Reef Matters Seminar Series

Dr Jenni Donelson

Thermal plasticity of marine fish across generations


Knowledge of the capacity for species to acclimate and adapt to rapid climate change is critical for understanding likely species responses, as well as for effective management of ecosystems in the future. Much of the research we utilize to predict species’ future responses uses the current-day performance and sensitivity of populations and species to infer the capacity for persistence in predicted future environments. This approach generally suggests negative impacts to most organisms and very little capacity to cope with expected future change. However, for most species projected environmental change will occur over years and generations. Through time plastic and adaptive processes can take place, which may allow maintained performance in future conditions. I will present a series of experiments across three generations using the coral reef damselfish, Acanthochromis polyanthus, to show how the experience of warmer ocean temperatures early in life or when previous generations have experienced conditions affects thermal

About Jenni:

Dr Jenni Donelson is currently a Future Fellow at eh ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, at James Cook University. Jenni received her doctorate from James Cook University in 2012, before heading to the University of Technology Sydney from 2013-2016 as a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow with Prof Booth. Following this Jenni returned to James Cook University and the ARC CoE for Coral Reef Studies to undertake a collaborative project with Prof Munday and Prof Ravasi funded by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. Jenni’s research focuses on exploring the capacity of reef fish to respond to environmental change, generally by simulating climate change scenarios in complex aquarium systems. She is particularly interested in how the environmental experience of previous generations influences the phenotype of the current generation, and more broadly how this could impact species responses to future climate change.