The Gulf of Aqaba as a coral climate change refuge



Coral fragments in custom oxygen evolution chambers – Taken by Erinn Muller

I am broadly interested in how changes in the marine environment, particularly those associated with climate change, can impact upon the physiology of corals. I measure traits such as respiration, photosynthesis, and energy reserves to research how corals may respond in the future. During my Ph.D. I am particularly focused on the impacts of sea surface temperature warming in the Gulf of Aqaba. The Gulf is a great example of an environmentally extreme (in terms of temperature range and salinity), high latitude reef which may potentially serve as a coral refuge from global warming.

Maternal effects

Otherwise known as transgenerational effects, maternal effects refer the influence that parental experience and provisioning has upon their subsequent offspring. There is considerable doubt over whether organisms will be able to adapt fast enough to survive the current rate of global change. I aim to find out to what degree the maternal environment and fitness influences larval quality, survival and physiology and assess whether this may be a mechanism of rapid adaptation in corals.


Stylophora pistillata planula

Recently settled Stylophora pistillata coral recruit research Jessica Bellworthy

Recently settled Stylophora pistillata recruit

Early life history

Another ‘arm’ of my research extends into the early ontology of corals. I use physiological methods to assess the impact their environment can have upon development and survival. I am also interested in developing the techniques which best advance coral restoration project success.

Red Sea Simulator

RSS annoted photo research facility Jessica Bellworthy Maoz Fine

The Red Sea Simulator

The Red Sea Simulator is an outdoor, flow through aquarium system in Prof. Maoz Fine‘s Lab at the Interuniversity Institute in Eilat and is where I conduct most of my experiments. The system draws in and filters water directly from the adjacent Gulf of Aqaba so there is no need for chemical manipulation. The pH, temperature, light, and nutrient concentration of the water entering each of the 80 experimental tanks can be precisely adjusted to meet experimental design requirements. In addition, a remotely operated robot monitors and reports in real time the dissolved oxygen, temperature, and pH of each tank, raising alerts when the values are outside the user determined range. This facility provides experimental control whilst retaining the greatest possible similarity to field conditions.


There is a short video clip from Maoz Fine of the system in action here