Massive Porites corals thrive inside no-take marine reserves in Kenya after the 1998 mass bleaching event. Photo: Emily Darling      

Massive Porites corals thrive inside no-take marine reserves in Kenya after the 1998 mass bleaching event. Photo: Emily Darling

 

 

 

Resilience and climate change

Increasing the resilience of global ecosystems to climate change is a crucial challenge for scientists, managers and stakeholders. I am interested in finding new ways to measure resilience and evaluate tipping points of different species assemblages to climate disturbances.  An emerging aspect of my research is on climate refuges - areas of unique oceanography that might escape the worst impacts of climate change. Specifically, I am investigating if climate refuges can provide a new focus for Marine Protected Areas to prioritize coral reefs for targeted conservation, and whether climate refuges can be connected across regional scales. 
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Darling ES. 2014. Conserve climate refugia. In “A to-do list for the world’s parks”. Nature 515: 28-30. 

Tingley MW, Darling ES and DS Wilcove. 2014. The show must go on: fine- and coarse-filter conservation strategies in a time of climate change. The Year in Ecology and Conservation 1322: 92-109. 

Côté IM and ES Darling. 2010. Rethinking Ecosystem Resilience in the Face of Climate Change. PLOS Biology 8: e1000438.

Traits like colony growth form, reproduction, growth rate, skeletal density and symbiont diversity can describe unique "life histories" that can inform predictions of community change under multiple stressors. Photo: Emily Darling

Traits like colony growth form, reproduction, growth rate, skeletal density and symbiont diversity can describe unique "life histories" that can inform predictions of community change under multiple stressors. Photo: Emily Darling

Coral traits and life histories

Scleractinian corals are a diverse and threatened group of species that provide critical habitat and architecture on tropical reefs. I am using trait-based approaches to classify the life-history strategies of reef corals in order to evaluate theories of community ecology and predict the impact of environmental and anthropogenic stressors on coral reefs. A current focus of my research is combining trait information with community composition to calculate functional diversity in reef corals across the Indian and Pacific Oceans. I am also a Managing Editor of the online and open-source Coral Traits Database
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Madin JS, Hoogenboom M, Connolly S, Darling ES, Falster D, Huang D, Keith S, Mizerek T, Pandolfi JM, Putnam H, Baird AH. 2016. A trait-based approach to advance coral reef science. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, in press. 

Madin JS, Anderson K, Andreason M, Bridge T, Cairns S, Connolly S, Darling ES, Diaz M, Falster D, et al., and A Baird. 2016. The Coral Trait Database, a curated database of trait information for coral species from the global oceans.
Scientific Data 3: 160017.

Darling ES, TR McClanahan and IM Côté. 2013. Life histories predict coral community disassembly under multiple stressors. Global Change Biology 19: 1930-1940. 

Darling ES, Alvarez-Filip L, Oliver TA, McClanahan TR and IM Côté. 2012. Evaluating life-history strategies of reef corals from species traits. Ecology Letters 15:  1378-1386.
*Selected by the Faculty of 1000

 

Fishing boats in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. photo: Emily Darling

Fishing boats in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. photo: Emily Darling

Synergies and multiple stressors

The human footprint on global ecosystems is increasing as a consequence of climate change, overexploitation, habitat loss, pollution, and invasive species. However, these stressors rarely occur in isolation, raising concerns about the ability of ecosystems to absorb multiple, simultaneous disturbances.My research investigates how different stressors interact and what this means for ecosystems in the real world, like coral reefs.  
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Côté IM, Darling ES and C Brown. 2016. Interactions among ecosystem stressors and their importance in conservation. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 283: 20152592.

McClanahan TR, Graham NAJ and ES Darling. 2014. Coral reefs in a crystal ball: predicting the future from the vulnerability of corals and reef fishes to multiple stressors. Current Opinion in Sustainability and Environmental Science 7: 50-64.

Darling ES, McClanahan TR and IM Côté. 2010. Combined effects of two stressors on Kenyan coral reefs are additive or antagonistic, not synergistic. Conservation Letters 3: 122-130. 

Darling ES and IM Côté. 2008. Quantifying the evidence for ecological synergies. Ecology Letters 11: 1278-1286. 

 

Counting the day's catch in South Coast, Kenya. Photo: Emily Darling

Counting the day's catch in South Coast, Kenya. Photo: Emily Darling

Coral reef fisheries

Coral reefs support fisheries that provide food security and livelihoods for half a billion people worldwide. Like many marine resources, coral reefs are under pressure from growing human populations in tropical countries with the potential to undermine fisheries productivity, biodiversity, and sustainability and lead to desperate resource users and destructive fishing methods. 
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Darling ES. 2014. Assessing the effect of marine reserves on increase household food security in Kenyan fishing communities. In press, PLOS ONE 9: e113614.

Cinner JE, Huchery C, Darling ES, Humphries AT, Graham NAJ, Hicks CC, Marshall N and TR McClanahan. 2013. Evaluating social and ecological vulnerability of coral reef fisheries to climate change. PLOS ONE 8: e74321

McClanahan TR, Hicks CC and ES Darling. 2008. Fishing pressure, productivity and competition for resources: Malthusian overexploitation and efforts to overcome it on Kenyan coral reefs. Ecological Applications 18: 1516-1529. 

 

Twitter can open up your science into a global faculty lounge, as well as allow you to access the wider public, politicians and the media.

Twitter can open up your science into a global faculty lounge, as well as allow you to access the wider public, politicians and the media.

 

 


Scientists and social media

I have also investigated how scientists use social media for networking, communication and research impact. Every scientist can be a great communicator, and social media can be a valuable set of tools when used purposefully.
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Darling ES, D Shiffman, Côté IM and J Drew. 2013. The role of Twitter in the lifecycle of a scientific publication. Ideas in Ecology and Evolution 6: 32-43.

Parsons ECM, Shiffman DS, Darling ES, Spillman N and AJ Wright. 2014. Editorial: How Twitter literacy can benefit conservation scientists. Conservation Biology 28: 299-301.  

Darling ES and JR Rummer. 2015. Strategically Using Social Media. In Success Strategies from Women in Science (eds. P Pritchard and C Grant). In press, Elsevier, Inc.