Herbivorous reef fishes, an extremely important component of coral reef communities, are generally categorized into several dietary functional groups. Recent work suggests, however, that there is far more complementarity within these groups than previously imagined. My dissertation research examines this specialization and resource partitioning in herbivorous reef fishes at multiple spatial scales ranging from a Pacific-wide analysis of herbivore assemblages down to individual specialization within species at a site. I use hierarchical models to examine trends on large spatial scales and molecular methods, namely metabarcoding, to identify unknown turf algae in the guts of surgeonfishes. Moving forward, I’m particularly interested in exploring how human impacts are affecting reef herbivores through numerous mechanisms such as habitat degradation and pollution.
PI: Rob Toonen
Graduate program: Marine Biology