Supervised by Prof. Theresa Burt De Perera & Dr Cait Newport
The overall theme of my research is to investigate the potential impacts of sensory pollution on a fish’s ability to navigate across a coral reef. Specifically, the form of sensory pollution that I am interested in is turbidity. Turbidity is essentially the suspension of particles within the water column that creates a cloudy and murky appearance. Due to the close proximity of coral reefs to coastlines they are particularly vulnerable to the effects of anthropogenic stressors. It is these anthropogenic stressors, such as shipping activity and the disposal of organic waste, that have consequently led to observed rises in turbidity in coastal aquatic environments via the processes of sedimentation and eutrophication. Elevated levels of turbidity increase the attenuation and scattering of light within the water column which therefore masks visual cues. This is a particular issue for visually-guided species of fish, whom rely predominantly on the availability of visual cues to navigate and therefore successfully complete essential tasks such as feeding and finding a mate. By using behavioural experiments both within a laboratory and in the field I am exploring the underlying mechanisms of how fish navigate across a coral reef and how turbidity subsequently influences these mechanisms.