Genetic diversity and climate change adaptation in corals of the Great Barrier Reef
Understanding the extent of genetic diversity between and within species and how it is partitioned and maintained across space are important goals in evolutionary biology. For taxa distributed across spatial and environmental gradients, the distribution of genetic variation depends on the interplay between gene flow, genetic drift and natural selection, which can now be disentangled using genomic data. In the ocean, while no physical barriers seem to impede genetic connectivity, examples of sympatric speciation and local-scale genetic differentiation suggest that environmental selection might be important. In my PhD, I will study two reef-building coral species across the Great Barrier Reef and combine genomic data, environmental data and experimental validation to investigate both inter-specific and intra-specific genetic diversity. I aim to characterise how neutral and adaptive genetic variation are distributed in space as well as the environmental drivers and genomic basis of divergence. Overall, these studies will provide evolutionary-sound information on the adaptive potential and vulnerability of coral populations under climate change.
Photo credit: Marta Panero