Jillian Dunic

My degrees

MSc Biology, University of Massachusetts at Boston

BSc Biology (Honours), University of Victoria, with distinction

What I am now

PhD student

Email :  jdunic@sfu.ca

My research

Marine ecosystems can withstand a great deal of environmental change, but there is concern that their health might decline suddenly if they experience too much change. My project asks how much change is too much, and whether the answer to that question varies depending on the type of change experienced. I am focusing on eelgrass, the foundation species of eelgrass meadows which are productive shallow-water habitats that are in decline in Canada.  In small experimental pools, I will expose these marine plants to stress, for example by increasing temperature, and light levels, one by one and then in combinations. By recording the stress levels at which the plants struggle to grow and survive, I will identify the threshold stress levels and compare them between single stressors and between combinations of stressors. I will then take the study to the field to find areas with stress levels that match my experiments, and I will measure the health of eelgrass and the suite of species that depend on them.  This will allow me to test whether patterns in the wild match the laboratory results. If they do, the laboratory tests will become useful tools to predict where on our coasts we should expect to find healthy and unhealthy seagrass meadows and what we need to do in terms of managing stress to prevent their collapse.

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