Population genomics and ecological response to climatic-stressors in a habitat-forming foundation seaweed species (PhD)
In the face of rapid global climate change, species are being exposed to conditions that are beyond their natural range of exposure and above their physiological thresholds. The ecological response of organisms to climatic-stressors can be variable, ranging from range shifts, mass mortality events and reduction in reproductive success and survivorship. Knowledge of species resilience, adaptive capacity or acclimatization ability is critical for understanding the potential response to future climate-perturbations. This is of particular interest for habitat-forming foundation species such as seaweeds, as they play a strong role in structuring entire marine communities, determining biodiversity, and controlling ecosystem dynamics. However, knowledge of the underlying capacity of marine seaweeds to adapt and respond to climate change is lacking for most species.
I aim to close this knowledge gap for a key foundation seaweed and Australian endemic, Scytothalia dorycarpa. Using a genomic approach, I will examine patterns of genetic diversity along the geographic range of S. dorycarpa across Australia’s Great Southern Reef. I aim to characterise patterns of genetic diversity, connectivity, and structure and identify putative adaptive loci and their links to environmental conditions. I will measure change in genetic diversity using both historical and new samples from 2021-2023 at sites which were affected by a marine heatwave and quantify recovery or further loss of diversity. I will use a mesocosm tank experiments to test the performance of known S. dorycarpa genotypes to short and long-term environmental change. I aim to characterise the tolerance/acclimatization ability of populations and link responses to genomic results.
My research will develop an essential understanding of how population genetics varies across the range of S. dorycarpa and how genetics is linked to ecological performance and resilience against climate change. An understanding of these parameters is valuable for managing climate-threatened ecosystems moving forward.
Supervisors: Thomas Wernberg, Melinda Coleman (NSW DPIE), Jacqui Batley.
- 2020: MSc in Marine Biology, University of Western Australia. Thesis: Population genomics of Posidonia australis: Assessment of adaptive variation across a natural environmental gradient in Shark Bay.
- 2018: BSc in Marine Science and Environmental Science, University of Western Australia.
Peer reviewed publications
- Sinclair, E., Edgeloe, J., Anthony, J., Statton, J., Breed, M., & Kendrick, G. (2020). Variation in reproductive effort, genetic diversity and mating systems across Posidonia australis seagrass meadows in Western Australia. AoB Plants, 12(4), plaa038–plaa038. https://doi.org/10.1093/aobpla/plaa038
Achievements and awards
- 2020: Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Fees Offset Scholarship and University Postgraduate Award (UPA) Scholarship (UWA).
- 2019: Jennifer Arnold Memorial Research Award (UWA).
- 2018: Kings Park Summer Scholarship.