A fully funded PhD on Identifying critical thresholds for foraging strategies of coral reef fish is available at Lancaster Environment Centre supervised by myself (LEC), Nick Graham (LEC), and Nate Sanders (University of Vermont). Below is a brief summary. Full information, including how to apply, is available here.
Coral reefs are experiencing dramatic shifts in abundance, composition and spatial distribution of their species in response to environmental change. One rarely considered impact of such changes is that behaviour, evolved over periods of relative stability, might become suboptimal in today?s changing reef conditions. For example, fish might need to search for longer to find suitable food, resulting in a deficit of energy required for their basic survival. Butterflyfishes (Chaetodon spp.) are a genus of approximately 50 species that fall along a continuum of home range size and dietary specialisation. These fish, many of which feed directly on corals, offer an excellent model system to explore the capacity for foraging strategies to succeed following disturbance events such as coral bleaching. The impact of behavioural strategy on individual survival, growth and reproduction, and how these processes scale up to influence population dynamics and macroecological patterns is an a
spect of coral reef vulnerability that is relatively unknown.
This PhD would aim to predict critical thresholds of coral states at which butterflyfish foraging strategies fail, identifying key intervention points for conservation action. The PhD would start with a review chapter to determine how and why foraging behaviours are expected to respond to environmental change. Based on this foundation and using existing unpublished primary empirical data on butterflyfish foraging across the central Indo-Pacific, potentially undertaking fieldwork to collect additional data, the candidate will develop dynamic individual based models (IBM) to quantify behavioural flexibility and its consequences under scenarios of future environmental change.