I have always been fascinated with the rich biodiversity that make up coral reef ecosystems. Growing up in South Florida, I was exposed to coral reefs from a young age and have since been fortunate to gain opportunities to study these ecosystems. It wasn’t really until I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Fiji that I examined reefs as social-ecological systems. In Fiji, I lived in a village in which people lived subsistence lifestyles, completely dependent on natural resources, including coral reefs.
Coral reefs, however, are fragile habitats that are declining at rapid rates due largely to local anthropogenic stressors and pressures associated with global climate change (including coral bleaching). If corals are not able to resist or recover from such pressures, mortality may result. This could result in a concomitant loss of biodiversity and a major human crisis for reef-dependent human communities.
Coral reefs in Fiji have been observed to have a high level of resilience to bleaching. Many of these coral reefs are adjacent to human populations, making them ideal social-ecological systems for study. I plan to study the dynamics of socioeconomic factors and measures of reef resilience in this region. This information is necessary for building resilient reefs that will support the livelihoods of future generations.