Carolyn is interested in the potential impact of rising ocean temperatures on the ability of epaulette sharks to successfully reproduce. Her work to date has already investigated how higher temperatures might affect the development of the embryos and hatchlings of these small, egg-laying sharks found across Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Now, her project is focusing on how thermal stress affects adults and their ability to breed. Using portable ultrasound technology, and based around Heron Island, her research will bring new insights into egg-case development and hormone concentrations in our changing oceans.
Originally from upstate New York, I found my passion for fish biology during my undergraduate Honours research at the University of New England in Maine. There I was privileged to conduct physiological research on the locally threatened Atlantic sturgeon and a variety of shark and skate species. I am currently a co-tutelle PhD candidate between the School for the Environment at the University of Massachusetts Boston and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. I spent the first half of my PhD working with the...
My research aims to determine the impacts of ocean warming on the seasonality and success of epaulette shark reproduction as a potential indicator for other egg-laying tropical sharks.
With many species of sharks and their relatives threatened worldwide, successful reproduction will be a key component in the recovery of many populations in the future. However, ocean temperatures are slowly rising and we currently do not fully understand how this environmental change may impact reproduction. My research uses a well-studied species, the epaulette shark, to conduct a first assessment of the direct impacts of ocean warming scenarios on reproduction.
Defining life-history characteristics of elasmobranchs over many years of research has provided pivotal data that reveal underlying biology and facilitate effective management and conservation efforts for these species. Among the life-history characteristics, however, reproductive biology and endocrinology have in general been neglected as fields of research for the majority of elasmobranchs. This study aims to use a proposed indicator species and a new combination of methods to predict how climate change will shift reproductive timing and affect success in the future. These reproductive models are crucial for implementing the recovery of elasmobranchs worldwide in our rapidly changing environment.
My research has two main objectives. First, I am reassessing the reproductive biology and physiology of epaulette sharks at Heron Island from previous research conducted two decades ago. I hope to determine whether reproduction has changed over the past 20 years and to create a detailed profile of the reproductive cycle in wild sharks. Second, with short-term experiments at the field station, I am determining the maximum temperature tolerance of this species in different life stages (juveniles and reproductively active adults). I expect that, for example, females undergoing egg-encapsulation will have a lower temperature tolerance compared to immature and non-reproducing sharks, as this reproductive process is taxing and is likely to reduce the energy available to cope with increased water temperature. Findings from these objectives will indicate whether reproduction has already shifted in epaulette sharks at Heron Island and will enable us to predict how it may continue to change as a result of ocean warming in the future.
Outside the USA, The Bahamas is the only place where Critically Endangered smalltooth sawfish can reliably be found. Tristan wants to ensure that protection measures in The Bahamas are understood and enforced as far as sawfish are concerned to close the current gap between policy and the people. He’ll be using aerial surveys, sonar and BRUVs, combined with interviews that draw on local knowledge, to identify essential sawfish habitats that need protection. Engaging with the community through workshops and by training students and meeting with government, Tristan intends to advocate for smalltooth sawfish protection throughout The Bahamas’ territorial waters.
Steven and Kevin are using genetic techniques to understand how Caribbean reef shark populations are connected across the extent of their range. Populations of this Endangered shark are in decline generally, but where they are managed and there is effective protection, their numbers are stable. With the integration of the correct information, Steven and Kevin are convinced that we can give Caribbean reef sharks a better shot at recovery and population stabilisation. They will also explore any barriers to connectivity, looking to the future recruitment and recovery of these sharks.
With very little information available about Endangered sicklefin devil rays, their seasonal aggregations at sea mounts in the Azores give Sophie an opportunity to learn more about their lives. She will be collecting satellite-tracking data that show how they move in the Azores’ exclusive economic zone. The information she collects will be used to develop maps of how the rays are using the zone and to identify essential areas that multiple species use. With this information at hand, Sophie hopes her work can contribute to a network of marine protected areas.