Dr. Mark Steele's Fish Ecology Lab
Department of Biology
Effects of Resource Availability on Herbivorous Fishes of Moorea, French Polynesia
Disturbance (e.g. storms, Acanthaster planci outbreaks) can play a major role in shaping the benthic structure of coral reefs by reducing coral cover and causing a phase shift from a coral to an algae dominated state. Such shifts are often detrimental to reef organisms, especially those dependent on coral for nutrition or refuge, but herbivores may benefit from increased resources (i.e. algae). In some systems, herbivores are thought to be important agents of recovery following such disturbances by consuming large amounts of algae, thus allowing coral re-colonization to the unoccupied substrate. The effect of increased algal resources on herbivores themselves, however, is not well studied. Therefore, the purpose of my research is to examine how herbivorous fishes in the back reef environment of Moorea, French Polynesia may differ in their distribution, behavior or physical condition among sites. For behavior and physical condition I am focusing on two species Chlorururs sordidus (Scaridae) and Acanthurus nigrofuscus (Acanthuridae). By using site variation as a proxy for disturbance I hope to determine what effects algal abundance may have on herbivorous fish species. Any differences indicating that these species alter their consumption of algae among sites will suggest that fundamental changes occur within these species that could in turn have implications for coral reef recovery.
EDUCATIONM.S. Biology, California State University, Northridge, 2010-present
B.S. Aquatic Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara, 2009
- Processes affecting the recovery and resilience of coral reefs following natural or anthropogenic disturbances
- My thesis places particular emphasis on the role of herbivory in facilitating post-disturbance recovery by studying herbivorous fishes of Moorea, French Polynesia