefs affected by the episode, twelve recovered while nine did not. The event had a significant impact on the biodiversity of local fish populations, which changed substantially when reefs did not recover.

From their data, the researchers identified thresholds for the factors that dictated whether reefs would recover.

“Putting numbers on the threshold points at which reefs either recover or degrade helps predict reef futures under climate change,” Dr Graham says.

Study co-author, Dr Shaun Wilson from the Department of Parks and Wildlife, Western Australia adds that the findings are important for predicting reef futures under climate change.

“The beauty of this study is that easily acquired measures of reef complexity and depth provide a means of predicting long-term consequences of ocean warming events,” Dr Wilson says.

“The ability to predict which reefs have the capacity to recover is really important for mapping of winners and losers, and risk analysis.”

Co-author Dr Aaron MacNeil from the Australian Institute of Marine Science says the insights can be applied to studies and management aimed at improving the outlook of coral reefs around the world.

“This gives reef management a major boost in the face of the threats posed by climate change and, encouragingly, suggests people can take tangible steps to improve the outlook for reefs,”Dr MacNeil says.

“By carefully managing reefs with conditions that are more likely to recover from climate-induced bleaching, we give them the best possible chance of surviving over the long term, while reduction of local pressures that damage corals and diminish water quality will help to increase the proportion of reefs that can bounce back.”

About Marine Biology at JCU

JCU, through its School of Marine and Tropical Biology, is the first university in Australia to offer specialized training in marine biology. It has earned an international reputation for excellence in both teaching and research and takes a field-oriented, hands-on approach to its teaching and research endeavours.

The school’s location in the tropics allows students and research staff ready access to a wide variety of tropical marine systems including coral reefs, tropical estuaries, mangrove habitats and seagrass beds. Links between JCU’s research and teaching programs ensure that students are at the cutting edge of marine research.

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Are you interested in studying climate change or marine biology at James Cook University? Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Environmental Sciences Admissions Officer Rachel Brady at rachel@oztrekk.com or call toll free at 1-866-698-7355.