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Confronting the Changing Diversity Patterns of Coral Reefs

Coral reef ecosystems are in a state of change. Increasingly frequent and severe disturbances, and escalation of human interactions, are transforming many tropical coral reefs. At the same time, species are extending their ranges toward higher latitudes at remarkable pace, with tropical species encroaching temperate rocky reef environments. Despite these changes to the organisation of these critical ecosystems, we still rely on classic ecological theories of diversity patterns that were developed in more stable conditions. These theories focus on biophysical processes, yet environmental extremes (e.g. heat waves) and social factors (e.g. distance to markets) have come to dominate ecological communities on many of the world’s coastlines. This project will test if latitudinal diversity gradients are changing on coastal reef ecosystems, with major implications for ecology and conservation. Classic ecological theories will be confronted with contemporary diversity patterns, and new theories of diversity patterns will be developed that incorporate social and environmental variables. By tackling the topic using a multidisciplinary approach, the project aims to better capture ecological organisation on contemporary coral reefs. The PhD will provide training in independent thinking, field techniques, statistical modelling, social-ecological systems thinking, and scientific writing. With supervisory and project support at Lancaster University and Bangor University, UK, and James Cook University, Australia, the project offers unique opportunities for research and training in coral reef science.


Applicants should hold a minimum of an Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects such as Marine Biology, Environmental Science, Ecology, or Geography. Applicants with Masters degrees, relevant research experience, or publications will be highly competitive. Exposure to statistical analyses and social-ecological data desirable.


For further details, or to enquire about eligibility please send a short statement regarding your background and interest in the project, and a CV to Prof. Nick Graham