We are offering a PhD studentship as part of the Biome Health Research Project (https://www.biomehealthproject.com), focusing on the Great Sea Reef in Fiji. A major pressure on the marine biodiversity of Fiji is fishing, and so understanding the relationship between fishing intensity and biodiversity is important to informing management and conservation interventions. Yet a key challenge to coral reef research and monitoring programs is the identification of robust methodologies that can detect spatial and temporal changes in fish community assemblages. In September 2019, the Biome Health team conducted the first field season, collecting data from 30 sites across the Great Sea Reef. The studentship will analyse the data collected, such as the stereo diver-operated video imagery to explore the diversity, abundance, biomass, length distribution, and behaviour of coral reef fishes. Additionally, the studentship will analyse benthic quadrats and structure from motion photogrammetry surveys to characterise the underlying benthic and environmental landscape for each site. Fishing pressure at each site is currently estimated through a simple gravity-based model. However, building a more robust pressure gradient will be a key focus of the studentship, possibly involving social surveys of local communities and markets.
There will be other opportunities to conduct ecological field work, or purely focus on analysing the existing video and image datasets, according to the student’s interest. The student will be based at the IOZ but will work collaboratively with the team of researchers including University College London, WWF-UK, WWF-US and WWF-Pacific.