Gaps in our capacity to describe environmental processes, particularly in subtidal habitats like coral reefs where I conduct the majority of my research, often result from a lack of data at the appropriate spatial and temporal scales. Working with experts across disciplines, I am building an innovative 3D imaging approach that allows me to study change in reef building corals at previously unavailable scales. This work allows us to digitally archive these environments, facilitating new discovery and enabling for the first time a detailed understanding of how populations of corals can survive the threats associated with a rapidly a changing world. As graduate student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), UC San Diego working in the lab of Dr. Stuart Sandin I have applied my experience in this approach to a number of completed and ongoing research efforts that represents both a contribution to our understanding of coral reef ecology, and a fundamental shift in the way we can observe, understand, and ultimately protect, the natural world.
I have placed an emphasis on using my approach to transfer information across disciplines, and am a co-founder of the Tribal Intertidal Digital Ecological Surveys project. The program integrates imaging techniques with traditional stewardship to help tribal governments better manage for sea level rise impacts on rocky intertidal ecosystems. I am further interested in academic engagement with non-traditional audiences, working with Dr. Lei Liang in the UC San Diego Music department in the 2018 and 2019 Qualcomm Institute IDEAS performances, and also helped design the McReynolds Coral Garden in the center of the SIO campus. I am devoted to training and mentorship, serving as a committee member, supervisor and mentor to over 27 graduate and undergraduate students, and have also held several teaching assistantships positions. I am from Ojai, CA, my wife is a photographer, and we recently celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary!
Coral Tracing Workstation
In the field: Palmyra Atoll
CURRENT PhD ABSTRACT
Today’s coral reefs reflect a 24 million year history of change, during which time their main framework building species, members of the group Scleractinia, have responded to environmental fluctuations through their unique demographic flexibility. However, due to the difficulties of studying these long-lived organisms in natural settings, we still lack an understanding of the variability in population level demographics across species. In my PhD I am completing a body of work that seeks to characterize the temporal and spatial variation in an assemblage of dominant reef building coral taxa at a remote Pacific atoll. I start by testing evidence that heterotrophy by corals increases with resource availability, and leads to increased growth and resistance to warm water stress. Using a highly abundant taxon, Pocillopora, and data from a series of sites with known differences in heterotrophic resource ability, I am seeking to determine whether these differences are reflected in population dynamics. Building from this, I then delineate differences in demographic strategies among 8 focal taxa, and model how populations of each will change well into the future. Together with my colleagues in the Sandin Lab and 100 Island Challenge, I have built a workflow for digital fieldwork that makes answering these questions possible, which we are working to make publicly available. To date I have found evidence for site level variation within Pocillopora, with potential linkages to a key driver (e.g., heterotrophy), and have identified evidence for differences in vital rates among taxa, corresponding to expectations of life history theory. This work will provide the first assemblage-wide understanding of coral populations dynamics. Ultimately, these data will better inform efforts seeking to understand how corals will respond to predicted changes in the frequency and intensity of global disturbance events such as warm water induced mass coral bleaching.
2017 Large-area imaging reveals biologically driven non-random spatial patterns of corals at a remote reef
Clinton B Edwards, Yoan Eynaud, Gareth J Williams, Nicole E Pedersen, Brian J Zgliczynski, Arthur CR Gleason, Jennifer E Smith, Stuart A Sandin
2020 Quantifying life history demographics of the scleractinian coral genus Pocillopora at Palmyra Atoll
Sho M Kodera, Clinton B Edwards, Vid Petrovic, Nicole E Pedersen, Yoan Eynaud, Stuart A Sandin
Nikolas J Kaplanis, Clinton B Edwards, Yoan Eynaud, Jennifer E Smith