PhD: Biological signals of the Island Mass Effect)
Room: Nautilus 327
School of Ocean Sciences
Tel: 01248 388196
I began my academic journey at The University of Warwick, where I studied for a BSc in Biological Sciences. I absolutely loved my undergraduate degree and developed a really keen interest in marine biology and oceanography, particularly coral reef ecosystems and the ways they respond to various environmental drivers. I was privileged to be involved in some really interesting research looking at the factors affecting the distribution and abundance of juvenile corals, using data collected in the Chagos Archipelago, Indian Ocean. I graduated from Warwick, with a First-class Honours and in 2014 I obtained a full scholarship to study for an MSc in Marine Environmental Management at the University of York, graduating with Distinction in early 2016.
Between graduating from my Masters and commencing my PhD, I took part in a 6-week long cruise across the Atlantic Ocean, helping to collect data about ocean productivity around the Mid-Atlantic Ridge as part of the NERC funded RidgeMix project. During this experience I learned an awful lot, particularly about the joys and challenges of fieldwork at sea.
My PhD project is focused around the paradoxical enhancement in phytoplankton near island-reef ecosystems, in comparison to the oligotrophic tropical ocean, a phenomenon termed The Island Mass Effect (IME). At present very little is understood about how biological communities change along these productivity gradients driven by the IME, and this is what I aim to understand over the course of my research. In particular, coral reef islands and atolls across the Hawaiian Archipelago show a particularly pronounced IME, which is thought to support an increased diversity and abundance of higher trophic levels. My PhD fieldwork will therefore focus on the Hawaiian Archipelago, but I will also utilise many existing data from other locations across the Pacific Ocean to help answer my overarching question. My PhD has already involved a very successful cruise with NOAA in West Hawai’i, gathering data as part of a 5-year long integrated ecosystem assessment in near shore and off shore locations. Further fieldwork later in my PhD will look at biological indicators of primary productivity gradients on the reefs. Using all these different data sources, I hope to be able to present the first quantitative assessment of the biological signals of the IME along the coastline of a coral reef island in the Hawaiian Archipelago and the wider Pacific.
You can find out more about Beth’s research by watching the animation video below;