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PhD Dissertation Defense - Vanessa Robitzch Sierra

Start Date: April 11, 2017
End Date: April 11, 2017

​​​ADVISOR: Professor Michael Berumen
TITLE: The Assessment of Current Biogeographic Patterns of Coral Reef Fishes in the Red Sea by Incorporating Their Evolutionary and Ecological Background
DATE: Tuesday, April 11, 2017
TIME: 4:00 - 5:00 p.m.
LOCATION: Lecture Hall Level 0 · between Buildings 2 & 3

The exceptional environment of the Red Sea has lead to high rates of endemism and biodiversity. Located at the periphery of the world’s coral reefs distribution, the Red Sea’s relatively young reefs offer an ideal opportunity to study biogeography and underlying evolutionary and ecological triggers. Baseline information on putative seasonal recruitment patterns of reef fishes along a cross shelf gradient at an inshore, mid-shelf, and shelf-edge reef in the central Saudi Arabian Red Sea will be presented. Additionally, biogeographic patterns in endemic and cosmopolitan reef fishes will be explained by a basic comparative model using the species-group of the genetically, biologically, and ecologically similar coral-dwelling damselfishes Dascyllus aruanus and D. marginatus as a model. Herewith, the correlations found in biological responses and putative adaptive strategies with different biogeographic ranges and habitat preferences will be comprehensively evaluated. 

Vanessa Robitzch (MSc ISATEC) joined the Reef Ecology Lab at KAUST as a PhD student, 2013. Her current research is on integrating ecological, biological, and genetic data to understand biogeographic patterns and population structures of coral reef fishes, focusing on the species Dascyllus aruanus and D. marginatus in the Red Sea. She mainly studies potential factors defining habitat ranges, genetics, and connectivity using molecular markers and biological data. Knowledge on biogeographic ranges and dispersal of species can be used to learn more about the evolutionary history of species and predict their fate under changing environmental conditions.
Her previous work included the investigation of population genetics of the reef-building coral Pocillopora verrucosa in the Red Sea and the population genetics of a benthic Antarctic shrimp, Notocrangon antarcticus, using molecular markers to assess the impact of climatic changes on marine ecosystems.  

Vanessa was born on San Andres Island in the Caribbean, Colombia. She completed her BSc in biology at the University of Regensburg and AWI in Bremerhaven; and her MSc in International Studies of Aquatic Tropical Ecology (ISATEC) at the Bremen University and ZMT in Germany.