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Marine Biology
SA 5005

+61 8 8303 3999
+61 8 8303 4364

Assoc. Prof. Ivan Nagelkerken







Research interests

I am a marine ecologist working in temperate and tropical coastal ecosystems, with a special focus on fishes. Over the past decade, I have examined how ecosystem connectivity affects the functioning and resilience of tropical coastal ecosystems including coral reefs, seagrasses, and mangroves. I have done most of my work in the Caribbean and Eastern Africa, but I am now based in Australia. Currently I hold a Future Fellowship awarded by the Australian Research Council to study the effects of climate change on fishes and marine ecosystems. My work contributes directly to today's environmental issues by providing answers to contemporary scientific questions as well as management and conservation related problems.


Climate change

Climate change stressors such as warming and acidification of the oceans are predicted to have dramatic impacts on the health, abundance, and distribution of fish species worldwide. We are only beginning to understand how these two stressors interactively affect the physiology and behaviour of fishes during different stages of their life cycle. The degree to which fishes adapt to or tolerate changing conditions will determine their persistence in their original habitats as well as their ability to extend their ranges to novel habitats or higher latitudes. My current research focuses on providing an understanding of how climate change stressors will affect the behaviour and physiology of fish species, how this could modify population dynamics and species community structuring, and what the implications are for the biodiversity, functioning, and resilience of marine ecosystems in the near future.



Ecological connectivity plays a key role in the functioning and resilience of coastal ecosystems. Habitats such as such as seagrass beds, mangroves, and coral reefs are a ubiquitous feature of many clear-water tropical coastlines. Their juxtaposition within the coastal seascape often leads to an enhancement of fish diversity and abundance along their boundaries. I am specifically interested in the way in which fish movements connect neighbouring ecosystems and affect the functioning of recipient systems. Studying the nursery function of vegetated habitats for juveniles of coral reef fishes has formed a core area of my research. I have used techniques such as tagging, telemetry, and stable isotope analysis of fish otoliths and tissues to track fish movement and dispersal. In my current studies, I use this knowledge to answer questions about the effects of ecosystem connectivity on marine reserve functioning, population dynamics of reef fishes, and resilience of reefs.

Student projects

I have a wide range of projects available for Ph.D., Honours, and M.Sc. students with an interest in marine ecology. My main foci are on 1) climate change and marine ecosystems, and 2) ecosystem connectivity (see above), but other projects are also open for discussion. My research is largely experimental, based on field as well as lab work, and focusing on processes that operate at the levels of individuals, populations, communities, and ecosystems. See some examples under ‘Prospective student projects'. I work together with a range of renowned experts in the field, providing students with a broad mentoring experience.
For international students interested in joining my lab in Australia see the IPRS and ASI international postgraduate scholarships available at our University: