Defne Sahin

Environmental and ecological drivers of performance and distribution of high latitude corals (PhD)

The continuous rise of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and sea surface temperatures cause regime shifts in the tropical and temperate ecosystems. The majority of the research on impacts of climate change on coral-domianted ecosystems target the tropical regions, and there is comparatively limited information on high latitude and temperate corals. Since climate change induced ocean warming is anticipated to continue, assessing the abundance and distribution of species under climate change scenarios are significant. The aim of my PhD project is to assess the limits to the poleward expansion of corals and the potential of high-latitude reefs to serve as a refuge from the impacts of increasingly frequent marine heatwaves.

Supervisors: Thomas Wernberg, Karen Filbee-Dexter, Damian Thomson (CSIRO), Ben Radford (AIMS)


  • 2017: MSc in Environmental Sciences, Bogazici University, Turkey.
  • 2013: BSc in Chemistry, Istanbul Technical University, Turkey.

Achievements and awards

  • 2021: Grant winner, Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment.
  • 2021: Supervisor, Masters student Meg Proctor.
  • 2020: Grant winner, Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment.
  • 2019: International Research Training Program Scholarship for a PhD at UWA.

 Peer reviewed papers

  1. Sahin D, Schoepf V, Filbee-Dexter K, Thomson DP, Radford B & Wernberg T (2023) Heating rate explains species-specific coral bleaching severity during a simulated marine heatwave. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 706: 33-46.
  2. Mulders YR, Filbee-Dexter K, Bell SY, Bosch NE, Pessarrodona A,  Sahin D, Vranken S, Zarco-Perello S, Wernberg T (2022) Intergrading reef communities across discrete seaweed habitats in a temperate – tropical transition zone: lessons for species reshuffling in a warming ocean. Ecology and Evolution, 12:e8538.