Corals are damaged by predators that create different scars of different sizes, shapes, and spatial patterns. It’s advantageous for the coral to heal quickly, and as a result, neighboring polyps often contribute resources to heal damage. I’m interested in how corals (and other colonial or modular organisms) respond to different patterns of damage. For example, if a coral predator creates clustered damage, is that better or worse for the those scars to heal? Does it affect the health of the colony? What are long-term effects of that pattern?
To address these questions, I use a combination of field experiments and stochastic growth models. Using field surveys and experiments, I’ve demonstrated how scars close to one another heal more slowly than scars far apart, and that these effects can affect the morphology of the coral (Hamman 2019, Oecologia).
Based on these results, I’m now interested in expanding that work in several ways, including expanding to additional modular organisms, developing stochastic growth models that can help predict the effects of various stressors on coral morphology, and studying how those changes in morphology might affect long-term reef health.