The invasion of lionfish in the Caribbean has developed into one of the greatest threats to the survival of the region’s coral reefs thanks to the devastating effect they have on native fish populations. Research has naturally focussed on mapping the spread of lionfish, quantifying their ecological impacts, and exploring management interventions to reduce their numbers. However, improving our understanding of the behaviour of this species on non-native reefs is of particular interest to better grasp the underlying success of their invasion. This project will assess lionfish behaviour both on the reefs and in a small laboratory, where
individuals will be captured and analysed based on a set of carefully designed treatments. Particular focuses of this work could include prey selectivity and habitat preferences to investigate the cryptic nature of this species, and data can be linked to ecological characteristics of the reef itself.
*This project is predominantly lab based and therefore can be undertaken by nondivers, although additional data can also be gathered from dives.
In the Caribbean, there are a number of core issues that have been affecting the biodiversity of the coral reefs – including the mass mortality of keystone sea urchins that have allowed algal colonisation of reef areas, an invasive species originally from the Indo-Pacific (lionfish) that acts as a predator on reef fish which has been spreading across the Caribbean, and overfishing of reef fish by local communities. Opwall has two monitoring sites in Honduras: one is on the island reefs of Utila and the second on the coastal barrier reef of Tela. At both sites, teams of Opwall scientists and students collect annual monitoring data to assess temporal patterns of ecosystem change, alongside novel research to address key management priorities and gaps in our current understanding of tropical marine coastal ecosystem function.
Our marine sites are hot and usually dry, but with occasional storms.
Fitness level required
Low. Some fitness is required if including in-water activities, but conditions are relatively easy.
Facilities are comfortable but basic. There is phone signal and limited wifi that is often unreliable.