My PhD is based at the University of Victoria (New Zealand) and my thesis focuses on Indo-Pacific bioeroding sponges and their functioning on degraded reefs. Bioeroding sponges are a functional group of sponges that actively erode reef substrate in order to create a sheltered habitat within the reef framework. Despite their potent excavating capabilities, they exist in a harmonious relationship with hard corals on healthy reefs and are functionally important; increasing reef diversity by creating microhabitats and providing an important source of sediments. However research from other coral regions has shown they are resilient to many anthropogenic disturbances and their high abundances on degraded reefs has led to a state of net-erosion on these impacted reefs. My research in the Wakatobi is identifying the locally dominant bio-eroding sponge species and identifying the factors that are influencing their distribution and erosion rates. I am also interested in their resilience to common Indo-Pacific reef stressors such as heightened sedimentation and turbidity which are the unfortunate by-product of poor land management. The overall aim of my thesis is to better understand whether these sponges might come to dominate degraded Indo-Pacific reefs in the future as they have done in other parts of the globe.
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