Anna Cresswell

Disturbance dynamics in coral reef ecosystems: heat waves, cyclones and fishing pressure at Ningaloo Reef

We are in a state of accelerated change, associated with increases in the intensity and frequency of disturbances to natural systems. Understanding the dynamics of change is necessary to manage natural systems and my research looks at several key components of marine ecosystems and how their dynamics are linked to disturbance.

Using multiple different methods - fieldwork, statistical analyses and modelling - I am investigating the response of key components of coral reef ecosystems to acute and chronic perturbations. In considering acute perturbations one chapter of my thesis seeks to quantitatively summarise the literature that has documented the impacts of acute climatic disturbances in key marine habitats: coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass, and kelp forests. I then focus on the role of cyclones as an acute disturbance in coral reef systems in particular, considering how the growth structures of corals link to their vulnerability to disturbance. Moving to chronic disturbances, I focus on fishing at Ningaloo Reef, investigating how fishing has effected the ecosystem over the last 30 years.

About me

I previously graduated from the University of Tasmania and the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies with a Bachelor of Science (Applied Mathematics and Zoology) and Honours in Marine Science. Currently my interest is in quantifying the resilience of coral reef communities, considering how acute and chronic disturbances shape complex ecosystems. I moved to Perth to do my PhD as part of the Ningaloo Outlook CSIRO-BHP Marine Research Partnership in 2015. I am pursuing a career that will allow me to help conserve and enhance our understandings of marine environments at a time of rapid global change.


Michael Renton, Dr. Tim Langlois, Damian Thomson and Mick Haywood


Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre
School of Biological Sciences (M470)
35 Stirling Highway, Crawley WA 6009</p>
+618 9333 6009
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