Award Recipient


Simone Melchior Cousteau Research Grant

Megan Conkling

Megan Conkling is a 2nd year Ph.D. student at Florida Atlantic University. Her research, which is just getting underway, focuses on the sustainability of coral reef ecosystems. Healthy coral reefs provide habitat and shelter for many marine organisms, are a source of essential nutrients for marine food webs, protect coastlines from damaging effects of wave action and tropical storms, contribute to local economies through tourism and jobs, and are an important source of new medicines. However, scientists estimate that 70 to 90% of all coral reefs will be lost by 2040 at current rates. Megan will develop quantitative methods to validate benthic habitat maps; determine if Florida reef sponges can sustain changing environmental conditions related to climate change, and use novel modelling approaches to predict population distributions of corals, sponges, and algae. The results of her research will support efforts by state and federal resource managers to study, manage, expand, and even establish new marine protected areas.

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