Coral trophic ecology in the Red Sea

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Project Description

Reef-building corals are mixotrophic organisms that can acquire autotrophic nutrition from their endosymbiotic algae and heterotrophic nutrition through predation on planktonic organisms. This trophic flexibility enables corals to thrive across a range of environmental conditions and may play a key role in their survival under climate change. However, our understanding of how different coral species can modify their trophic strategy to survive stress or exploit different resources is limited. Determining the relative trophic plasticity of dominant coral taxa in the Red Sea is an important first step to understanding how these coral populations may change under future ocean conditions. We are seeking students interested in studying coral reef community structure and trophic ecology across the natural environmental gradients of the Red Sea. This research provides an opportunity to develop projects tailored to various interests of students. Examples of possible projects include, but are not limited to, quantifying the trophic ecology of hard and soft corals in the Red Sea, deploying instruments and analyzing oceanographic data to evaluate spatial and temporal variation in planktonic resource supply to coral communities, evaluating different biochemical techniques for quantifying coral nutrition (e.g., stable isotope analysis, fatty acid analyses, and metabolomics). This is an exciting opportunity to contribute to ongoing work and to develop new research projects around ocean-reef interactions in the Red Sea. KAUST is committed to building an inclusive community and research environment and encourages applicants from all walks of life.
Program - Marine Science
Division - Biological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering
Faculty Lab Link - http://maggiedjohnson.com
Center Affiliation - Red Sea Research Center
Field of Study - Coral Reef Ecology, Oceanography, Marine Science, Biogeochemistry

About the
Researcher

Maggie Johnson

Assistant Professor, Marine Science

Maggie Johnson

Professor Johnson's research interests are centered on the impacts of environmental change on coral reef ecosystems. She uses a combination of field and laboratory based approaches to 1) evaluate and monitor the structure and function of coral reef ecosystems, 2) quantify inherent natural heterogeneity in key environmental parameters including temperature, dissolved oxygen, and pH , 3) explore the implications of environmental variability for ecophysiology of coral reef primary producers, 4) and determine the implications of local and global environmental change for these foundational coral reef taxa.


Professor Johnson's research includes taxa ranging from fleshy algae to corals, but she primarily focuses on calcifying algae - particularly crustose coralline algae. She uses calcifying reef algae as model taxa to identify and monitor coral reef ecosystem responses in an era of rapid environmental change.


Desired Project Deliverables

The student is expected to contribute to the research goals of the project, and to lead or participate as a co-author in a peer-reviewed scientific publication.

RECOMMENDED STUDENT ACADEMIC & RESEARCH BACKGROUND

A background in Marine Science is preferred, but students with backgrounds in ecology or biology are invited to apply.
A background in Marine Science is preferred, but students with backgrounds in ecology or biology are invited to apply.
The ideal candidates should have some experience or interest in conducting underwater research, preferably with open water scuba certification or snorkel experience.
The ideal candidates should have some experience or interest in conducting underwater research, preferably with open water scuba certification or snorkel experience.
Experience with or interest in learning laboratory skills associated with analytical chemistry is beneficial.
Experience with or interest in learning laboratory skills associated with analytical chemistry is beneficial.