Climate change biology research in FOS

Article by Associate Professor David J. Marshall

FOS Associate Professor, David J. Marshall (Environmental and Life Sciences) and his team of international and local collaborators and students have been exploring research questions on climate change biology for the past several years.

Studying gastropods (snails) in intertidal fringes (between land and sea) and estuaries, ecosystems that experience some of the most extreme and variable temperatures and conditions, has proved useful to understand how organisms are likely to respond to climate change. In a broad-based approach, the group is identifying gastropod species (and their traits) that make them either winners or losers in the climate change game. Among the revealing findings is that tropical animals – previously thought to be especially vulnerable to future warming - may buffer this through their specialized behaviour and physiology.

The acidified Sungai Brunei estuary has proved to be an excellent system to investigate ocean acidification, an effect of elevated atmospheric CO2 level that is predicted to have dire future ecological consequences. The team is currently assessing the value of shell dissolution properties, as a tool to monitor the strength and distribution of acidification in the marine environments of Brunei.
Recently, the group was involved in a publication in a top ecology journal, Ecology Letters (impact factor = 10.7). This paper reviews our state of knowledge of thermal performance curves, a theoretical basis for understanding the relationship between animal performance and temperature.
Two members of the climate change biology research group, Nursalwa Baharuddin and Sorya Proum, graduated this year (2016) with PhD degrees.

Collaborators and students during field excursion

Field work –photographing snails and measuring temperatures

Monitoring marine acidification from shell dissolution

Monitoring marine acidification from shell dissolution