Changing oceans and ecosystems

We aim to document ecological and environmental change in the marine environment and understand the causes, consequences and scale of these changes.

Nick Shears diving, Image by P E Caiger
Image by P E Caiger

Research topics

Long-term changes in the environment

Natural processes, climate change and human activities are all impacting our coastal and ocean ecosystems. We undertake long-term monitoring of the marine environment and marine populations, ecosystems and habitats, to document and understand change, and inform and improve management practices.

Kelp forests and climate change mitigation

Kelp forests are some of the most productive habitats on the planet. Through the rapid sequestration of carbon, they can modulate the surrounding water chemistry. Our research examines the contribution of macroalgae to “blue carbon” and the capacity of healthy kelp forests to provide local-scale buffers against the effects of ocean acidification.

Ocean acidification

Ocean acidification, driven by increased CO2 absorption in the sea, can have detrimental effects on marine species and ecosystems. While impacts on species with carbonate shells are well known, our research focuses on how ocean acidification affects fish, which varies from behavioural and sensory impacts to changes in growth and survival. We also use hydrothermal vents at White Island to examine how reef ecosystems may be affected by an increasingly acidic ocean.

Thermal stress

Temperature represents one of the most pervasive abiotic drivers of biological responses. How organisms cope (or not) with rapidly changing thermal regimes is a key line of inquiry our research. We seek to understand how thermal stress manifests itself at all levels of biological hierarchy to gain a fuller account of thermal impacts.

Genetic tools for measuring environmental change

We are pioneering the application of molecular tools for assessing and managing human-induced biodiversity changes across a range of ecosystems (estuarine, coastal and oceanic) and monitoring applications (biosecurity, aquaculture, offshore exploration).

Related research centres

Our researchers

Dr Caitlin Blain

  • Kelp forests and climate change mitigation
  • Ocean acidification

Dr Brendon Dunphy

  • Thermal stress

Dr Neill Herbert

  • Ocean acidification

Associate Professor Tony Hickey

  • Ocean acidification
  • Thermal stress

Dr Shane Lavery

  • Genetic tools for measuring environmental change

Dr Darren Parsons

  • Ocean acidification

Dr Xavier Pochon

  • Genetic tools for measuring environmental change

Associate Professor Nick Shears

  • Long-term changes in the environment
  • Kelp forests and climate change mitigation
  • Ocean acidification

Professor Simon Thrush

  • Long-term changes in the environment

Dr Anastasija Zaiko

  • Genetic tools for measuring environmental change