reef fish

The Shima Lab

Prospective Students

Research overview

We study population dynamics of reef fishes and invertebrates with complex life histories.

The overall objective of our research is to understand the drivers of change in ecological systems. We use a wide range of quantitative methods (including field and lab-based experiments, observational studies, otolith-based demographic reconstructions, and theory) to understand how and why populations of marine organisms fluctuate, increase or decline.

Our work helps to inform the management of harvested marine species, and predicts how populations will respond to natural perturbations, climate change, and human-induced degradation of natural ecosystems.

Our research is funded through competitive research grants from a range of sources, including the Royal Society of New Zealand's Marsden Fund, the Ministry of Science and Innovation, the US National Science Foundation, the Sustainable Seas (National Science Challenge), Fonds Pacifique, and Victoria University of Wellington.

We currently have active research programmes in New Zealand and French Polynesia.


Current research interests

Jeff Shima - underwater surveys

Shining a light on lanternfishes

Lanternfishes comprise 65% of the deep-sea fish biomass and they undertake the largest animal migration on Earth. Their movements link shallow and deep-water ecosystems and may be critically important for carbon sequestration, future fisheries, and evolution of life-history strategies for many species—but the devil is in the details.

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Reproductive phenology and lunar rhythms

Most reef fishes reproduce and complete larval development on a prescribed lunar schedule. Why does this happen? What are the consequences for population dynamics? How might climate change and light pollution disrupt these natural cycles? How might future fisheries be affected?

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moon phases gif

Marine larval dispersal and connectivity

Nearly all reef animals produce offspring that develop offshore, and away from the reef. Many of these offspring will disperse, some will not. What shapes larval dispersal and retention dynamics? How does dispersal history shape population replenishment, phenotypes, and future fitness of offspring? What happens when different sorts of dispersers interact later in life? How might these interactions shape population dynamics and fisheries productivity?

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Research in New Zealand

Eco-evolutionary feedbacks, and their contribution to the origin and maintenance of complex life histories

Parents decide when and where to reproduce, and sometimes these decisions seem to disadvantage offspring. Can offspring with inauspicious birthdates make choices that improve their survival odds? How does this interplay between parent and offspring decision-making shape the evolution of life-history strategies? Do these feedback loops drive the evolution of extreme iteroparity?

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sixbar wrasse

Cryptic ecological interactions that determine reef biodiversity

Most inhabitants of coral reefs are inconspicuous, and their effects on the biodiversity and resilience remain largely unknown. How do cryptic interactions drive variation in growth and survival of corals? How do these effects reverberate across reef communities? How do they affect the many species of fishes and invertebrates that depend upon corals for their own survival? How will climate change alter these interactions?

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Research in French Polynesia
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Last updated: 02 November 2023