Kirsten Grorud-Colvert

Ph.D. Candidate, Marine Biology and Fisheries
Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Science
University of Miami
[email protected]

In an era of increased environmental pressures the establishment of marine reserves is widely supported by scientists.  However, we still have relatively little understanding of how this protection functions ecologically.  Beyond the direct result of increasing the abundance of species, reserves are likely to have important indirect effects.  Increases in the number of piscivorous fishes within marine reserves may lead to an increased level of post-settlement mortality of newly-settled fishes to these areas.  Not only are the indirect effects of predation important in evaluating marine reserve function, but they are also pivotal to the understanding of predator-prey interactions and the influence of predation on prey community structure.

In order to address these issues, my dissertation research focuses on the interplay between predator abundance and behavior and the subsequent selective mortality of newly-settled coral reef fishes.  I have addressed this by quantifying densities of piscivorous predators in marine reserve and non-reserve areas and by evaluating their behavior.  I have also investigated the similarities in larval supply and recruitment of reef fishes in reserve and non-reserve areas.  To further evaluate selective mortality, I have performed mesocosm and laboratory experiments.  I have subjected newly-settled recruits to different densities of predators in order to investigate survivorship and early life history traits related to survival.  I am also evaluating the role of recruit condition in survivorship through physiological and behavioral measures.  My final goal is to integrate the parameters from these studies into an ecological agent-based model.  This will allow further investigation of the outcomes of predator-prey interactions both in the context of marine reserves and general coral reef ecology.

This research will shed light not only on the successful recruitment of reef fishes to protected areas but also to the ecological importance of predator-prey interactions as a whole.  The information is a prerequisite for managers to ensure the efficacy of marine reserves and the protection of local populations.

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