Ecological physiologist Erika Eliason is studying how global climate change and increasing water temperatures are affecting fish populations and their ability to thrive. Like all animals, they have an optimal temperature range. An uptick of even a few degrees significantly impacts their wellbeing and in turn that of coral. “We’re trying to understand the mechanism behind that,” said Eliason.
Coral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, according to marine biologist Deron Burkepile, and he and his team are studying factors that impact coral reef health. They’re focusing on coral bleaching, a process driven by rising sea surface temperatures, but made worse by nutrient pollution and sewage that make their way into the ocean. “One of the things we’re trying to understand is how humans can change their behavior in order to help coral reefs recover and even thrive.”
Bren School of Environmental Science & Management professor Hunter Lenihan studies coral reef community ecology as well as collaborative fisheries management. For the former, Lenihan measures the long-term changes in coral populations and uses the information to create models that provide insight into coral communities in the future. Lenihan also works with local fishing communities in Mo’orea to understand how their activities impact different fish populations and how they can adapt to support sustainable catches through time.