Sandra Straub

Effects of marine heatwaves on canopy forming seaweeds and marine forests (PhD 2019)

My research focuses on effects of marine heatwaves on the dominant canopy forming seaweeds along the Western Australian coastline: Ecklonia radiata and Scytothalia dorycarpa. The research investigates how different characteristics of heatwaves, affects different ontogenetic stages and contrasting responses of seaweed populations from different localities to determine the importance of timing and parental thermal history. In combination, this will lead to a better understanding of the response and resilience of marine forests to future heatwaves.


I completed first a Bachelor of Science in Biology with main focus on marine biology at the University of Bremen (Germany) in 2011. Afterwards I started my master studies in the EMBC (Erasmus Mundus Master of Science in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation) program at the University of Bremen (Germany), University of Oviedo (Spain) and University of Algarve (Faro, Portugal) which I completed in 2013. My research during both studies involved the impact of ocean acidification on a calcifying marine red alga (Corallina officinalis), and the interaction between gorgonians and seaweeds under ambient and acidified conditions in temperate waters. Afterwards I gained experience in coral reef surveys during my Marine Protection Internship with Shallow Waters in Cambodia in 2013.


  • 2014 – 2019: PhD candidate (University of Western Australia, Australia)
  • 2013: Erasmus Mundus Master of Science in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (EMBC) at University of Bremen (Germany), University of Oviedo (Spain), University of Algarve (Faro, Portugal); Thesis: “Coral-seaweed interaction in temperate waters: the importance of species identity and environmental condition” (CCMAR institute, Faro, Portugal).
  • 2011: BSc Biology at University of Bremen (Germany); Thesis: “The impact of CO2-induced ocean acidification on the calcifying marine red alga Corallina officinalis – a long-term mesocosm experiment” (University of Bremen and Wadden Sea Station AWI, Sylt, Germany)

Research publications

9. Straub SC, Wernberg T, Marzinelly EM, Vergés A, Kelaher BP, Coleman MA (2021) Persistence of seaweed forests in the Anthropocene will depend on warming and marine heatwave profiles. Journal of Phycology, accepted 10 Novemeber 2021.

8. Straub SC, Wernberg T, Thomsen MS, Moore PJ, Burrows MT, Harvey BP, Smale DA (2019) Resistance, extinction, and everything in between – the diverse responses of seaweeds to marine heatwaves.  Frontiers in Marine Science: Global Change and the Future Ocean, accepted 25/11/19 Manuscript ID: 473578.

7. Holbrook NJ, Scannell HA, Sen Gupta A, Benthuysen JA, Feng M, Oliver EJC, Alexander LV, Burrows MT, Donat MG, Hobday AJ, Moore PJ, Perkins SE, Smale DA, Straub SC, Wernberg T (2019) A global assessment of marine heatwaves and their drivers. Nature Communications, 10, 2624.

6. Smale DA*, Wernberg T*, Oliver EJC, Thomsen MS, Harvey BP, Straub SC, Burrows MT, Alexander LV, Benthuysen JA, Donat MG, Feng M,  Hobday AJ, Holbrook NJ, Perkins-Kirkpatrick SE, Scannell HA, Gupta AS, Payne B, Moore PJ (2019) Marine heatwaves threaten global biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services. Nature Climate Change, accepted 18 December 2018. *Shared lead authorship.

5. Wernberg T, Straub SC (2016) 3.3 Impacts and effects of ocean warming on seaweeds. In: Explaining ocean warming: causes, scale, effects and consequences (eds. Laffoley D, Baxter JM); Full report. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. pp. 87-103.

4. Hobday A, Alexander LV, Perkins, SE, Smale DA, Straub SC, Oliver E, Benthuysen J, Burrows MT, Donat MG, Feng M, Holbrook NJ, Moore PJ, Scannell HA, Sen Gupta A, Wernberg T (2016) A hierarchical approach to defining marine heatwaves. Progress in Oceanography, 141: 227-238.

3. Straub SC, Thomsen MS & Wernberg T (2016)  The dynamic biogeography of the Anthropocene: the speed of recent range-shifts in seaweeds. In: Seaweed phylogeography (eds Hu Z-M & Fraser CI); Springer Press, ISBN 978-94-017-7532-8, pp. 63-93.

2. Hofmann LC, Straub S, Bischof K (2013): Elevated CO2 levels affect the activity of nitrate reductase and carbonic anhydrase in the calcifying rhodophyte Corallina officinalis; J Exp Biol, 64(4): 899-908.

1. Hofmann LC, Straub S, Bischof K (2012): Competition between calcifying and noncalcifying temperate marine macroalgae under elevated CO2 levels; Mar Ecol Prog Ser, 464: 89-105.

Achievements and awards

  • 2016: Supervisor, Honours student Melissa Varty
  • 2014: International Postgraduate Research Scholarship for a PhD at UWA