Stephanie DiPerna - AIMS@JCU

Stephanie DiPerna

Recipient of an AIMS@JCU Scholarship

College of Science and Engineering

Stephanie DiPerna

College of Science and Engineering
Coastal acidification in the benthic boundary layer on inshore reefs: implications on water chemistry and benthic communities

Stephanie studied marine science in her undergraduate degree at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. Her interest in tropical marine science began during a field course in Eleuthera, Bahamas, investigating territoriality drivers of damselfish. She then moved to Townsville, Australia to complete her Masters at JCU, where she studied photoacclimation responses of two species of coral to variable light. After about a year working at AIMS as a laboratory assistant/research technician she returned to JCU for her PhD.

Coastal acidification in the benthic boundary layer on inshore reefs: implications on water chemistry and benthic communities

2018 to 2023

Project Description

The proposed project will investigate the effects of coastal acidification on the waters within the benthic boundary layer, as well as the implications for important coral reef organisms and communities present in this area. The aim is to (a) understand the dynamics and responses of this microenvironment and its constituents with respect to coastal acidification/temperature and (b) improve current predictions on the reef's ability to recover under an increasingly acidic ecosystem.

Project Importance

The project will demonstrate how reducing nutrient inputs can alleviate the acidity stress on inshore reefs in increasingly acidic ocean conditions, and identify areas of high and low risk to coastal acidification as a means of informing coral reef management. It will improve our understanding of the reef's ability to recover through quantification of a critical microhabitat under the predicted changing ocean conditions, and advise on strategies to improve the resilience of this microhabitat through coastal management of nutrient input.

Project Methods

The project will (a) quantify the effects of nutrients on the water chemistry in the BBL through a combination of field and lab work, (b) characterize community metabolism of phototrophic and heterotrophic communities and calcification/bioerosion rates via fieldwork, to demonstrate biological implications of the cross-shelf water quality gradient in the BBL, and (c) will use statistics and predictive modeling to identify coastal acidification hotspots/refuges along inshore reefs as potential sites of management focus and demonstrate effects of coastal acidification effects in BBL at target locations and how reduction in nutrient input can alleviate stress from climate change.

Project Results

The results will demonstrate the effects of combined exposure to elevated CO2 and nutrients on benthic community metabolism on inshore coral reefs, specifically in the BBL.


Climate change,
Coastal development,
Coral reefs,
Field based,
Management tools,
Manipulative experiments,
Ocean acidification,
Ocean warming,
Quantitative marine science,
Sediment dwellers